Juha Kankkunen Interview


FORD IN FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP THE 1998 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP IS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING AND OPEN FOR MANY YEARS. FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM DRIVER JUHA KANKKUNEN SPOKE ABOUT HIS AMBITIONS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON AND THE SPORT OF RALLYING IN GENERAL. WITH NINE ROUNDS GONE AND FOUR REMAINING, YOU STILL HAVE THE CHANCE TO WIN A RECORD FIFTH WORLD TITLE. DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT? "It looks a little bit difficult for me now with so few rallies remaining in the championship. Victory on the Rally New Zealand last month would have created the ideal situation for me to attack over the last four rounds but that wasn't to be and the gap between myself and championship leader Carlos Sainz is now 14 points. For sure, that margin can be closed but we need a lot of luck and I think we need Carlos and Colin McRae to strike problems on one or two rallies." THE FINAL FOUR RALLIES PLAY VERY MUCH TO YOUR STRENGTHS. THE RALLY FINLAND, RALLY AUSTRALIA AND RAC RALLY OF GREAT BRITAIN ARE ALL EVENTS WHICH YOU LIKE AND ON WHICH YOU HAVE A GOOD RECORD. THAT MUST GIVE YOU INCREASED CONFIDENCE? "Yes, it does. Those three rallies are all favourites of mine but it's still going to be very difficult. Of course I will go out to try to win every rally, that is always my aim, but the margin between winning and losing is now so small on World Championship rallies that even a spin which costs just 15 or 20 seconds can make the difference between first and third place. Ford has not enjoyed the best of luck this season but the luck was with us in New Zealand on the final day so maybe it will stay that way over the final few rounds." AS A FINN, THE NEXT EVENT IS A BIG ONE FOR YOU. HOW IMPORTANT FROM A PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW IS IT FOR YOU TO DO WELL ON THE RALLY FINLAND? "It's my home event so obviously I want to do well but, as I've said, I always try to win every rally and drive to my best on each event. Doing well in Finland in front of my own fans is always nice but to win a rally in any part of the world gives me great pleasure, personally and for the team. That's why I'm in the sport." THE RALLY FINLAND IS VIEWED IN MANY QUARTERS AS A BATTLE BETWEEN THE TWO TOP HOME DRIVERS, YOURSELF AND TOMMI MÄKINEN. DO YOU FEEL UNDER ANY GREATER PRESSURE TO DO WELL BECAUSE OF THE MEDIA INTEREST? "No, not really. I've been competing on this rally for more than 15 years and so I'm quite used to the demands and the interest of the media in Finland. Anyway I don't think the rally will be simply a battle between Tommi and myself. There are other very fast Finnish drivers who could win the rally and of course drivers like Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae are quite capable of winning." BUT IT SEEMS TO BE VERY DIFFICULT FOR A NON-FINNISH DRIVER TO WIN THIS RALLY. WHY? "I don't think it's all that difficult. Everyone is trying very hard and rallying at the top level is closer now than ever before. We have more people to worry about than just Finnish drivers. The speed of Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol in New Zealand was incredible. They dominated the rally and I'm sure they will be right on the pace in Finland but let's not forget the Ford Escort is a good rally car. We spent a week testing in Finland last month and won the Channel Four Rally, a round of the Finnish Championship, at the end of the test so we know the ideal set-up for the car and we know it goes well on Finnish roads." THERE ARE WIDE EXPECTATIONS THAT THE RALLY OF CHINA WILL BE IN THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT YEAR. IS THE PROSPECT OF TACKLING A NEW RALLY APPEALING TO YOU? "Yes, I would like to have some new rallies in the Championship. I've been competing in the World Championship for so many years now and during that time there have not been many new events to try. I've heard that the rally in China is well organised and the roads are supposed to be very good for driving on, so I would look forward to going there if it was added to the Championship." TO ADD THE RALLY OF CHINA GIVES THE FIA TWO OPTIONS - A 15 ROUND CHAMPIONSHIP OR TO DROP AN EVENT. WHAT WOULD YOU PREFER? "Fifteen rounds would be too many for teams, drivers and everyone associated with the championship. 14 rounds is the maximum we can have and if China is added then another rally must be dropped." WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE USED TO SELECT WHICH EVENTS REMAIN IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, IF THE FIA ADDS THE RALLY OF CHINA BUT PLUMPS FOR A 14 ROUND CHAMPIONSHIP? "There's no one single thing that should decide which rally is removed from the championship. Safety is obviously vitally important but also the quality of organisation of a rally. Any rally which holds a position in the World Championship must be well organised, it's an honour for an event to be selected for the World Championship and to match that, the organisation must be good. If the Rally of China is added and it is decided that only 14 rallies will be included in the championship, the FIA must look very closely at every event before making a decision."

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Series WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Didier Auriol , Juha Kankkunen