Hannu Mikkola, the 1983 World Rally Champion who designed the legendary Forest Rally Stage at Goodwood, has passed away aged 78.
After originally beginning his career in 1963, rallying an unlikely Volvo PV544, Mikkola would go on to win 18 WRC rallies over a long career, with his first victory coming at the 1,000 Lakes Rally in 1974 in a Ford Escort.
The first overseas driver to win the East African Safari Rally, Mikkola made his name in the British Rally Championship, culminating in a championship win in 1978 in an Escort. The following year he finished runner up in the World Championship, losing out by just a single point to Swede Björn Waldegård.
In 1980 he was runner up again in the Escort, before joining the nascent Audi operation just in time for the dawn of Group B rallying and the revolution that was the Audi Quattro. A successful partnership from the off Mikkola led his first rally for Audi at Monte Carlo, before winning his second – Rally Sweden. Although he would eventually finish third, mostly due to reliability problems for the new Audi, and then third again in 1982, the following season would be his year.
By now completely at home with Audi and the now-reliable Quattro, Mikkola won four rallies in 1983, on his way to a 23-point victory in the championship. He remains to this day the oldest World Rally Champion, sealing his solo triumph aged 41, over 20 years after his career began.
He finished second again in 1984, but as the competition rose to the challenge, Audi and Mikkola began to fade slightly. He would win two more rallies in his career – one in 1984 and one in 1987 – before entering semi-retirement in 1991. His final WRC event was the 1,000 Lakes Rally in 1993.
After retirement Mikkola stayed active in historic rallying and was inducted into the Rally Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2005 he teamed up with Goodwood to create a purpose-built rally stage in the Park at Goodwood. Sat near the top of the iconic Hill, the stage, with its unique chalk surface, is beloved by all who compete on it each year – with Mikkola himself showcasing his undiminished skills several times.
He is survived by his wife Arja, Children Juha and Vesa and four grandchildren.
Main image by Drew Gibson, other images courtesy of Motorsport Images.