Vatanen critical of Todt endorsement

Ari VatanenFIA presidential candidate Ari Vatanen has criticised Max Mosley’s decision to endorse Jean Todt as his successor, accusing the outgoing FIA President of being too autocratic, while warning that Todt is too symbolic of this old style of leadership.

Mosley gave Todt a ringing endorsement in his resignation letter to FIA club members saying:

Jean is unquestionably the outstanding motorsport manager of his generation, and arguably of any generation.

“If he agrees to stand, I think he would be the ideal person to continue, but also to extend the work of the past 16 years. He can be relied on in all areas where the FIA is active. I very much hope you will give him your support.”

Ari Vatanen hit back at Mosley saying that the Englishman was acting out of place by trying to impose a new leader on the FIA.

“Although I have criticised the FIA strongly, I have never aimed it at Mosley personally,” the Finn told Spanish newspaper AS.

“But it’s not good that a leader stays in the post for a long time, and when that happens, the best thing is a change. And I represent that change, a new era with more freshness.

“On the contrary, Jean Todt represents the old era, and it’s not right that Max wants to impose a new leader, and that he uses the power of the federation to support his campaign. The FIA is not a kingdom; it’s a republic where the leaders are chosen democratically.”

“At Ferrari they don’t want Todt to be president, and so they have told me, because they think they sport would lose credibility. The same would happen if it was Ross Brawn or Flavio Briatore running. The president of the FIA must be someone neutral.”

Who is Ari Vatanen? (Source: Wiki)

Ari Pieti Uolevi Vatanen (born April 27, 1952 in Tuupovaara) is a Finnish rally driver turned politician and Member of the European Parliament 1999-2009. Vatanen won the World Rally Championship drivers’ title in 1981 and the Paris Dakar Rally four times.

World Rally Champion

His debut year in professional rallying was 1970, and he debuted in the World Rally Championship at the 1974 1000 Lakes Rally. He won the British Rally Championship in 1976 and 1980 with Peter Bryant and David Richards. In 1977, Vatanen became a regular privateer contestant in the WRC with a Ford Escort RS1800. For the 1979 season, he was signed by Rothmans Rally Team. Continuing with an RS1800, he took his debut win at the 1980 Acropolis Rally and became the World Rally Champion in 1981. From 1979 until the end of 1981, Vatanen was co-driven by David Richards, who went on to become chairman of Prodrive, the Banbury based motorsport team and one of the most influential figures in British (and worldwide) motorsport. In the 1982 season, Vatanen did not defend his title and competed in only three world rallies.

In 1984, Vatanen signed to drive the Peugeot 205 T16 for Peugeot’s factory team. From the 1984 1000 Lakes Rally to 1985 Swedish Rally, Vatanen won five world rallies in a row.

Dicing with death

Close to death after a major accident on the 1985 Rally Argentina, Vatanen spent 18 months winning a personal health battle over serious injury and depression. He went on to make a complete recovery and his return to motorsport in 1987 saw him go on to win the Paris-Dakar Rally four times; with Peugeot in 1987, 1989 and 1990, and with Citroën in 1991. He became the centre of controversy when his car was stolen whilst leading the same rally in 1988.

With Peugeot, Vatanen also won the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, after Peugeot stopped participating in the World Rally Championship in 1986, due to the demise of Group B rallying. Peugeot used the lessons learnt from its 205 T16 to create the 405 T16. With at least 600 bhp (447 kW), large aerofoils, four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, Vatanen took the car up the hill in record time, his efforts being captured in the award-winning short film Climb Dance.

Vatanen continued competing in the World Rally Championship more or less actively until the 1998 season. He drove for Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe in four events in 1989 and in five events in 1990. His best result with the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 was second at the 1990 1000 Lakes Rally. From 1992 to 1993, he competed for Subaru in 11 events, finishing second three times, including on the debut event of the first Subaru Impreza in Finland. He later returned to the wheel of an Escort, driving now the Ford Escort WRC for Ford’s factory team in a few events, most notably finishing on the podium at the 1994 Rally Argentina and at the 1998 Safari Rally.[1] He then briefly returned to a works Subaru for the season-ending Rally of Great Britain, marking his 100th World Rally Championship event.

Politics beckons

Following his years of working with a French rally team, in 1993 he settled in southern France where he bought a farm and a winery. He soon developed an interest in politics, and in 1999 he was elected to the European Parliament from the list of the conservative Finnish National Coalition party, despite continuing to live in France. The issues he has worked on include car taxation, traffic policies, development aid, and agricultural policy.

In 2004 he was re-elected, this time from the list of the conservative French Union for a Popular Movement. His hunger for motorsport had not left him completely however, and Vatanen joined Nissan in the Paris-Dakar in 2003, finishing seventh. He also made an appearance at the 2003 Rally Finland with a Bozian Racing-prepared Peugeot 206 WRC, and finished eleventh. In 2004 and 2005, Vatanen drove the Dakar for Nissan as well, and in 2007 he made another attempt with Volkswagen, but retired on the seventh stage.

In 2009 European Parliament elections Vatanen was again a National Coalition candidate in Finland, but he did not get elected this time.

In July 2009 Vatanen declared his interest in being a candidate to stand against Max Mosley in the FIA presidential elections in October, should current president Mosley decide to restand for another term. He later confirmed that he will run for the presidency.