Rallying history is littered with watershed moments.
The 1973 Monte Carlo Rally springs to mind – the very first World Rally Championship event. Or Juha Kankkunen’s successful defense of his world title in 1987, becoming the first driver ever to do so.
Then there’s Sébastien Loeb’s demolition of basically every record in existence.
But perhaps the moment that trumps them all was the unveiling of the Audi Quattro. The introduction of all-wheel-drive revolutionized rallying, and afforded Audi an early march en route to world championship successes in the early 1980s.
And it all stems from chassis R6. The very, very original Quattro the late Hannu Mikkola drove as course car on the Algarve Rally in 1980.
The very, very same car Hannu’s sons Vesa and Juha will pilot at this weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
“It’s the car that started it all, the first one our father Hannu drove in a competition setting,” Vesa told DirtFish.
“It’s a car which has a lot of historical value but obviously for us a lot of sentimental value. After that time that Hannu drove it, he actually drove it once at Goodwood and drove it up the hill so it’ll be a fantastic way to honor Hannu.
“And it’s 40 years since he won the championship in ’83, so there’s a lot of nice milestones and ways to celebrate his career at Goodwood this year.”
Back in 1980, the rallying world was still being dominated by lightweight rear-wheel-drive machines. Ford Escorts, Fiat 131s, Opel Asconas and such like. Nobody had ever seen a big four-wheel-drive brute like the Quattro before.
But Hannu threw the world its first warning shot with that run in Portugal. Although he wasn’t part of the official rally, the Finn was fastest on 24 of 30 stages and would have headed Antonio Zanini’s winning Ford Escort RS1800 home by more than half an hour had he been competing.
Vesa explained: “From my understanding that car was three-wheel-drive to begin with, it had an open diff at the front so there were so many things they had to work through to get it working, because also nobody had done it previously – they were pioneering four-wheel-drive rallying.
“They had all this new technology and new parts that they put on this car, so he spent a lot of time getting the car right so that it could win some rallies.
“Something that’s not really spoken about, and I think with the benefit of hindsight it’s obvious it was a no-brainer to go to Audi, but he signed a year before they ever rallied and he was their first driver in and last driver out from the rally program and just what a big risk that would have been.
“He was well off in his career, he had accomplished pretty much everything except the drivers’ crown at that point which, in all fairness, had just come to fruition. But he left the contract open so that he was still able to do one-off rallies with other teams while he also helped develop the car.
“I think it was quite a gamble at the time, or at least had a lot of risk, because you just didn’t know how that was going to play out. At the time it was a much riskier decision than he gets credit for.”
There should be no risk involved when the two Mikkola brothers take genesis up Goodwood’s famous hill this weekend, though.
The car, which belongs to Audi Tradition, will be well looked after.
“Maybe I have the best seat in the house!” said Juha, who will co-drive his older brother.
“We had a little chance to experience some of this last summer when we did the rally through Germany, and I’ll always remember the moment we had with Vesa when we were behind Walter Röhrl and he was in an S1, and I just couldn’t believe it was happening.
“It was just an amazing opportunity to think back on all the amazing memories we had as kids of our dad driving and him telling us the stories, and then all the things that we’ve got to read and be a part of later on.
“I know Hannu was always such a huge fan and proponent and let’s say supporter of Goodwood as well and we both had the chance to go a few times with him, so there’ll be that extra feeling of the times we got to spend with him there too that’ll come rushing back.
“It’s really special, it’s crazy that it’s been 40 years from the days the Quattro stormed on the scene and it’s amazing to have Audi supporting this and wanting to do something with this.
“It’s a beautiful way to remember Hannu and Audi and all the great accomplishments they had.”
Vesa added: “Thanks to Timo Witt from Audi Tradition who is allowing us to drive these historic cars. Some of these cars it’s pretty much journalists and world champions only who get to drive them so we feel very fortunate, very honored to be able to step behind the wheel and jump in these cars. We’re so happy that Timo is a supporter of ours.”
As if the sight of Hannu’s two sons piloting the very first Quattro he drove wasn’t going to be poignant enough, they’ll both wear replica helmets from Hannu’s 1983 title-winning season too.
This weekend may not quite prove to be a watershed moment in the context of rallying’s global history, but it’ll certainly be an emotional and rather poignant one for the entire Mikkola and Audi family.