Published on February 16th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Vatanen Takes Flying Start In WRC Sweden

Max Vatanen, the son of 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, has got his 2016 season off to a flying start on the Monte Carlo Rally: the oldest and most prestigious event on the international calendar. For Max, this is almost a second home rally, as he lives in the south of France and his pace notes are delivered in French by experienced co-driver Jacques-Julien Rennucci.

The 25-year-old was using the Monte as a warm-up for his main focus of the season: the British Rally Championship, which was won for the first time by his famous father exactly 40 years ago. Max is also aiming to contest selected international events this year, to ensure that he has a mixed diet of regular competition. As a result, he wheeled out his own Ford Fiesta R2 to compete in Monte Carlo, where he finished fourth in the highly competitive RC4 class, against more modern factory-developed opposition.

“It’s true that my car – Olga, as I call her – is getting a little bit old now, and I certainly noticed that over the weekend!” said Max. “We were very close to the maximum limit of kilometres for the engine in Monte as well, so I was a bit worried that we would have a problem. Thankfully though, everything went fine and I enjoyed the rally a lot. But the pace of the newer cars was very quick: impossible for us to live with really.”

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Nonetheless, on the stages where there was a completely level playing field, with long and icy downhill sections, Max was able to show his class. In particular, he set a remarkable 16th-fastest time overall on the 17.13-kilometre SS10, which was the snowiest and most complex stage of them all this year. In doing so, he beat several more powerful cars, including two factory-backed World Rally Cars.

“That was definitely my best stage!” said Max. “I really liked it but at the same time it felt a little bit frustrating because if we had seen a few more stages like that, I think we could have achieved a really meaningful result. Instead though, it was mostly a dry Monte this year, although it is always a tough event no matter what the weather does.”

The end result was not the overall focus for Max though: instead it was all about getting him back into the groove of competition before he makes his competitive debut with a four-wheel drive Ford Fiesta R5 in Britain.

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“In that respect, it went really well,” said Max. “As usual, Jacques-Julien did a great job on the notes and I’d like to thank all our partners who made this latest adventure possible. It was really useful to have some more time in the car and I feel ready to start our season for real now. This year is going to be one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced but of course I am looking forward to it.”

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