Hannu Mikkola born May 24, 1942 in Joensuu and died February 26, 20211 is a former Finnish rally driver, nicknamed “Flying Finn” in reference to his spectacular driving style.
It made its competitive debut in 1963 and participated in the World Rally Championship from its inception in 1973.
Winner of 18 world rallies, he was world champion in 1983.
Winner of the famous London / Mexico marathon in 1970 on Ford Escort, he was also the first European to win the East African Safari of Kenya in 1972 (then on the calendar of the International Cup of Brands). With the French Jean-Pierre Nicolas, he is the only driver to have won the three African rounds offered by the WRC: Morocco, Kenya and Ivory Coast.
Mikkola’s rally career lasts 31 years. It begins in 1963, but its most successful period is in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the 1970s, Mikkola was a forerunner in many international events; he usually drives a Ford Escort. Winner on this vehicle model in 1970 of the famous London – Mexico Marathon (on 1850 GT with Gunnar Palm), in 1972 of the East African Safari in Kenya (on RS1600 in CIM – Coupe Internationale des Marques), and in 1973 of the Rallye from New Zealand (on RS1600 with Jim Porter, the first of his two victories in this event, but then out of the world championship).
Mikkola was joined by his Swedish co-driver Arne Hertz in 1977. The Mikkola / Hertz partnership lasted thirteen years until the end of the 1990 season.
They won the British Championship in 1978 in a Ford Escort RS1800.
In 1979, for the creation of the driver’s title in the world rally championship, he was a very serious contender for the title, eventually losing only one point behind champion Björn Waldegård. The following season he finished runner-up again, but this time he lost more to new champion Walter Röhrl.
Mikkola changed teams for the 1981 season and moved to Audi to drive the revolutionary four-wheel-drive Audi Quattro. This partnership was a success from the start of the season on the Monte-Carlo Rally: he led the race until an accident put him out of the race. After a postponement, he won the following round in the Swedish Rally convincingly, but the Quattro had reliability issues and despite another victory in the RAC Rally Mikkola finished only third in the drivers’ championship. The following year he won the 1000 Lakes rally, but did not improve his position in the final championship standings, again third behind Walter Röhrl’s Opel and his teammate Michèle Mouton.
The 1983 season is the year of the consecration of H. Mikkola. With his four wins and three second places, he and Arne Hertz have finally become world champions. At over 41, he became the oldest of the planetary rally champions, a record still in his possession. He lost his title the following season, losing behind teammate Stig Blomqvist.
In 1985 he will compete in only four world rallies. With three withdrawals and a fourth place, he slipped to 22nd place in the final general classification of the championship. The Audi team was overwhelmed by new competition from Peugeot and Lancia in Group B. Mikkola remained with Audi until the 1987 season when he won the Safari Rally in Group A with the Audi 200 Quattro.
From the 1988 season, he moved to the Mazda team. He remained there until his semi-retirement in 1991.
He then continued to make some sporadic appearances on international rallies, before a definitive start in 1993.
Hannu Mikkola, 1983 world rally champion, is dead
1983 World Rally Champion driving an Audi Quattro, the Finnish Hannu Mikkola died of cancer on Friday at the age of 78.
He was one of the most gifted pilots of a golden generation, that of Walter Rohrl, Bjorn Waldegard, Ari Vatanen, Stig Blomqvist or Michèle Mouton. One of those famous “Flying Finns” who made the rally legend. And a man much appreciated by all, too. Hannu Mikkola died of cancer on Friday at the age of 78.
In 123 starts in the World Rally Championship, between 1973 and 1993, he won 18 times (making him the equal of his compatriot Jari-Matti Latvala) and was on the podium 44 times (like Thierry Neuville).
He excelled in his native land, the famous and ultra-fast Rallye des 1000 Lacs (4 victories in the context of the World Cup) as well as in long-distance events such as Morocco (which he won in 1975 at the wheel of a Peugeot and with Jean Todt as co-pilot), Ivory Coast or Kenya, where he scored his last success in 1987.
Sad day for our sport as one of our legends left us today. Hannu Mikkola won the WRC same year I was born and although I never had the honor to meet him I am saddened by his passing as he will be remembered as one of the greats. My thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP. pic.twitter.com/KOxeC4qyjf
— Sébastien Ogier (@SebOgier) February 27, 2021
Vice-world champion in 1979 with Ford, one point behind Waldegard, then again the following season by “juggling” with a Porsche 911, a Ford Escort RS, a Mercedes 500 SLC and a Toyota Celica 2000 GT in order to have a car cut for each terrain of the World Cup, he won his only world title in 1983, under the colors of Audi Sport, by having his Quattro triumph on four occasions (Sweden, Portugal, Argentina, Finland).
Titled at 41, he is still today the oldest world champion in the discipline.
Really sad to hear the news about Hannu Mikkola – he was a legend, a proper gentleman, a real Champion, and a great father to great kids. Sending all my condolences to his family and friends. RIP. pic.twitter.com/ygZU2TPAJh
— Petter Solberg (@Petter_Solberg) February 27, 2021
Again runner-up in the world in 1984, he made more or less regular appearances in the discipline, to end his career on the evening of the 1993 Rally Finland, ten years after his coronation, with a seventh place.
“It’s a very sad day for the rally family,” double world champion Carlos Sainz commented on Twitter. One of the best pilots died, Hannu Mikkola. All my condolences to his family and friends. RIP. “He was a legend, a gentleman, a true champion and a wonderful father to his children,” added Petter Solberg, titled in 2003.
“A sad day for our sport because one of its legends has passed away,” Sébastien Ogier testified this Saturday morning, badly embarked on the Arctic Rallye, in Finland. Hannu Mikkola won the World Rally Championship the year I was born and, although I never had the honor of meeting him, the news of his passing saddens me because I will remember him as ‘one of the largest. “