World rally champion Ari Vatanen runs for Estonian Autosport Union top job

Ari Vatanen.

PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu/Postimees

Ari Vatanen, the World Rally Championship drivers' title holder from 1981, is running for the position of president of the Estonian Autosport Union.

The Finnish former World Rally Championship driver and four times winner of the Paris Dakar Rally announced his decision at a press conference in Tallinn on Tuesday. "I'm fascinated by the open-heartedness of Estonians, I'm fascinated by how much Estonia has developed," Vatanen said.

The board of the Estonian Autosport Union unanimously supported Vatanen's candidacy, the chairman of the board, Erik Lepikson, said.

Oleg Gross, board member of the Estonian Autosport Union, said the idea to invite Vatanen was his. He told reporters that Vatanen is ready to head the Estonian association almost for free. "Vatanen is a big fan of Estonia. He wouldn't be getting a Taskila level pay," Gross, owner of a retail chain, said referring to the monthly salary of 33,00 euros paid to Tero Taskila, the former Finnish manager of Estonian Air.

Another member of the board, Toivo Asmer, highlighted Vatanen's very large circle of contacts.

Vatanen said in his remarks that problems were the same everywhere. "In order for a new Marko Martin to emerge there has to be a broad base," he said, adding that tickets to auto sports events should be more affordable too.

The prospective new president of the Estonian Autosport Union said one of his goals would be to make the rules of FIA, the world's governing body of motorsport, more favorable for Estonia. Vatanen also supports the FIA campaign to boost safety at auto sports events.

Vatanen, who lost in the FIA presidential elections in 2009, said he doesn't intend to try the same again.

When asked about his relationship with the Finnish auto sports national association and the feedback he had received concerning his candidacy in Estonia, Vatanen said he had never won the Finnish rally championship.

The president of the Estonian Autosport Union is to be chosen on March 7.

In 1999-2009 Ari Vatanen was member of the European Parliament.