Michael Burri: “As children, if we wanted to see our father, we had to follow him in a rally”

The Swiss is the first representative of his country to win the Ronde du Jura, the first rally of the year 2024 run on January 5-6 in France.

Published on 10/02/2024 à 11:14

Anne Tscheiller

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Michael Burri: “As children, if we wanted to see our father, we had to follow him in a rally”

© Christophe Cornevaux

Michael, can you introduce yourself?

I am 35 years old, I am the director of a family garage in Switzerland, near the border with Alsace.

With a father – Olivier Burri – quadruple Swiss champion and Monte-Carlo regular, we imagine that he passed on his passion to you?

Little ones, if we wanted to see our father, we had to follow him rally. We were immersed in the industry, it always fascinated me. And we had some great walks, mainly in France and Italy.

Did you go through the box karting ?

No, Dad always told me I had to finish my apprenticeship before riding. The holy grail was to obtain official mechanic’s papers… to do rallying.

Tell us about your beginnings, made in 2008, on a big event…

In Switzerland, we don't have a "small" rally, there are only "pieces". I started at the Critérium Jurassien, next to the house, with a Saxo group N. We were in service with my cousin, but we had a lot of problems. For my second rally, Valais, we rented a Clio 16V, and it was fabulous.

The following year, for your 3e rally, you opt for France. Why this choice ?

The Pays du Gier was in fact the first round of the Swiss Championship. And Dad did it. We weren't going very fast, but we had fun! In Chablais, I was with my sister. Dad rode too. Three Burri involved, it wasn't easy for mom! Plus, my father went out and got stuck in a field… Jennifer screamed when we passed by and I said to her: “ Stop, tell me the grades! ».

Did your very present father give you any driving advice?

He's as scared as me when he's on the right (Laughs), it's complicated to get him on as a passenger. But I watched his cameras a lot, I worked. He is present, supports me, advises me on the choice of tires for example. In 2011-2012, I had some big seasons, but I only had to take care of the driving, he took care of the rest. These were golden years.

You took part in the Monte-Carlo Rally for the first time in 2011. What do you remember about it?

It's the beginning of beautiful things, we finish 2e IRC 2WD. We then took part in the world rounds, it was magnificent. There was competition, great fights, we whipped (class victories in Germany, France and Great Britain. Editor’s note).

In 2012, you discovered the 207 S2000…

We have moved to the next level. At Monte-Carlo, we lost a minute and a half due to a puncture, despite this we finished 16eS while there was Ogier, Mikkelsen… Unfortunately, in Chablais, we have a very big outing. I think that ended my world career. We went out at 170 km/h, I lost my sight for 40 minutes. It took me many years to get over it, I should have worked a lot more on my mind. We were marked with my co-driver Stéphane Rey. If he finished the season, he then changed his life.

Are you heading to the JWRC in 2013?

It wasn't easy. There were many rounds on dirt, which is not my favorite surface. We don't have any in Switzerland. We finish 7es overall, we could have finished a little better if we hadn't gone out in Spain. We make a beautiful 2e place in Germany. But in a championship, ignorance of the terrain pays off. You have to do 2-3 seasons at this level, otherwise it's complicated between discovering the events and the car.

In 2015, you won the European Clio R3T – Alps.

We started our collaboration with Anders (Anderson Levratti. Editor's note) in 2014 and we won the trophy in 2015, which opened up the Clio Trophy final for us at Monte-Carlo 2016, which we ended up winning. The carrot was magnificent, a complete season in the World Cup with Renault Sport. We gained a lot of experience, but it ended in a mess because I had disagreements with the team. The objective was to win the WRC3 in Germany, but we did not achieve it (7e). On the other hand, we made a nice 2e place in Catalonia on a mixed asphalt/dirt event.

In 2017, look back at your national championship.

Yes, with a click in Valais, I found my driving style before my accident (2012). In the penultimate, I spin and see the podium disappear. I managed to let go and start again with the knife between my teeth to get the 3e place and the 1re Swiss. We finish 3e of the Championship.

In 2018, you won your first scratch victory!

Yes, at the Critérium Jurassien. We only did three races, but it was a great season. In 2018 and 2019, I shared the podium with my father, in Valais, we savored the moment.

In 2023, we saw you in France with different cars. For what reasons ?

I was laid off for a few years in France with the aim of making a Final (of the French Rally Cup. Editor’s note), the steps were not simple. Mireille Vidueira (the Swiss champion of France in 2023 rallies. Editor’s note) actually asked me for advice. I started at the Ronde du Jura with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, I did Ajolais with a Fiesta R5 without a kilometer of testing. In the Vosges, a wheel stud became stuck and the Saxo was destroyed. It was no longer possible to make the Final with it. We drove at the July 14 rally with the Hyundai i20 from my father, we did La Plaine and Autun with a 208 R2. It was a qualifying season.

And at this Ambert Final, where we saw you with yet another car, a Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo!

Yes, I would have liked to finish in the Top10. But we didn't take any risks, we had to get back into it. The objective was also to prepare Valais. We left for the shakedown while discovering the car, the roads are faster and with more grip than at home, plus the weather was unpredictable. We finish 12e, not bad. Making a Final in France was a dream. The atmosphere is superb, I would like to do one again, but with the Saxo for the fight in the class, it's so beautiful. You leave with a Corsican behind, a Reunion Islander in front, a Nice native not far away… it’s great. And I am perhaps the first Swiss to make a Coupe de France Final!

You start 2024 with a victory at the Ronde du Jura, won for the first time by a Swiss crew.

Yes, unfortunately the snow fell a day too late. But the conditions were perhaps even more complicated with the mud. We discussed with my father and opted for snow tires for the first, the same at night for the 2e, with the cold of the last one we definitely put on the studded shoes, but there was such a fog that we managed! A victory is always nice, especially since it's the first for my new co-driver, Gaétan Aubry. It’s a rally that I’ve always followed, I watched on YouTube the Saxo T4’s crossings…

A rally that your father never won…

No… but I still have to win a few more if I want to catch up with his record. (Laughs)

What's next?

We would like to do the full Swiss championship, but we are still looking for the budget. And if it goes well, aim for victory.

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