Rallying great Hannu Mikkola dies aged 78

One of the legends of rallying, Hannu Mikkola, best known for winning for Ford and Audi, passed away on Friday. He was 78.

Rallying great Hannu Mikkola dies aged 78

Despite retiring in the early 1990s, Mikkola’s 18 World Rally Championship victories keeps him in the Top 10 most successful rally drivers in history. He won the 1983 World Rally Championship in an Audi Quattro, but also three times finished runner-up and three times finished third.

Seven of Mikkola’s triumphs came in the famously daunting and fast 1000 Lakes rally in his Finnish homeland (although not all counted toward his tally of 18 as they weren't always accorded WRC status). But Hannu also knew how to nurse a car in the endurance events: his final triumph came in the Safari Rally of 1987 at the wheel of one of the more unlikely rally cars, the Audi 200 Quattro.

Although, like many Scandinavian greats, his career started in a Volvo – a PV544 – by the 1970s he was more closely associated with Ford, clinching the 1972 East African Safari Rally (not a WRC event) in an Escort RS.

His first World Championship-status win came in the 1000 Lakes in 1974 in another Escort, in ’75 he triumphed in Morocco – partnered by current FIA president Jean Todt – in a Peugeot 504, before winning the 1000 Lakes again at the wheel of a Toyota Corolla.

He continued with his eponymous team running Toyotas and Peugeots, until he was signed as a works Ford driver in 1978. Armed with a MkII Escort RS1800, he won Rally GB (then called the RAC Rally) and took two more podiums to finish third in the points race, with Arne Hertz now established as his co-driver.

Hannu Mikkola (left), Ari Vatanen and Pentti Airikkala

Hannu Mikkola (left), Ari Vatanen and Pentti Airikkala

Photo by: Motorsport Images

There were four wins in 1979 but he fell one point short of beating Bjorn Waldegard to the first WRC title for Drivers. He also won plaudits for steering another unlikely rally car – the Mercedes 450SLC – to second in the Safari, and he’d use this car to score two more podiums in 1980. Elsewhere he was usually to be found in a Ford, although a Porsche 911 was his car of choice in the Monte Carlo, and he used a Toyota Celica in Finland. Again he finished as runner-up in the points race.

Helping Audi develop the then-groundbreaking Audi Quattro saw him clock up four wins across 1981 and ’82, but it was the four he clinched – along with three runner-up finishes – in ’83 that clinched the title for him, despite four retirements.

Hannu Mikkola, Arne Hertz, Audi Quattro on their way to 1000 Lakes victory in 1983, the year they clinched the championship.

Hannu Mikkola, Arne Hertz, Audi Quattro on their way to 1000 Lakes victory in 1983, the year they clinched the championship.

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The following year, one win and seven other podiums resulted in yet another runner-up finish in the points race.

The arrival of smaller, more nimble all-wheel drive Group B cars had made life tough for Audi’s AWD ‘pioneers’, and Mikkola was no longer being used for a full season by the Ingolstadt marque, which made its twitchy short-wheelbase version of the Quattro a tough beast to learn for Hannu who was by now in his mid-40s.

Following Group B's demise mid-1986, Mikkola found himself at the wheel of the large 200 quattro in Group A. That final win in the Safari in ’87 – followed by a third place in the Acropolis – would mark the final top-three WRC finishes for Mikkola, although he’d spend four seasons with the disappointing Mazda 323s.

Mikkola’s final WRC outing, came in 1993 – the 1000 Lakes, predictably – driving a Toyota Celica Turbo to seventh place, at the age of 51.

shares
comments
Arctic WRC: Tanak leads after Day 1 for Hyundai
Previous article

Arctic WRC: Tanak leads after Day 1 for Hyundai

Next article

Arctic WRC: Tanak extends lead with double stage wins

Arctic WRC: Tanak extends lead with double stage wins
Load comments
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Prime

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, we pick out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion Prime

The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion

At the turn of the millennium, WRC was full to the brim with rallying's great and good - and 20 years ago on this day, Richard Burns became England's first world rally champion. Although Burns' natural talent drove him to the top, his steely determination and mental strength was the key attribute behind his title-winning form

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend Prime

How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend

OPINION: Adding an eighth WRC title to his name, Sebastien Ogier has bowed out from full-time rallying in style. Having been compared throughout his career with nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, Ogier has convincingly demonstrated that he can stand on his own as one of the greatest rally drivers in history

WRC
Nov 22, 2021
How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend Prime

How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend

This weekend's Rally Monza marks the end of an era in the World Rally Championship, as Sebastien Ogier prepares to bring down the curtain on his full-time career with an eighth title. For all his enduring success, the Toyota driver reveals in an exclusive interview that lingering insecurities have compelled his quest for perfection

WRC
Nov 18, 2021
The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC Prime

The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC

The McRae family name is steeped in rallying history, with eight British titles between Jimmy, Colin and Alister - plus the small matter of the 1995 WRC title too. Next on the conveyor of talent is Alister's 17-year-old Max McRae, who’s setting out in Australia to conquer the world of rallying and return the famous name to the WRC...

WRC
Nov 12, 2021
Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era Prime

Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era

As the World Rally Championship undergoes its biggest shift in regulations for a generation, teams are taking radical measures to prepare for its new era. Hyundai's unique approach involved conducting a private 1500km rally in Italy and Motorsport.com went to see how the team is preparing for 2022

WRC
Nov 4, 2021
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Prime

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021