"It’s quite interesting because some time ago there was an FIA rule that said the service park has to be in one place. And that is what limited all the rallies to a little circle around one village or town. Now they have changed it and we are back to the old rules because earlier we used to drive for very much longer. We used to go all the way to Lahti and Tampere - which is longer than Saturday’s route this year. Always the start and finish was here in Jyvaskyla though. There’s lots of space here to go rallying.”
Do you think modern day rally drivers have it easy?
“Yes. In the old days we often used to drive five days without any sleep at all. At full speed. An event like the Safari in Kenya was 7000 kilometres on pace notes, and absolutely full speed the whole time. Special stages, from time control to time control were as much as 1,800 kilometres long and the cars after that were one minute apart. I don’t like the current format but it doesn’t really matter what I think, the world has changed; we don’t have that much space anymore, especially in Europe, we have speed limits and this sort of road race is dangerous. Still, I feel sorry that the modern drivers will not get to experience the same sort of adventure.”
You tackled the Monte Carlo Classic Rally this year. Any plans for more competition?
“I still do four or five events of this type each year and then I do some circuit racing. Mostly I concentrate on the Goodwood Revival [in the United Kingdom]. I drive anything except open wheelers. I started with open wheel cars but the difference in the steering movement is so big that I don’t see it practical to drive both saloon and formula cars. You are bound to make a mistake in one of them.”
Throughout your long career you drove for 10 different works teams. Do you have a favourite rally car?
“There are two outstanding cars, one is the 1300cc Mini Cooper S - it was the outstanding car compared to the competition because it didn’t have any overhang at the front. If you look at rally cars today nearly all of them stop where the front wheels are. But back then they had a long nose and that is the worst thing a rally car can have because it doesn’t respond to steering. The second car which was also a great love of mine was the Opel Ascona 400 Group B car. I built it for Walter Rohrl to win the world championship and he did it against cars with twice the power and four-wheel drive.”
What is your greatest memory of competing in Finland?
“That’s difficult to say because I’ve been here so often running all sorts of cars. My one dominant memory however is the flowing, smooth nature of the roads. These roads are all used by normal people throughout the year, which means they are maintained and they are smooth enough for normal cars to use without damage. They are not like the rough and rutted forest tracks in Wales. Also over the years the roads evolved from natural tracks, where people have been looking for the easiest ways to move the horse or car, so they flow nicely. Sometime it’s possible to read how the road goes by the trees or the hills. It’s a beautiful feeling, a bit like downhill skiing - swinging nicely.”