Childhood memories of a flying Finn

Tapio Laukkanen starred in front-wheel drive F2 Kit Cars - but also had an opportunity in a Ford Focus WRC

2023-08-09 POTW

Flying Finn.

It’s an overused term I’m sure you’ll agree. But here, right before your very eyes, quite literally is a flying Finn.

And, big statement incoming, growing up he was my favorite flying Finn of them all.

Tapio Laukkanen.

The reason why isn’t actually to do with the picture you’re looking at, but we’ll work up to why that’s special, too.

Instead, it’s the Volkswagen Golf IV Kit Car. Finished in blue with Sony and TNT badging and those iconic green wheels. I loved it so much I cried when I saw it.

(I definitely wasn’t absolutely petrified of the noise of this front-wheel-drive screamer and wishing my parents could be taken home instead).

Even if I was afraid I still adored rallying, and Laukkanen – and all his F2 Kit Car-driving contemporaries in the British championship at the time – became instant heroes of mine.

Tapio remains one of the very few I’m unfortunately yet to talk to though. Even if I did see him in a Croatian hotel last year, I bottled it!

I digress.

Rally Australia Perth (AUS) 09-12 11 2000

In that same year reigning British champion Laukkanen was both scaring and stunning me, he also earned his first proper shot in the World Rally Championship – driving a top-class Ford Focus WRC.

Finland didn’t go well for the little Finn as mechanical trouble ruled him out, but his performance next time out in Australia (as pictured) was epic as he claimed fifth overall alongside co-driver Kaj Lindström.

Recognize his name? Kaj’s rally career stretches far beyond just Tommi Mäkinen and Kimi Räikkonen.

So why is the Focus the star of ‘picture of the week’ when I loved the Kit Car era so much? Simply, the Golf, or the Renault Maxi Megane Tapio drove before, would be too obvious.

Unless you really know your onions, it would be easy to forget about Laukkanen’s three events in a Focus WRC, so it’s nice to remember them. Perhaps you never even knew it happened at all.

But it has been burned into my brain ever since I can remember, immortalized in the very best of ways as a Scalextric car my twin brother and I had as children.

It was Hayden’s though, not mine. Damn him.