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Hannu Mikkola, World Rally Campion and infamous Ford works driver including winner of the 1970 World Cup Rally has passed away after a long illness

We were shocked, and saddened, to hear of Hannu Mikkola’s death on 25 February, for he was one of the greatest rally drivers of all time, notably in Escorts from 1968 to 1980. He was 78 years old, and had been fighting ill health for some time. No-one, surely, can have known him better that Stuart Turner, his team boss at Boreham for so long, whose affectionate reaction was:

‘One person did more than most to lay to rest the idea that Scandinavians were only quick on short, sprint events, and that was Hannu Mikkola. Apart from his win on the World Cup Rally of 1970 – surely the longest and toughest rally ever held – he had wins on the Safari, and many other events on his CV, including the World Drivers’ title in 1983. In addition to his supreme talent as a driver, his success was helped by the fact that he was also a great guy, and fitted perfectly into the team ….’

Hannu burst on the World scene in 1968 when he drove a works Escort for the first-ever time, and promptly won the Thousand Lakes event of that year. He was immediately, and always, a pace setter for many years, not only by winning the 1972 Safari, but the Thousand Lakes on many occasions, the RAC rally several times, and he always seemed to be ‘on the pace’, whether there was ice, snow, gravel or tarmac under his wheels. He was most notably ‘robbed’ of victory twice in the late 1970s – once by being gonged by the French police for an unproven traffic ‘offence’ on the Monte, and by a single point in the 1979 Championship (which was won by his good friend and team-mate, Bjorn Waldegard).

hanna mikkola

Just as flamboyant, and competitive, in the four-wheel-drive Audi Quattros which followed his Escort years in the 1980s, he was a likely event winner to the end of his career and – more important to everyone in the sport – was always ready to talk, discuss and even help those who were involved in this most exciting of periods.

Check out our special tribute to Hannu Mikkola in the April 2021 issue on sale March 19

Words Graham Robson

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