Video: Ari Vatanen’s Famous Climb to the Clouds

Climb Dance, a French documentary shot in 1988, has becomes something of a cult classic in the motorsport community. Not five minutes long, this piece manages to illustrate some of the thrill of rallying and the challenge of Pike’s Peak, all with a bit of flair, expert camerawork and a choice soundtrack — though without the original jazz intro for this remastered version.

The stars of this piece have had plenty said about them in the past, but Ari Vatanen, the Finnish rally ace, is able to show just how talented he was with plenty of one-handed opposite lock while sliding up a narrow, dirt road aside a sheer cliff. His Scandinavian flicks are in regular use in this film, which highlights the lanky, fair-haired hotshoe’s dramatic driving style.

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With daring and precision, Vatanen threads the needle in every one of the 156 corners on the challenging course.

The film’s obvious costar is his Peugeot 405 Turbo 16 GR, from the cockpit of which most of the film was shot. This one-off special was made for the Pike’s Peak hillclimb and featured four wheel-drive, four wheel-steering and somewhere around 600 turbocharged horsepower. It was also one of the first rally cars to employ effective aero elements which, along with the Audi S1, allowed these European powerhouses to set records that wouldn’t be touched for years after.

Vatanen knows exactly how much to bite off and makes a dramatic display as he does so; tucking the nose into the apex of the corner as he manages a slide with one hand and shield his eyes from the blinding sun with the other. The title could not be more apt, as what director Jean Louis Mourey is able to convey with this short cinematic gem is the expressive dance which occurs when a highly-strung racing car and a skilled driver mesh perfectly.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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