Fifty years ago, Hannu Mikkola tackled the original Olympia Rallye in a Boreham-run Ford Escort RS1600. The Flying Finn retired early from an event eventually won by Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Jean Todt in an Alpine A110.
This epic German challenge was reprised last week, with a host of stars taking part. Hannu’s sons Juha and Vesa Mikkola were among those stars. And they were there in a particularly memorable car…
Juha takes up the story in an exclusive column for DirtFish:
This past week my brother Vesa and I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Olympia Rallye ’72 Revival, marking 50 years since the original event took place. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
It was my first time sitting in and driving an original quattro generously provided by Audi Tradition. I really can’t put into words how amazing it was to get behind the wheel. The car itself is a rally legend that brought four-wheel drive to the mainstream. The five-cylinder engine sounds incredible and that sound definitely brought smiles to fans as we passed them along the route.
We drove from Kiel to Munich and covered over 2500 kilometers (1553 miles) in an car just like our dad Hannu drove in the 1980s. The backstory to all this was that when Alois Drexler and the event’s organizing committee started planning the rally three years ago, they reached out to Hannu to see if he’d take part. He said: “Yes, provided I’m still alive!”
Unfortunately we lost Hannu before the rally took place, but we were honored to represent him at the event. Along the route, we had a lot of amazing moments remembering him. We laughed. We cried. We met incredible rally fans who had watched Hannu drive across the world, and even some who had worked on teams he raced for.
The week was filled with so many highlights, but here are 10 things I will never forget from last week’s Olympia Rallye ’72 Revival.
1 – It was my first time sitting in and driving an original quattro. I really can’t put into words how amazing it was to get behind the wheel. The car itself is a rally legend that brought four-wheel drive to the mainstream. The five-cylinder engine sounds incredible and that sound definitely brought smiles to fans as we passed them along the route.
2 – The parking lots. Every time we stopped in a parc fermé the collection of over 250- plus cars took our breath away. In addition to the quattro, there were Alpines, Stratos, Integrales, R5 cars, Opels, some stunning Porsches and so many more.
3 – Driving through the closed stage. Midway through the rally, we reached one stage in the German hills that was closed to the public. We were following Walter Rörhl and Jochi Kleint. As soon as we got into the closed section, they went flat out. I loved trying to keep up with them on the twisting, one lane road, with Vesa coaching me all the way!
4 – Vesa sideways at Plattling. The next day we visited the historical Plattling dirt oval, a site the original rally stopped at. The packed crowd wanted to see some sideways action, and despite not rallying for a very long time, Vesa didn’t disappoint, getting the quattro sideways and receiving huge cheers from the crowd.
5 – Meeting the original legends of the Olympia Rallye. There were so many great names in the 1972 event, and it was incredible to meet so many who participated again. From Röhrl, Christian Geistdörfer, Jochi Kleint, Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Rauno Aaltonen and many more. Even Jean Todt made an appearance via video at the awards banquet!
6 – Fans with autographs of Hannu. We were touched to speak to so many fans who remembered, and had met, Hannu. One of the best memories was meeting a couple of fans who had Hannu’s original autograph and wanted us to sign too… there was even a photo of a rally I did with Hannu, which he had signed!
7 – Audi Tradition visit. After the rally was over, we were able to visit Audi Tradition and their incredible collection of Audi road, racing and rally cars. We had a chance to sit in some of Hannu’s actual cars, including a race winner, which was very emotional for us.
8 – Meeting Séb Ogier. At the prize giving, a huge surprise was eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier attending the dinner and sitting at our table. Séb was incredibly generous with his time and loved speaking with fans — even in German, which he has picked up impressively well since moving to the Munich area!
9 – Walter’s popularity and generosity. Walter is a rallying legend. Seeing how much the German fans love him was so cool. Everywhere he went, whether passing through a small town or stopping at a rest stop, he was surrounded by autograph seekers. He was super-generous with his time, signing every last autograph, making sure everyone had a chance to meet him and say hello.
10 – The beauty of Germany. Getting a chance to drive across Germany along much of the original route was a real eye-opener. There are incredible hills, forests and epic driving roads all along the route from Kiel to Munich. We loved it so much we are planning to order RS3s for pick up at the factory next year, so we can celebrate the 40th anniversary of Hannu’s world championship in style by driving the family along the route of this rally.
In closing, Vesa and I want to send a huge thank you to those who made this happen. Especially to Alois, to Walter, all of the organizing committee as well as the event sponsors and Audi Tradition. And if you want to see more of our time in Germany, have a look at our Instagram account.