Exclusive: Ari Vatanen on his famous Pikes Peak film, Climb Dance

1y ago


It's hard to find a racing fanatic who has never seen at least some seconds of one of the best motorsport films ever made, Climb Dance.

If you only see a very short part of this film, I'm sure you won't get enough of it, and at some point you will realize that it's about your third time replaying this masterpiece.

Climb Dance was filmed in 1988, and in those times when the famous Pikes Peak hill climb event wasn't held on tarmac roads like nowadays. That year Ari Vatanen entered the race with Peugeot's best rally car at the time, the 405 T16 GR, and the French manufacturer's Director of Motorsport's, Jean Todt's plan was definitely to set up a new lap record at this twisty mountain course.

As expected, Vatanen performed an amazing drive and fulfilled Peugeot's and Mr. Todt's wish. He reached the summit in 10 minutes and 47.22 seconds, but his run is famous for something else as well. At the 1988 Pikes Peak Jean Louis Mourey together with his crew filmed an all-time classic, Climb Dance. The five-minute short film's premiere was in 1989 and won five awards in total, which is an absolutely incredible achievement for a motorsport-themed movie.

With this run at Pikes Peak Vatanen and his specially modified 600 bhp Peugeot 405 not only set up a new record, but The Flying Finn also presented us with one of the best motorsport films and onboard footages of all time. Months ago when I had the pleasure to interview Vatanen, it was obvious that I have to ask some questions about Climb Dance as well. So I did.

(Since then Peugeot's marketing department remastered Climb Dance and created it's HD version, which you can watch above.)

GoPros didn't exist in those days

The first question came to my mind was about the equipment they used at filming. Nowadays people can make a short film or a video like this a lot more easily, but how did it happen 30 years ago?

“It was normal, when you go to Pikes Peak it’s such an unusual settings. GoPros did not exist, there were only quite big cameras in those days, they just attached them to the car, and there was also a helicopter." - he remembered.

"You know that film was a side-product we made at a tyre and engine testing, and they just made the film. They benefit it, they had profit from it, this testing.

'It was early in the morning, that’s why the famous segment, when the sun came in my eyes. At 9 o’clock we had to stop, because the road was opened to public. So we were just testing, and the filmmakers said they want to film the testing, that’s why it’s so authentic, I didn’t drive for the film, everything was just a part of the test.”

Climb Dance won five awards

When asked about the huge success of Climb Dance, Vatanen gave a very sympathetic answer:

"Even some strangers come to me and ask to raise my arm like I did in the film"

Ari Vatanen

“You know, any trophies, they are totally irrelevant, but of course the fact, that it became so popular, people watch it, and some people said that they have watched it a hundred times, and still watch it again, and they still speak about it when they see me, that's what really matters! Even some strangers come to me and ask to raise my arm like I did in the film, and they take a photo, a selfie. They say “Ari can you put your arm like in the Pikes Peak film?” and it’s of course very nice and gives me pleasure.” - said the Finn.

Credits: Andrew Gallacher

To read about why Ari Vatanen is a 4.5 winner of Dakar, have a look on the previous part of my interview with the 1981 World Rally Champion.