Rally Legend, Hannu Mikkola, returns to LSPR in a 1980 Ford Escort Mark II

During the weekend of October 19-21, DirtFish had the privilege of hosting Hannu Mikkola at the 2017 Lake Superior Performance Rally, marking Hannu’s first return to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since his victory at the 1983 Press-On-Regardless Rally (now LSPR). Hannu Mikkola was a dominant force in most of the 70’s and 80’s, winning countless rallies and even winning the World Rally Championship in 1983 while driving a Group B Audi Sport Quattro. For the event, DirtFish transported a 1980 Ford Escort Mark II and a 1984 Audi Sport Quattro, the Escort being a near perfect replica of the car that Mikkola was racing when he won the Lombard RAC Rally two years in a row. 

The weekend started out in the Audi Sport Quattro on Thursday as Hannu and his wife, Arja, joined the Historic Rally Car Owners club on a drive up through Brockway Mountain Dr. where part of the original Press-On-Regardless event ran. The drive was filled with scenic views of Lake Superior as well as countless trees transitioning into autumn. 

After a brief lunch and conversation in Copper Harbor, the crew caravanned back down to Hancock for the Press Stage where Hannu strapped into the 1980 Ford Escort Mark II and ran a few laps to dial in any adjustments needed to be made on the car. The day ended with a banquet dinner honoring Hannu at a local restaurant, filled with friends, family, and fans.

On Friday, competing cars lined up at the Parc Expose in Houghton, MI before the Rally America event began. Hannu settled in front of the DirtFish trailer where he met and signed autographs for rally enthusiasts before he and Vesa, his son and co-driver, headed out to recce the L’Anse, MI stage for Saturday’s events. 

Prior to opening Stage 9 on Saturday morning, Hannu and Vesa made their way to the Parc Expose in downtown L’Anse Saturday morning. Similar to Friday, competing cars lined the waterfront street in L’Anse before they all headed to Stage 9 of the racing event. Lined up at the start of the stage, Hannu and Vesa were given the green flag after the double zero car cleared the stage.

The Escort roared through the forest with Hannu back in his element behind the wheel. As they passed the spectator area, the fans could see how clean and experienced his driving was, executing the 180-degree turn flawlessly to the end of the stage.This was the first time Vesa had ever co-driven with his dad, making this a special moment for both father and son. “He’s still got it!” Vesa commented after the race. Both Hannu and Vesa walked away from the stage with smiles on their faces as they made their way to downtown Houghton for the final stage of the rally event.

Spectators from town gathered around the waterfront street in Houghton, MI where the last stage of the LSPR event was being held. The stage was a rather short track, but Hannu and Vesa geared up for what would be their final drive of the trip, and they did not disappoint. The Historic Rally Car Owners club first drove their vintage cars through the course followed by Hannu in the Ford Escort. The stage street crowd cheered during the entire trek, giving an encouraging end to a historic trip for DirtFish and the Mikkolas!