Ari Vatanen mainostoimisto Avalon

Ivory Coast Rally

  • Year: 1981
  • Country: Ivory Coast
  • Type: WRC
  • Car: Ford Escort RS1800
  • Co-driver: David Richards
  • Placing: 9.
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Ivory Coast Rally

The Rothmans-sponsored David Sutton team never intended to go to Ivory Coast, but with Guy Frequelin leading Ari by two points in the World Championship battle budgets were shuffled to add this event to the programme.

"Quite early in the rally we had a collision with a small truck, whose driver promptly vanished in the bush! The truck was carrying a most peculiar load of what seemed to be some kind of remains of fish and the smell was awful! We managed to drag the car into service with all sorts of damage. The windscreen wipers (among many other things!) couldn't be repaired and when it rained later on in the event David had to work them manually with an attached string. It was nightmare out there in the jungle. There were huge mud-holes and it was hard to know whether one dare drive through them. We'd lost the clutch, which made changing gear tricky and obviously I could not use the clutch to adjust the speed either. The starter motor, too, was broken, so if we got stuck and stalled, there was no guarantee we'd ever get going again. And the rain just kept hammering down in the seemingly never-ending forestÂ…

I remember arriving at a rest halt so late that Timo Salonen, who was leading the rally, was already preparing to set out on the next leg. I was so tired it was almost beyond me to drive the car.

It was a very desolate feeling out there driving in the forests. It felt so far away from anywhere. Somehow we managed to limp to the finish and get the most expensive two points ever!"

Ari suffered a catalogue of mechanical problems including bent wheels and seized wheel bearing, broken half-shaft, etc. In the end Frequelin managed to increase his championship lead with a fifth place against Vatanen's ninth. Ari was the last classified finisher, one day (that's correct - a full day!), eight hours and 12 minutes behind winner Salonen.

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