Kankkunen: Rally1 is like the Group B era

Juha Kankkunen ate his words after driving a Rally1 car for the first time


Four-time World Rally champion Juha Kankkunen is no stranger to big statements. He’s very good at them. Talking to him in Japan last month, it’s clear that penchant for the one-liner hasn’t diminished down the years.

Take, for example, his response when he was asked for his thoughts on the Group A Lancia Delta HF 4WD he signed to drive soon after Group B was banned, and Peugeot made it clear it wouldn’t be continuing in the WRC.

Just weeks after securing a maiden world title aboard a fearsome Peugeot 205 T16 E2, Kankkunen was struggling to see the positives in Group A.

“Oh crap,” he said. “This is the end of rallying. Compared to Group B, there was nothing in those cars. We had been driving cars which weighed 860 kilos with 550bhp. We could do zero to 100kph in two seconds…”

1986 Acropolis Rallycopyright:Mcklein

And then came that immortal line.

“These cars,” smiled the legendary Finn, “these cars are not for the boys. These cars are for the men.”

World Rally Cars were, of course, faster than Group B. But there was nothing like the brutality. Fancy transmission, active suspension and all manner of bells and whistles had undoubtedly made the cars quicker. And, in the eyes of many, less of a challenge.

Kankkunen was one of many from his generation who felt that ultimate knife-edge ‘men only’ challenge might have gone for good.

He was wrong.

And he was the first to admit it. Just as soon as he’d driven a Rally1 car for the first time.

Remembering his time behind the wheel of this season’s Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, draws that same smile.

“It is,” he said, “for the men. It’s like Group B. Not for the boys.

“It was something similar to the Peugeot, but Yaris was 10 times easier and better to drive. Suspension is good. Power is nothing special – the Peugeot was more powerful probably on the straight-line because it was so light and so powerful. But cornering? Jumping? Forget it!”

Words:David Evans