Date of Birth:27 Apr 52
FIA Championship Titles:1981
WRC Rally Starts:101
WRC Rally Wins:10
Born in Finland in 1952, Ari Vatanen is one of the most versatile drivers to contest the World Rally Championship. Winner of the 1981 Drivers’ title, Vatanen won a total of 10 WRC rallies, but also enjoyed considerable success in other forms of rallying, as well as a parallel political career as a member of the European Parliament.
Vatanen began his rallying career on the 1974 1000 lakes Rally. He won the British Rally Championship in 1976, and by 1977 was a regular competitor in the WRC at the wheel of a Ford Escort RS1800. Signed to the Rothmans Ford Rally team in 1979, Vatanen and new co-driver (and Prodrive founder) David Richards, took their first WRC win on the 1980 Acropolis.
Wins the following year in Greece, Brazil and Finland earned him the 1981 Drivers’ title. After limited programmes in 1982 and 1983, Vatanen joined Peugeot for 1984 and 1985 and became one of the most successful drivers of the Group B spec Peugeot 205 T16 - winning five rallies in a row with it.
Ari’s driving career - and his life - were nearly ended after a terrible accident on the 1985 Rally Argentina, but after making a full recovery he won the 1987 Paris-Dakar rally with Peugeot. He went on to win it three more times, as well as smashing the record for the Pikes Peak Hill climb in a 600bhp Peugeot 405 T16 in 1988.
Vatanen continued to drive on selected WRC events until 1998, and scored a number of podiums for Mitsubishi, Subaru and Ford, but his full time WRC career came to an end when he was elected to the European Parliament in 1999.