Rally Portugal: the glories of the ancient sport remind us of great victories.
Several former world rally champions, who had great stints at Rally Portugal, whose 2022 edition begins on Thursday, recalled the happy moments and ways of seeing life after retirement at Exponor.
“Life is about living to the fullest. People ask me if I’m retired. I retired from what? You have to work first. I’ve never worked in life, somehow. Life unfolds in front of me, that’s how I feel. As long as you’re healthy, let’s do it” Ari Vatanen was shot.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the World Rally Championship (WRC), the Finn exemplified the tone of the alternating press conference (with the former drivers group four to four in front of the journalists), introspective tone, and a career review with a high point at the 1981 world title.
The four-time Paris Dakar champion, who was also a member of the European Parliament between 1999 and 2004, also referred to the current leader of the world championship, compatriot Kali Rovanpera.
“People [na Finlândia] We’re satisfied, we used to be champions, but two Sebastian stole our titles for almost two decades. Loeb and Auger are friends, I have a lot of respect for them, but…”, he shot gently.
This young man, the son of another former driver, Harry Rovanpera, “could be a champ this year, or a few years from now,” in a sport that, like life, is “unpredictable,” Vatanen explained.
Vatanen also hailed the glory of the Dakar, after an accident, as one of the most memorable moments behind the wheel in decades. “Am I really, starting a second life? Life is a big mystery,” he said.
Italian Nene Russo, who was a co-pilot but later became known as ‘the Director’, said he has ‘too many memories’ of a sport he always comes close to, taking part in two ‘totally different’ roles, as if from day to night.
Alongside Peter Solberg and David Richards, France’s Michel Mouton reversed her victory in the Rally Portugal in 1982, after upsetting at Sanremo the previous year, becoming the first woman to win the 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 was not expecting to win. I managed to win, and what I remember most is, I would say, when we finished seeing the women on the road, it was That’s in my memory. It was a special feeling,” he said.
In memory of the former pilot, now 70, there is a presence in Portugal “very special, with incredible fans”. “It will always be in my memory,” he stressed.
Besides, making history wasn’t something he had in mind, just the simplest of instincts. “I didn’t want to win because I’m a woman, because I’m a pilot,” he said.
In the “parade” of heroes, among the pilots and co-drivers, Tiziano Severo sat next to the Italian Mickey Biasione, who led the world titles in 1988 and 1989 with the first at his side.
“One of the most important gatherings for me was here, in the Portugal Rally. I have been here a few times, but I remember a year more than the others, 1985, when, with Lancia, I was fighting for the win with Peugeot and we ended up in second place. It was amazing. A great result and performance, is still in my heart,” Mickey recalls.
Markus Gronholm doesn’t remember ‘anything’ when he raced the Favey that he’ll be back in control of a car during his 50 years of WRC, with ‘stops’ at several places receiving specials over the next few days, but he hopes ‘still’ Able to handle the car.
“The first victory in Monte Carlo was the most important thing for me, the rest was just having fun, I didn’t take anything too seriously,” said the former pilot, now 54, world champion in 2000 and 2002.
German Christian Geistdorfer, who was co-pilot Walter Ruhrl and world champion in 1980 and 1982, noted the tactical role he played between 1975 and 1990.
“The calendar is full of different events,” he recalls. “Monte Carlo is different from Sweden and Portugal from Greece. They are all difficult gatherings and require different tactics. That’s what the co-driver brings.”
The 50th Anniversary of the World Rally Championship (WRC) will be celebrated on the sidelines of the Rally Portugal, in Matosinos, from Thursday to Sunday, with a series of initiatives that will bring together former champions and cars, with a ceremony scheduled on today’s day.
A number of historic cars will be on display in the Exponor Service Park and rally fans will have the rare opportunity to see some in demonstration races on special stages over the four days of the event.
In all, 28 world title holders are joining the initiative, along with other important figures in the sport, with 40 classic cars that trace the history of WRC.
The World Rally Championship (WRC) was launched in 1973, and since then 35 countries have hosted the racing stages. Portugal hosted the inaugural season and this year is hosting the 619th Rally of the Championship.