That Time Ari Vatanen Lost the Dakar Rally Because His Peugeot Got Stolen for Ransom


1988/1994: The Dunes Wreak Havoc

Long distances over the sand dunes of North Africa can often lead to nowhere. In 1988, the 461-mile special stage in Algeria between Djanet and Djado was first renamed “Hell” by the participants who pretty much all got lost in the dark, and then cancelled due to the refuelling trucks also not being able to reach their positions.

Six years later in 1994, deep in Mauritania, the Sahara between Atar and Nouhadibou represented a 391-mile special forced Mitsubishi driver Bruno Saby to get out of his car and get it unstuck over 200 times. Eventually, it was decided that all should avoid the dunes and ignore checkpoint No. 8, even if it meant a five-hour penalty. Luckily, Pierre Lartigue and Michel Périn where still there to score victory with their Citroën ZX Rally Raid.

1988: Ari Vatanen’s Peugeot 405 T16 Is Stolen for Ransom

Long before running Scuderia Ferrari and becoming the president of the FIA, Jean Todt was the chief of Peugeot Talbot Sport. As such, during the 14th stage in 1988 at Bamako, he got a call in the morning from someone demanding 25 million francs in exchange for Ari Vatanen’s apparently “kidnapped” race car. The Finn automatically got disqualified for not arriving at the start within 30 minutes of his departure time, only to finish the stage at eighth once his 405 T16 Rally Raid was found. With the suspension upheld, overall victory went to fellow Finn Juha Kankkunen, who drove the older Peugeot 205 T16.

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