Ari Vatanen is one of the most versatile drivers to contest the World Rally Championship. Winner of the 1981 title, Vatanen
won 10 WRC rallies but also enjoyed considerable success in other forms of motorsport as well as a political career as a member
of the European Parliament.
He won the British Championship in 1976 and by 1977 he was a regular competitor in the WRC at the wheel of a Ford Escort RS1800. Signed to the Rothmans Ford team in 1979, Vatanen and new co-driver David Richards took their first WRC win at the 1980 Acropolis.
Wins the following year in Greece, Brazil and Finland earned him the drivers’ title for his private team against the might of the manufacturers’ squads.
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.
Vatanen’s 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 Hillclimb 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 driving career came to an end when he was elected to the European Parliament in 1999.