“He never shouted at me. His view was that the next rally would be another opportunity for us.
“His optimism was contagious.”
This was the fifth and final full year of a partnership that had begun in victory on the 1977 Mintex Rally.
Vatanen had won the previous year’s British title in thrilling win-it-or-bin-it fashion.
Sutton’s patience and support would allow him to polish off some of those rougher edges without entirely corking the genie.
Their 1980 British Open title indubitably was the product of a more measured approach.
But when victory beckoned on the 1981 San Remo Rally both men decided to go for it rather than bank the points for second place and so take the lead of the championship – the preferred approach of Richards, with his Rothmans hat on.
“I remember we debated it a lot,” says Vatanen. “Common sense would have settled for second. But…
“I was extremely unlucky. It was a left-hand corner and I was very close to a stone wall on the inside. There was a small opening in it for the stairs to a house, and where the wall restarted it stuck out a few centimeters more. It was not symmetrical. It clipped the edge of the tyre and bent the steering arm.
“That was us: let’s go for it – and regret it afterwards”
“But that was us: let’s go for it – and regret it afterwards.”
Vatanen finished seventh to salvage four points in his title battle with Talbot’s Guy Fréquelin.
The Finn’s prior victories that season had included a second consecutive Acropolis Rally win.
“There is a film taken by a bystander of a roadside service of ours,” says Vatanen. “We are leading. The mechanics are rushing and we don’t stop for long. We were always late, late, late. Lots of pressure.
“Then suddenly it’s David, saying, ‘He’s coming back! He’s coming back!’ We must have smelled the cooling liquid. They open the bonnet and tighten the radiator cap.
“It’s a nice little film. So few mechanics. A Transit. David. That’s it. [Chuckles] No time for anything. No wheel guns. Just normal spanners.”