WRC Legends celebrate 50 years of the WRC at the Rally of Portugal


For immediate release
Wednesday, May 18th, 2022


MATOSINHOS (PORTUGAL): Some of the most famous names in the 50-year history of the FIA World Rally Championship assembled for a press conference and gala dinner in conjunction with the 55th Vodafone Rally of Portugal on Wednesday evening.

Fiifteen legends of the sport attended a press conference in the media centre at Exponor and were then joined by over 230 additional guests at a reception and gala dinner. These consisted of senior FIA officials, including FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, representatives from several rounds of the WRC, Portuguese organisers, WRC Promoter staff, VIPs and select members of the international media.

Four former World Champions - Walter Röhrl, Ari Vatanen, Miki Biasion and Petter Solberg - attended the press conference at Exponor on Wednesday afternoon and, together with gala dinner attendees, Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier, Carlos Sainz and current driver Ott Tänak, they account for 28 of the championship’s 50 drivers’ titles so far.

Other well known rallying personalities at the press conference were former title-winning co-driver and team manager David Richards, veteran team manager Nini Russo and WRC-winning co-drivers Tiziano Siviero, Robert Reid, Luis Moya and Christian Geistdörfer,

They were joined by former WRC Ladies’ Cup winners, Isolde Holderied and Louise Aitken-Walker, and the latter’s co-driver Tina Thörner. Michèle Mouton – the winner of the 1982 Rally of Portugal - and her co-driver Fabrizia Pons were also in attendance.

Reid now works as one of the FIA Deputy Presidents for Motorsport and won the World Championship with the late Richard Burns in a Prodrive Subaru Impreza under the management of David Richards in 2001.

He fondly recalled the final stage of the RAC Rally that year in Great Britain. “I remember David (Richards) was on the last stage with a split time board and, if memory serves me right, was sitting on the wreck of an old van halfway through the stage making sure we had the information we needed to do the job. A huge amount of memories. It is great to be here with all the best champions to celebrate 50 years of the championship.”

Ari Vatanen won the Drivers’ Championship in 1981 with a David Sutton Ford Escort RS and went on to play a starring role throughout the Group B era of rallying before sustaining appalling injuries in a massive crash in Argentina with co-driver Terry Harryman in 1985.

The flying Finn reflected: “The life is full of so many ups and downs. It was a surprise in a way to win the championship. It was only at the end of a very long stage on the RAC that we knew that we had won and the feeling and the expression of relief. There are many moments like that. But there is one other moment and it was not in the World Championship. It was Paris-Dakar and it was the first event after my fatal accident. At the start, I pinched myself and said, ‘is it really me who is starting a second life?’.”

Michèle Mouton won four WRC rallies and finished as runner-up to Röhrl in the 1982 World Championship. She now heads up the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission.

She reflected on the win in Portugal in 1982: “Portugal arrived after my first win in Sanremo. I always said that when you win once, you get more hungry. I did not expect to win in Portugal. Finally, we managed to win. When we finished, all the women along the road were waving to us. This is my memory. It was really a special feeling. When you do something, you don’t believe you did it because you are a woman, you do it because you believe you are a driver. But the win in Portugal was something very special.”

Röhrl was World Champion in 1980 and 1982, but admitted that winning the Monte-Carlo Rally had always been his priority. The German said: “My one aim in life was to be a Monte-Carlo winner. This was the most important thing for me and the rest was always just a bit of fun. I was not thinking very serious about it. Many people ask me what it feels like to be a two-times World Champion. I tell them it meant more to win in Monte-Carlo. It was a funny situation in 1982 with Michèle. Looking back, I have the feeling that it was an unlucky situation. It could have been much better if Michèle had been World Champion. This would have been unique in our history with a woman being World Champion. I cannot see that ever happening anymore!”













Date issued: 18/05/2022

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