Ari Vatanen
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Raid Paris-Dakar

  • Year: 1987
  • Country: France/Senegal
  • Type: off-road
  • Car: Peugeot 205 Turbo 16GR
  • Co-driver: Bernard Giroux
  • Placing: 1.
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Raid Paris-Dakar



The accident in Argentina had dire consequences for Ari. The serious injuries healed little by little, but mentally he was thrown into a state of doubt and even paranoia. But a visit to the 1986 1000 Lakes Rally suddenly woke him up from the nightmare. Seeing all his old friends face to face cast aside the gloom and Ari saw all the colours of life again. He eagerly seized the new challenge of Peugeot's off-road programme and especially the Paris-Dakar marathon.

"The start of the first Paris-Dakar was like the beginning of a new life, because in my mind all had been lost and finished. It proved that I still lived a normal life, as if nothing had happened - though maybe now a little bit wiser. So the fact that I won was just a little bonus to the big issue of being back behind the wheel of a rally car after a year and a half's hiatus. I felt I had been given a new life.

Paris-Dakar is special in so many ways. It's not just about the speed, but one has to know when to slow down, too. It involves so many more human aspects than what you might call a normal competition, which is strictly ruled by the stopwatch. Seeing the local life, the vastness of the Sahara¬Ö it all leaves an immense impression.

The start of my first Dakar was dramatic: the car broke down and I barely limped out of the Prologue! As we got to Africa I was the 286th competitor on the road! That meant a lot of overtaking in the thick dust with enormous risks.

The scenery is as beautiful as it is deceptive. I had first witnessed the striking beauty of the Tenere desert when we tested there in the autumn of 1986. My co-driver Bernard Giroux was absolutely in love with it - he'd even once walked right through it! There's now a cross in his memory there, after he died in a boating accident the year after our triumph.

I'd have missed a lot in my life had I not done Dakar. It has opened my eyes to see that other human beings in the most remote corner of our planet are my neighbours. We are in the same human team."

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