Rally Portugal: The sport’s former glories recall impressive victories.
Several former world rally champions, with remarkable passages at the Rally of Portugal, whose 2022 edition starts on Thursday, recalled strong moments and ways of seeing life after retirement at Exponor.
“Life is about living to the fullest. People ask me if I’m retired. Retired from what? You have to work first. I haven’t worked at all in life, sort of. Life unfolds in front of me, that’s how I feel. As long as you’re healthy, let’s do it,” Ari Vatanen said.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the World Rally Championship (WRC), the Finn illustrated the rhythm of the rotating press conference (with former drivers grouped four by four in front of journalists), in an introspective tone, making the balance sheet of a career with a highlight of the world title of 1981.
The quadruple Paris-Dakar champion, who was also an MEP between 1999 and 2004, also spoke of the current leader of the World Championship, his compatriot Kalle Rovanperä.
“People [na Finlândia] are satisfied, we are used to being champions, but two Sébastiens stole our titles for almost two decades. Loeb and Ogier are two friends, I have a lot of respect for them, but…”, he said good-naturedly.
The young man, son of another former pilot, Harri Rovanperä, “could be champion this year, or in a few years”, in a sport which, like life, “is unpredictable”, underlined Vatanen.
Vatanen also hailed the glory of the Dakar, after an accident, as one of the most memorable moments behind the wheel in decades. “Is it really me, who is starting a second life? Life is a great mystery,” he said.
Italian Ninni Russo, who was a co-driver but later rose to prominence as a ‘manager’, says he has ‘too many memories’ of a sport he is still close to, competing in dual roles “completely different, as if from day to night”.
Alongside Peter Solberg and David Richards, Frenchwoman Michèle Mouton looks back on her victory in the 1982 Rally Portugal, having surprised at Sanremo the previous year by becoming the first woman to win a WRC event.
“Portugal arrived after Sanremo, he always said that when you win once there is more confidence, and of course here in Portugal I did not expect to win. I managed to win, and that what I remember the most, I would say, when we were done seeing women on the road, it was in my memory. It was a special feeling,” he described.
In memory of the former driver, now 70, there is a “very special presence in Portugal, with incredible fans”. “It will always be in my memory,” he reinforced.
Besides, having made history was not something that was in the head, just the most basic of all instincts. “I didn’t want to win because I’m a woman, it’s because I’m a pilot,” he said.
In the “cortege” of champions, between pilots and co-pilots, Tiziano Severo was seated next to Miki Biasion, the Italian who led to the world titles of 1988 and 1989 with the former at his side.
“One of the most important rallies for me was here at Rally Portugal. I’ve been there several times, but I remember one year more than the others, 1985, when, with a Lancia, I was fighting for victory with Peugeot and we finished second. It was amazing, a fantastic result and performance, it’s always in my heart”, recalls “Miki”.
Marcus Grönholm remembers ‘nothing’ of his run at Fafe, where he will take over the controls of one of WRC’s 50th anniversary cars, with ‘stops’ at several of the locations receiving stages over the next few months. days, but he hopes to “still manage to handle the car”.
“The first victory in Monte Carlo was the most important thing for me, the rest was just fun, I didn’t take anything too seriously,” said the former driver, now 54. years, world champion in 2000 and 2002.
The German Christian Geistdörfer, who was Walter Röhrl’s co-driver and world champion in 1980 and 1982, recalled the tactical role of the role he played between 1975 and 1990.
“The calendar is full of different events. Monte-Carlo is different from Sweden, Portugal from Greece. All of them are difficult rallies and require different tactics. That’s what a co-driver brings,” he said. he recalled.
The 50th anniversary of the World Rally Championship (WRC) will be marked on the sidelines of Rally de Portugal, in Matosinhos, from Thursday to Sunday, with a series of initiatives that will bring together former champions and cars, with a gala scheduled for the day of ‘today.
A number of historic cars will be on display at Exponor’s service park and rally fans will have a rare opportunity to see some in demonstration races on special stages over the four days of the event.
In total, the holders of 28 world titles join the initiative, alongside other important sports personalities, with 40 classic cars retracing the history of the WRC.
The World Rally Championship (WRC) was launched in 1973 and since then 35 countries have hosted stages of the race. Portugal hosted the inaugural season and this year hosts the 619th rally in the championship.