2013’s Rally Finland was one of the closest of all time – on the first day alone three different drivers took turns to share the rally lead on three consecutive stages – so we asked event historian Esa Illinoinen to pick five more magic moments from the great race.
1967 Timo blows his bonnet
Timo Makinen’s victory had to be seen to be believed. His Mini’s bonnet straps broke and flipped into his windscreen meaning he had no vision over the legendary Ouninpohja stage’s famous jumps. So he deliberately started throwing the car sideways in a straight line so he could see where he was going – the Mini’s sliding side window was too small to poke his head out of! His remarkable performance on Ouninpohja – he only lost half a minute – undoubtedly saved him for he won the rally by just seven seconds in the end.
1977 Dressed for success
Kyosti Hamalainen was a local farmer who drove the event’s gravel roads at night to memorise them. In a latest-spec Group 4 Ford Escort Mk2 – often telling his co-driver to shut up so he could concentrate on the the route in his head – he was in the running from the start. When leader Markku Alen’s Fiat hit a rock he was on his way to a surprise win. In fact it was such a surprise that Hamalainen hadn’t packed a dinner jacket for the prize-giving ceremony!
1983 From back to front
Early on Hannu Mikkola’s Audi Quattro hit mechanical problems and dropped to 143rd place. A sequence of fastest stage times followed but each time he closed on team-mate Stig Blomqvist, his Quattro’s turbo started playing up, at one point catching fire. There was even talk that he covered one section to a stage at an average of 150kph to stay on schedule. Finally, just two stages from the end, he got ahead of Blomqvist who had no answer. Mikkola says it was the greatest drive of his life.
1990 Finns adopt the Matador
Carlos Sainz became the first non-Scandinavian to win Rally Finland and did it in such style that the locals adopted him as one of their own. After taking the lead early on, he stayed in front to the finish. Illinoinen recalls: “People were cheering him like a bullfighter, he enjoyed it so much and could perform to the crowds.” What many people don’t know is that Sainz drove despite being in significant pain after injuring his left leg in a crash while shaking his Toyota down the day before the rally.
2000 Gronholm’s coming of age
This was all about Marcus Gronholm. Back in 1998, he’d briefly led in a Toyota with a performance so good that Peugeot boss Jean-Pierre Nicolas signed the Finn mid-way through the rally! Two years on Gronholm delivered the goods. He’d never won a WRC event before 2000 but suddenly he couldn’t stop winning as he romped to the drivers’ title in the 206. 2000 was also significant as it marked the first of his record-equalling seven wins in Finland in eight years.