Four-time World Rally winner (1986, 1987, 1991 and 1993) Juha Kankkunen wishes to please Gran Canaria people this edition of Rally El Corte Inglés. The Finnish driver, who arrived at the island yesterday, was welcomed by his fans as he is one of the guest stars next week. Jyväskylä city, in the centre of Finland, was his birthplace 56 years ago, and he is still the favourite and he wants to forget the bitter taste of previous years, when he had to leave the race.
Former World Rally Champion
“I will see if I defeat Auriol; we’ve always had a good fight”
LA PROVINCIA / LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA, 12 April 2015
What does it mean for you to compete on 39th Rally Islas Canarias-El Corte Inglés in Gran Canaria, a place where you won the Race of Champions in 1988 and 1991?
It’s nice. I was here last year, this is, maybe, my 10th time in the Rally and many times for the Race of Champions. It’s always nice to come here. The weather at least, not anymore snow! [Laughs] The snow’s gone! When I left home [in Finland], there was still one metro snow, but here it’s already gone. It looks good! [Laughs].
This year you drive a Citroën C4 WRC, a much wider and larger vehicle, which means it will give you more stability on the road. And this car has made Sébastian Loeb world champion several times. What do you think about this car? How do you feel?
C4 is a very good car. All the rally cars come with too little engines and paddle shifting gear box fully updated, so it’s very nice to drive on asfalt.
Next Friday it will be the same itinerary as last year. Does it mean that you have more advantage?
I don’t know, I know the stage anyway, because I’ve been here so many times that doesn’t make any difference. This year I think the stage is more or less the same as last year. And the only guy who doesn’t know is Luis Monzón and I’m a little bit worried about how he can learn [laughs].
Will you beat your biggest opponent, Didier Auriol, who was your former colleague at Toyota Team [Toyota Team Europe]?
We will see. We’ve always had good fights against each other, so always winning doesn’t really matter, but to have a good rally.
You were unlucky in the latest editions. Unfortunately you had to abandon the race. How do you feel this year? How do you face this challenge? Any expectations?
To drive again if it’s better luck this year [laughs]. What can you do
To do your best?
Do your best and see.
Are you optimist?
Always. I’d not be here if I wasn’t optimist. I would stay at home [laughs].
In the Legend Race in Italy you suffered an accident on board Lancia Celta car. What happened?
Power steering broke two times so it wasn’t really my fault. So if the steering comes solid, there isn’t much to do, because I don’t normally go off on the corner when you have 20 kilometres, and the steering blocked completely, so I couldn’t go anywhere.
Have you recovered from your back injury that goes on and off?
Yes, it has been operated two times, but at the moment it’s still there, so still working. I feel alright, no pain at the moment.
What did you do in your spare time last year? You were in charge of a driving school.
I just finished 10 days ago.
Yes, I’m Finland, and I was in Monaco one week, and then I came straight from there to here.
Are you a testing driver for Bently?
Yes, Bently, Volkswagen and also Audi and I was there two and a half months. 600 customers, and driving everyday.
“It’s always nice to come here; this is my 10th time in the Rally Islas Canarias”
Organisers of Rally Islas Canarias-El Corte Inglés are said to focus this race more in the following years on a legend status, similar to Italy in order to appeal golden era pilots such as Marcos Grönholm, Sébastien Loeb, Makkinen, Auriol or you. From your point of view, what would you think if they did it?
This rally has been always very nice, there has not been any problem. Anyway I didn’t understand really what you mean.
Has Luis Monzón talked to you about it?
I have no idea. We will see, we have one week time to practise yet. We were talking, but mainly from the women, the ladies, good food to eat, nothing about rally [laughs]. Yes, Luis is talking a lot, but we didn’t care about the rally.
And last but not least, how did you manage to break the record of the fastest tractor on ice on April 8th. You drove the Baltra T234 on a snowy road in the Finnish lapland to the maximum speed of about 80 miles per hour. Was it due to the gripping Nokia tyros?
Nokia tyres are very good. I’m a farmest boy. I was born in the farm.
So you were familiar with…
I was driving a tractor before I could walk.
Are you serious? Were you a farmer when you were younger?[Laughs] Yes, I was almost born in the farm.
Which part of Finland?
From the middle.
Last year you gave a quite controversial headline: “Formula 1 is shitty”.
Still, without noise. It’s OK, but it’s boring to watch compared to early years, much nicer, because good noise and something to watch, but now it’s just “chi chi chi”, electric Formula.