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NOV 03rd 2014

Q&A: Rallying today 'is a little bit boring,' says Hannu Mikkola

Hannu Mikkola interview

When we caught up with world rally champion Hannu Mikkola on the recent Audi TT launch event in Scotland (you can watch us ride with him on the Rest and Be Thankful hillclimb course in this video), conversation was about anything but new car… revelations including why he is lusting after a 1958 Plymouth Fury, his thoughts on modern rallying and four-wheel-drive versus two. 

Are you still enjoying your driving?
Yes, it’s a fantastic feeling when you control a car at speed. I still get a kick out of it. 

What events do you look back on as your favourites?
I have three favourites. The Safari Rally for its adventure; the RAC because there was no practice and British people are very fair and straightforward. And the 1000 Lakes, because I won it seven times.

Is there one drive that stands out for you?
There was one stage in the 1000 Lakes of 1985 when I thought, I really can’t drive this any better. It was the only time in my driving career I felt that I was not sitting in the car but I was above it looking down. I was spectating on my own driving. That feeling only happened once in 30 years.

Did you think at the time the speed of Group B cars was out of control?
No, I didn’t feel it very much. In any case the Audi I was driving was very strong. There were a lot of things in that car that kept me safe. Yes we had a lot of power, but it is always easier to drive a car with more power because it’s easier to get it sideways. More power is always a good thing.

Hannu Mikkola

Do you have any unfulfilled driving ambitions?
No. I have had enough excitement in my life. I didn’t have any regrets when I stopped rallying in 1993.

Is 4wd always a good thing?
In rallying it was a helluva technical step forward. We were getting the kind of power that two wheels couldn’t take any more. With 4wd we could jump from 300 to 500bhp. Given the choice, I would always have a four-wheel drive road car. It’s much better.

Do you follow rallying today?
A little bit but not so much. I think sometimes it’s a little bit… boring, with just two guys fighting it out. Rallying should be more exciting than that.

Where is home and what’s in the garage?
I have two homes, one in Finland and one in Palm Beach, Florida. I have Audi Q5s at both. I also still have the first car I bought with my rallying earnings, a 1972 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 3.5, which I enjoy taking out for a spin now and again.

Any cars you would like to have?
I would like to have my father’s 1958 Plymouth Fury that I learnt to drive in. It was a fantastic car. A little while ago I tracked it down in Finland and tried to buy it, but the owner wouldn’t sell it to me! I wish I still had my S1 Quattro. It was my test car, and I did one rally in it. I sold it to Juha Kankkunen for his fantastic museum. He had all the Group B cars except the Quattro so I sold him mine. But I should have kept it. Otherwise, there’s nothing I want. I don’t get a kick out of the latest sports cars. They are difficult to fit in!

Are you still happy with the Forest Rally Stage at Goodwood?
It has done really well over the years. But maybe it is getting a little rough now for historic rally cars. The cars are so valuable, and it is difficult to get parts if the cars are damaged. The stage perhaps could be a little bit gentler on them while still being just as fast and exciting.

Hannu Mikkola

When will we see you at Goodwood next?
Well I love Goodwood you know and look forward very much to coming back. I have been involved with Audi at the Festival of Speed for 13 or so years. Nothing decided yet for next year though.

You have the last tank of petrol left in the world – how would you use it?
One of the nicest cars I ever drove was the BDA Escort. I loved it. But this question has to be answered by the S1 Quattro. The Escort was fun, but Quattro was so much faster…

QUICK FIRE ROUND

Hannu Mikkola’s favourite
Holiday destination: Florida. I spend half the year there.
Road car: Audi RS6.
Meal: Fresh fish.
Watch: I love watches. I have an International, a Rolex and a Blancpain, among others.
Drink: Milk. I haven’t drunk alcohol since 1976.
Activity: Golf, watching TV, and Goodwood!

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