Q & A: Markko Märtin

Five-time WRC event winner Markko Märtin drove a current generation World Rally Car for the first time at last weekend’s Shell Helix Rally Estonia. How did today’s Ford Fiesta compare with yesterday’s Ford Focus RS?

Q. Markko, how was life back behind the wheel of a World Rally Car?
MM: It was tiring! I was knackered after the first day. Seriously, you forget what hard work it is driving these things. I can drive around no problem, but it was more difficult to get the motivation to be pushing harder and closer to the limit. I haven’t done a rally for a few years and a proper rally in a proper car for about 10 years, so it was interesting to be back. I’m glad I did it. I had no knowledge of these cars and that was really the reason I did it, to have a better understanding of how the new cars work.

Q. Armed with that knowledge, will we see you back again?
MM: No. Like I said, I wanted to understand the cars, now I understand the cars. I got a nice confirmation, mission accomplished.

Q. What was the hardest thing to get used to?
MM: The aerodynamics and how they worked. It was a little bit unnerving early in the event when I didn’t know exactly how much grip I was getting from the aero. When I was driving, we had some downforce but basically it was just a very big spoiler. There’s a lot of science in this now.

Markko Märtin returned to action in Estonia

Q. How much did the aero help?
MM: It was quite cool actually when I started to feel the aero. I was like: “Ah, there it is…” and then you can start to play with it a little bit. It’s pretty amazing when you go to a sixth-gear corner, if the engine is still pulling then you just keep it completely flat and the aero will get you through the corner; you just sit there and turn the wheel. That’s quite different to the cars I used to drive. My memory might be a bit fuzzy, but I definitely remember having to lift, brake and set the car up...

Q. Does that mean the drivers have it easier now than when you were driving?
MM: In every era, the drivers took what they had and drove it to the maximum, that’s what we did when I was competing and that’s what they do now. You take the equipment and make the best of it. The aero and the extra power, they’re just different dimensions.

Q. And a quick word about Rally Estonia, how good was it?
MM: It was the best rally we’ve ever had in Estonia, so by extension the best rally in the Baltic States. Urmo (Aava, rally director) did a very good job. There were so many spectators out there, the crowds were crazy again. With all the manufacturers there, the competition was really good. It was a mega event.

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