If you have been following the FIA World Rally Championship this year you may have seen a familiar name on the results… Vatanen.
For 2014, second generation rally driver Max Vatanen, son of 1981 World Rally Champion Ari joined the WRC field in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy and although he missed out on the overall championship he did take the ‘Rookie of the year’ prize, an impressive performance for the 24 year old who although has rallying in his blood, has limited competition experience.
Max knows that although he has done well to be the top rookie driver he has made mistakes along the way. “I know that this is all part of the learning process but I am my own harshest critic – and I really believe that this is the way you need to be if you want to improve.” he says.
“One thing is sure – we have learned a huge amount. Knowing what we do now, we are a lot better equipped for next year.”
Heading in to the season Vatanen had next to no experience on asphalt so it has been a case of being thrown in a the deep end. Over the season he has also developed as a driver and learnt to pace his driving plus how to properly recce and make notes.
“Of course I am still a long way from mastering any of those things yet, but we made a good start this year and I think we are heading in the right direction” he admits.
While it has been a challenging year it is clear that he has natural ability in a rally car, much like his father.
“The most positive thing is that we managed to show plenty of speed and win some stages. The speed is the most important thing as either you have it or you don’t: everything else you can learn.”
Looking forward to 2015 the young Finn has his sights set on another season in the Fiesta trophy, with the clear goal of challenging for the title.
“Having won the Rookie title this year, next year our aim is to challenge for the overall title, which carries the great prize of a drive in a Ford Fiesta R5 car for the 2016 season.”
As ‘Rookie of the year’ Vatanen has secured a place in a shoot-out to win a one-off drive in a Fiesta R5 next season. He will be up against other Fiesta R2 drivers from this year from all over the world so it’s likely to be a tough challenge.
“We will all have to do a series of driving tests and challenges at M-Sport in England to decide the winner. This takes place in December, so quite soon. Of course I will be trying my hardest and I am sure it will be a lot of fun.” he says.