Not for the first time in his remarkable career, Markku Alén will have the pick of the World Rally Championship’s finest cars and finest tires to drive them on.
When DirtFish heard the Finnish legend would like to mark his 70th birthday with some seat time in one of the current generation World Rally Cars, we went to work. Hyundai Motorsport, Toyota Gazoo Racing and M-Sport Ford all responded immediately. Yes, they would find a car for Mr ‘Maximum Attack’.
If anything, the response from Milan was even quicker. Pirelli couldn’t imagine one of its most iconic sons driving on anything other than its tires. Everybody was in.
And Alén was almost lost for words.
“Absolutely I don’t know what to say!” he told DirtFish. “Incredible news. Hey, this is the most positive news to make a good birthday. Thank you.
“I always wanted to drive one of these cars. I don’t mind which, we can talk about this, but thank you to everybody for the offer. Today’s cars are beautiful. Fantastic to look at, so quick and incredible. Like Group B, but really like night and day compared to those days.
“My last time driving was with Volkswagen Polo [R WRC] in Panzerplatte. I had all the bosses and all of the board members from Volkswagen as my co-driver, but this was a few years ago. Let’s see now, this is something good. Thank you to DirtFish.”
The test will be held at the end of the season, to help with car availability.
Alén’s countryman Jari-Matti Latvala said: “It would be fantastic to see Markku driving a Toyota Yaris WRC and maybe this is something we could organize after the season is over. We can already remember his time driving for the factory Toyota team, so this could be a nice story. Like every Finn, I have a real appreciation for Markku – he’s one of our legends!”
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola said: “Markku will always be a permanent part of the Pirelli family: the Finn with an Italian passport! Happy birthday Markku from all your friends at Pirelli.
“Many of us grew up watching you and you inspired so many of us with the amazing things you could make a car do. So it’s fantastic that the next world rally after your birthday will, of course, be on your roads in Finland: have a fantastic celebration!”
Isola’s colleague, Pirelli’s rally manager Terenzio Testoni added: “Markku was one of the fastest and most spectacular drivers that the World Rally Championship has ever seen; an incredible ambassador for Pirelli as well as Lancia and Fiat, which he will always be associated with. Markku, we look forward to seeing you at a rally soon – perhaps even next week – and raising a glass to celebrate your birthday. Maximum attack always!”
But we’ve saved the best news for the end, with Malcolm Wilson offering the dream drive to bridge generations.
“Tell the old man we’ll make his dream come true,” smiled Wilson. “Tell him he can come over to Greystoke and drive the current car and the new 2022 car!”
There is, of course, nothing new about Finns celebrating big birthdays. Alén, Timo Salonen, Ari Vatanen and Juha Kankkunen were all treated to a final Rally Finland outing by AKK, Finland’s ASN, to mark their 50th birthdays.
Stay tuned to DirtFish for what’s sure to be among 2021’s highlights as one of the sport’s most treasured names gives us an exclusive on the modern world.