Max Vatanen faced some ups and downs on Rally de Portugal – an event where he set two fastest stage times and also explored a bit of the scenery.

But you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, and for Max’s first time out on a World Rally Championship event, he gained plenty of experience that will be vital for the future.

Max, the son of 1981 world rally champion Ari Vatanen, was competing in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy and showed himself to be on the pace from the very start of the rally in the M-Sport Poland-run R2 machine.

He set stage times that were in the top three, including two fastest times, and seemed set for a top finish until a few moments hampered his progress, including a roll on Friday, a road accident on Saturday and an off-road excursion on Sunday.

“It was certainly an adventurous three days,” said Max, underlining the fact that he is as good at understatement as he is at driving. “It was very positive to set the two fastest times and have good pace – I’m pleased about that – but in the end I have to be quite disappointed by everything that happened. The problems on Friday and Sunday were my mistakes, and I have to learn from them, but there was nothing I could have done about the accident on Saturday: we met someone coming on the wrong side of the road. Luckily everyone was fine but it damaged the car’s axle and electrics, so we had to deal with that as well.”

The 23-year-old’s final excursion on Sunday put an end to his rally, when he went off on a slow corner and was unable to continue.

“That was one of the frustrating aspects to it,” added Vatanen. “It was a very difficult rally, but the places where we had the problems were the slow ones. We expected it to be tough from the very beginning, but these roads are really unforgiving. It’s certainly been a massive wake-up call. Now we just have to concentrate on improving and doing a better job on the next rally.”

The next round of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy will be Rally Poland from June 26-29, but Vatanen is planning to get back into the car before then for some practice runs. “It’s all about getting experience,” concluded Max – also known as MAXRALLY. “We’ve got a long-term plan and although the feeling now is one of disappointment, we’ve learned a lot and we have to focus on that. It’s actually incredible how much experience you can take away from just three days. We’ll be back.”

It’s called sisu: the famous Finnish spirit of resilience and refusal to be beaten. And Max has it in bucket loads.

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