When Montblanc launched its last big collection – the revisited and revamped TimeWalker family – the brand decided to go to the very heart of rallying for an opinion. If the former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen liked them, they knew that they would be on to a winner.
The legendary Finn’s love of motor racing is perhaps surprising considering that in 1960, when he was just eight years old, while heading to the local church with his parents and siblings, the family car was involved in a collision in which his father died. But children have a way of coping with horror and, too young to fully understand what had happened, Vatanen vowed to tame the car, an aim he has battled to achieve ever since.
After the death of his father, Vatanen’s mother refused to have a family car for four years. But she relented, a decision that coincided with the first-time rally driving arrived in the family’s neighbouring village of Tuupovaara. “It was mid-June 1964,” Vatanen recalls. “As the rest of my family slept, I rode my bicycle to a viewing spot and sat on the bank for four hours in a beautiful ‘nightless night’. The light in Finland at 2am in June is incredible, it makes you dream. And then I heard the rally and saw the cars kicking up dust. It blew my mind away and just my body remained on the bank.
“From then, I would regularly get up at 2am and take the family car. I taught myself to drive when I was six, in an old Grey Fergie tractor. It felt like I was mastering something and all I wanted to do was drive. It was as though I was in a bubble away from the rest of the world. I didn’t think about the future, I just wanted to throw the car sideways – always braking as late as possible, allowing no time for calculating anything. I would go flat out on a corner just to see what happened. A rally driver has to hate braking. When you are passionate no equation exists, others think you are crazy but you have to try and con yourself that you are rational.”