Hannu Mikkola – the 1983 World Rally Champion – has passed away aged 78 to cancer.
A winner of 18 world rallies, Mikkola is most famous for his exploits with Audi, with which he took 11 victories and claimed his world title – the first for a four-wheel-drive car in the history of the World Rally Championship.
Throughout a long career he amassed 123 WRC starts and also drove for Ford, Toyota, Mazda and Subaru. His name also proudly sits level at the top of Rally Finland’s roll of honor, with both he and fellow Finn Marcus Grönholm conquering their home event seven times.
Born in Joensuu in eastern Finland, Mikkola began his rallying career at the age of 21 on local events with a Volvo.
He rose to prominence in the early 1970s just as the World Rally Championship for manufacturers’ was in its infancy and began to break records – becoming the first overseas driver to win the East African Safari Rally a year before the WRC began in 1972.
A lot of his early success was with Ford, and Mikkola helped the marque win its first world title in 1979. It was a season of mixed fortunes for him, however, as he missed out on the inaugural drivers’ title by just one point to Björn Waldegård.
After finishing second again in 1980 – this time to Walter Röhrl’s Opel – Mikkola moved to Audi in 1981 and was at the forefront of rallying’s four-wheel-drive revolution.
A first four-wheel-drive victory was checked off on the 1981 Swedish Rally and several more would follow as Mikkola stuck with the brand right the way through the Group B era until 1987; helping it to the 1984 manufacturers’ title the year after his drivers’ success in an Audi Quattro A2.
Mikkola then moved to Mazda in 1988 but, despite coming close, would not win another world rally. He went into semi-retirement in 1991 but made brief appearances thereafter for Mazda, Toyota and Subaru.
His last appearance on a rally was on the Lake Superior Performance Rally in 2017 where he drove a Ford Escort Mk1 as course car.
DirtFish extends its condolences to Mikkola’s family and friends.