Vatanen’s “All or Nothing” Driving Style

Ari Vatanen

Born in Tuupovaara, Finland in 1952. Vatanen’s WRC debut was at the 1974 1000 Lakes Rally in an Opel Ascona. From there he took part in Ford, Opel, Peugeot, BMW, Mitsubishi and Subaru teams. During the 1985 Rally Argentina, he experienced a big crash which took him 18 months to recover and get back into rallying. Vatanen also entered the Rally Raid with Peugeot, Citroen, Nissan and Volkswagen. After retiring from rally racing, he was elected at the European Parliament and served from 1999 to 2009.

With the Group A regulations, he started driving a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 from the last race of 1988. During the 1000 Lakes Rally (his home race) he finished second.

Vatanen first took interest in rallying around 1965. “I saw Waldegard at the 1965 1000 Lakes Rally in a Volkswagen Beetle. He was a memorable driver.” 10 years after this, Vatanen ended up racing along with Waldegard in a Ford Escort at the 1000 Lakes Rally. In that round, they led the race until they had a big crash at SS7 which led them to retire from the race.

He started competing in regional Finnish rallies in an Opel Ascona he owned. In 1975, he joined the Ford team to race in the WRC and British Rally Championship. In 1976, he won the British Rally Championship, then again in the year 1980. His co-driver was David Richards, who later established Prodrive.

Vatanen’s driving style was very aggressive, and he called it “all or nothing.” He drove using rear wheel drive drifting techniques, which was carried on to the Turbo 4WD Rally car driving.

In 1979, with Rothmans’ sponsorship, he got the chance to race in many more WRC rounds. In 1981, he won 3 rounds in the series, which led him to obtain the WRC driver’s championship. 1983 was the year he entered the WRC with an Opel Ascona 400 sponsored by Rothmans. Then in 1984, he changed his team to Peugeot, driving a Group B Peugeot 205 T16. Although it was his first time driving a midship 4WD rally car, he won 3 rounds in the latter half of the season and ended fourth in the championship overall. In 1985, he won the first two races of the season, and had a big chance of obtaining the championship. However, he experienced a big crash in Argentina, which forced him off racing until the end of 1986.

Vatanen’s second win in a Peugeot 205 T16.

He entered with a Peugeot 205 T16 E2 and won the race.

Vatanen won the 1987 Dakar Rally, which was his first race after his recovery. He entered the WRC Safari Rally in a Group A Subaru Leone. He finished second at this year’s 1000 Lakes Rally in a Ford Sierra. In 1988, he entered in a BMW M3 by Prodrive, and competed in the RAC Rally in a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4. Vatanen contracted with Ralliart Europe in 1989, driving a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4. He competed in the races while developing the machine, and he finished second in the 1990 1000 Lakes Rally with the car.

From 1991, he changed his team to Subaru World Rally Team (SWRT) which was run by Prodrive. During the 1992 RAC Rally, he finished second in a Legacy. In the 1993 1000 Lakes Rally, he finished second in an Impreza.

He finished third in the 1993 1000 Lakes with a Subaru Impreza, and second in the 1993 Australia with a Subaru Legacy.

Vatanen commented on the fact that there are many Finland rally drivers in the industry saying, “Finnish people have a strong personality, and many are introvert. We lack cooperativeness so we try to achieve things on our own. That’s why many Finnish drivers believe that if they do not give up, they will be able to recover for sure. We are the perfect fit for long distance driving.” To prove this comment, Vatanen has won a total of 4 Dakar Rallies in his career.

Vatanen was elected at the European Parliament and served until 2009. In 2009, he became a candidate in the FIA presidential elections, as Max Mosley ended his term. He ended up not being elected. Jean Todt, his former team boss at Peugeot, was elected.

Vatanen was elected at the European Parliament and continued until 2009.

Ari Vatanen WRC Record of victory

Times Year Event Co-driver Car
1 1980 Acropolis Rally David Richards Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
2 1981 Acropolis Rally David Richards Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
3 1981 Rallye do Brasil David Richards Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
4 1981 Rally of the 1000 Lakes David Richards Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
5 1983 Safari Rally Terry Harryman Opel Ascona 400
6 1984 Rally of the 1000 Lakes Terry Harryman Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
7 1984 Rallye Sanremo Terry Harryman Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
8 1984 RAC Rally Terry Harryman Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
9 1985 Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo Terry Harryman Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
10 1985 Swedish Rally Terry Harryman Peugeot 205 Turbo 16

WRC Legend Driver TOP

Title Partner

  • Forum 8

Gold Partner


Silver Partners

  • Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance

Bronze Partners

  • Cheerio Corporation Co., LTD
  • eplus inc.
  • Nakanishi Metal Works Co., Ltd.
  • PUMA Japan K.K.

Official Supporters & Official Supplier

  • ZOLL Medical Corporation
  • JTB Corp.
  • All Toyota dealers in Aichi prefecture
  • All Toyota dealers in Gifu prefecture

Media Partners

  • The Chunichi Shimbun
  • Nagoya Broadcasting Network Co., Ltd.
  • Aichi Television Broadcasting Co., Ltd.
  • J SPORTS Corporation
  • Toyohashi Cable Network
  • Himawari Network
  • CBC RADIO Co., Ltd.
  • TOKAI RADIO Co., Ltd.
  • ZIP-FM Inc.

WRC Partners

  • WRC Partners