Flying Finn in Bangkok

The title “Flying Finns” has been applied to many Finnish sports, often in ski jumping and track events. But there’s one, where this nationality has really excelled: the rally.
     Every year, late August, numerous Finns gather to the roadsides in Central Finland as the time has come for the Annual Rally of 1,000 Lakes. It is one weekend when inhaling of dust and exhaust fumes voluntarily is essential part of the excitement when watching cars race by.
     In the sixties Rally of 1,000 Lakes was one of the highlights of summer. One of the most observed cars was that of Rauno Aaltonen, previously a speedboat champion and speedway rider. His car was the BMC Mini Cooper, a small red devil for a car, called ‘Koirankoppi’, or Doghouse, which developed incredible speed at the tight turns of sandy roads where you risked every moment to make close contact with pine trees and boulders boarding the road.
     To celebrate the 40 years of Mini and the victories in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967 in the Monte Carlo Rally, Rauno Aaltonen is traveling and talking about the car “so excellent you never need to tell lies about”. He also instructs people how to handle their Minis, the modern version of sixties’ popular car.
     This champion of numerous rallies, including world championships, made strong impression recently at Bangkok’s Seacon Square with his “emergency brake turns” on dry asphalt.
     “It is enjoyable to continue doing something you love to do,” Rauno explained.
     He dropped to Bangkok after Morocco and Berlin on his way to Finland.
     No problem with jetlag, no intention of slowing down for this virile 66-year old professional racer. He travels up to 200 days per year all around the globe.
     “It would be dangerous to drive if I had any problem,” stated this Flying Finn, name which later applied to several other Finnish rally drivers. Rauno Aaltonen continues participating in racetracks.
     After renouncing rallying, Aaltonen has been giving driving lessons. Now he is traveling on behalf of BMW, which acquired Mini from BMC a few years ago. Rauno insists on Mini’s excellent qualities.
     “This is still the original reliable Mini, that has just been added modern improvements,” he says about the new Mini Cooper which was launched here in Thailand two years ago.
     About 400 Minis have been sold here since then. Aaltonen’s visit was the occasion to launch limited Mini Monte Carlo Rally Edition consisting of only 15 cars.

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