“Where there’s a Finn, there’s a shark. Does that sound like something I’d say? Probably, but I’m not sure I should take all the credit for it…
Let me explain: in 1999 Richard and I were in the Subaru team with Juha Kankkunen. We’d moved from Mitsubishi and Juha had moved from Ford and were all keen to impress.
Richard and I took the lead in Argentina, but it was a close fight with Juha and Didier Auriol was right there in a Toyota. As we moved into the final day, we pulled ahead of Didier and it became clear Subaru was heading for a one-two. But there wasn’t much more than 10sec between us and Juha.
Richard and I developed an issue with the engine in our Impreza and were told to manage the problem. To help ease the pressure, both crews were told to hold station. We would win, and Juha would be second.
That was the plan.
Our gravel note crew Robbie Head and Steve Turvey were sent into the final stage to hold up the timing boards giving Juha and us our target times.
We knew what was going on, so, while being sensible to look after the engine, we were fairly on it when we went past Turvs. Juha was so on it he nearly ran him over!
At the stage end Juha had beaten us to the win by 2.4sec. Of course, he did and said what any of us would have done and said. He told [team principal] David Richards: “Oh, I wasn’t pushing so hard. Steve? I didn’t see Steve…”
And he offered to change the result by checking late into the final control. DR was having none of that. And, anyway, for David and Subaru, Kankkunen winning again after so long (Portugal 1994 was his previous victory) was a great story.
As you can imagine, Richard and I were pretty unhappy. We were young, impetuous and wanted the win. It was later that night, in the bar, where Juha admitted he had seen Steve. And Burnsie and I responded with: ‘Where there’s a Finn, there’s a shark…’
We got on well with both Juhas (Kankkunen and co-driver Repo) and I do wonder if that event gave us added impetus. If you look at the results which followed, of the five rallies we finished, we won three and finished second on two.
But 20 years ago this week, we were chasing a maiden win for Subaru and it would have been nice to land it in Argentina.
Fortunately Richard and I didn’t have to wait long. Next time out on the Acropolis Rally, we topped the podium and were able to go back and win in Villa Carlos Paz the following year.”