Long before Straight-Six took the unfathomable, and clearly masochistic, decision to marry a Finnish lady, we were infatuated with the sheer cool of Finnish drivers – particularly in rallying.
While it’s clear most rally drivers have had their fear and logic fuses removed, the dichotomy between the habitual Finnish cultural pillars of social reserve and restraint and the manner in which they threw their cars around was nothing less than awe-inspiring. And hysterically outrageous.
Perhaps that’s why, along with other Finnish athletes, rally drivers like Timo Mäkinen, Rauno Aaltonen and Simo Lampinen were all labelled “Flying Finns.” And boy, did they fly. More followed, including Hannu Mikkola, Juha Kankkunen, Henri Toivonen and Markku Alén.
But while you can find endless images, videos and words written about them all – most will have you slack-jawed in disbelief at what can be done with a car – we happened upon a small video in which a mere two words summed up the sheer superhuman abilities of the Finnish rally driver after a huge tank-slapper.
In this case, we’re talking about the devoutly religious driver known as Ari Vatanen. You may remember him as being the apple of our eye following his astounding driving during the Pikes Peak event. This time, we’re with Vatanen during the 1983 Manx Rally on the Isle of Man, considered by many to be the ultimate tarmac event. Anywhere.
Vatanen is driving an Opel Manta with co-pilot Terry Harryman who has the merciless job of barking route instructions to a man that clearly no longer understands the concept of mortality. Or how close those walls and hedges really are.
It’s been noted that Harryman was the perfect foil to the turbulent Vatanen: calm, reserved and more like a civil servant than anything else. The fact remains it was up to him to tell Vatanen where they were going while not soiling his undergarments. An even-tempered approach was essential.
Something clearly broke through Harryman’s focus. And in his moment of doubt he found his faith. The two words Harryman uttered? “Dear God…”
“Dear God…” Or why the Flying Finns did it better
While it’s clear most rally drivers have had their fear and logic fuses removed, the dichotomy between the habitual Finnish cultural pillars of social reserve and restraint and the manner in which they throw their cars around tarmac, dirt/mud and snow during rally stages is nothing less than awe-inspiring. In 1983, one co-driver captured them in two words…
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Ari Vatanen, Finnish rally drivers, FLying Finns, Hannu Mikkola, henri toivonen, Isle of Man, Juha Kankkunen, Markku Alén, Opel Manta, Rauno Aaltonen, Simo Lampinen, Terry Harryman, Timo Mäkinen
Eric (AKA Straight-Six) had a proper job as a journalist for Dow Jones before lowering himself gently into the warm, forgiving waters of The Guide. He’s our resident fanatic: he relished detailing his BMW M3 for two full days at a time before crashing it at Eau Rouge in the wet; he spends insane amounts on his home-cinema system and has thrown tens of thousands of euros at vintage Rolex sports watches. The little fool simply does not understand the concept of restraint or the meaning of excess. He also – following a legendary "heavy" lunch – once nibbled (yes, like little dogs do) a dear lady friend of ours.
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