Vatanen aims for top rookie prize
- 23rd October 2014, 12:01am
Up and coming Finnish star Max Vatanen is aiming to come away from the Rally of Spain this weekend with the coveted accolade of top rookie in his inaugural season of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.
Heading into the last round, Max is currently fifth in the overall standings and fighting with Belgium’s Ghislain de Mevius for the title of top rookie – although all six rookie drivers this year are theoretically in with a chance of the award.
The one-make Fiesta series, which uses identical R2 class cars and tyres, so that only driving talent makes the difference, is run over five European rounds of the World Rally Championship. However, the final event in Spain this weekend is one of the most challenging of all as it contains both gravel and asphalt stages, run on roads around the coastal resort of Salou.
“I’d say that this season has been one of ups and downs, and in my view probably too many downs compared to the ups,” said Max. “But I know that I have high expectations of myself, and this is how it has to be if you want to improve. Now my goal is to be the top rookie this year but I know that it won't be easy. I need to avoid making any mistakes and show the speed we are capable of, in a consistent way.”
The 23-year-old will be well-prepared for the Spanish finale, as he has completed one day of testing and one day of pace note practice with his co-driver Mikko Lukka before the event. It's all part of the learning curve, to which Max will add his knowledge of the rally picked up as a spectator.
Max's famous father, Ari, lives in the south of France, so the Rally of Spain has been something of a Vatanen family outing in recent years.
“I know a fair amount about the rally and with the preparation we are doing before I feel confident that we're in good shape,” added Max. "Really, this is the closest that world rallying gets to circuit racing: the roads are wide and fast, so you need a clean line and plenty of commitment.”
Running towards the back of the field, the R2 Fiestas are affected by dirt pulled up from the faster four-wheel drive cars when cutting corners, and this is a particular hazard that Max and his fellow competitors will have to look out for. At the end of Friday, all the competitors will have to perform a mental reset, as the action switches from gravel to asphalt for the remaining two days.
A lot can happen very quickly on the unpredictable roads of Catalunya, but Max will also be keen to put on a good show for the representatives of his sponsor PAF, who have come to Spain to see him in action.
“The whole year has been an incredibly good learning experience," Max concluded. "Now we just want to finish it in the most positive way possible, so that we are in a strong position to challenge for the championship next year.”
The event gets underway with a ceremonial start and superspecial in Barcelona on Thursday night, before finishing on Sunday after 17 stages in total.
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