Vatanen and Escort wow the Coombe crowds
The annual Castle Combe rallyday drew the fans to see rally cars and stars from past and present with Ari Vatanen at centre stage
A round 10,000 fans flocked to the annual Castle Combe Rallyday where the presence of Ari Vatanen made it a truly memorable occasion. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of his World Rally Championship win, the Finn was re-united with co-driver Dave Richards, team boss David Sutton and a Rothmans-livered Mk2 Ford Escort for the event.
Vatanen won the hearts of many fans with his charm and patience. The Member of the European Parliament signed countless autographs and never stopped smiling as the crowd mobbed him.
On track, a demonstration stage was set up for a gaggle of classic rally cars, including a special tribute of around 10 Rothmans-livered Escorts. A fine selection of Group B rally cars as well as examples of state of the art WRC machinery also impressed the fans. But it was Vatanen everyone wanted to get close to. “The UK was the country where my professional career took off, so this is like a big family reunion. It’s fantastic to meet all these people,” he said.
Despite a thunderstorm, Vatanen then tackled the short rally stage in a period Mk2 Escort. “I must have been a really good driver 25 years ago; this car is a real handful,” he joked.
Also stirring the fans’ memories was the Mk 1 Ford Escort ‘LVX 942J’, now back in the ownership of Roy Cathcart, who previously owned this ex-Roger Clark car in the mid-70s. The car that Clark used to win the 1972 RAC Rally is now in immaculate condition after a lengthy period of restoration.