His is a name that returned to the World Rally Championship news agenda, as Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala compared Kalle Rovanperä’s latest title success to his style of driving.
Whether it be his imperious career statistics, immaculate car control, or unmistakable moustache, Juha Kankkunen remains one of the most imposing greats this sport has ever produced. It’ll therefore come as no surprise to learn that, despite clinching the last of his four world titles in 1993, the ‘Kaiser of Laukaa’s part-time WRC appearances stretched right the way up to 2010.
As the Grand Prix on Gravel neared its 60th birthday, the three-time Rally Finland winner decided to call time on his eight-year competitive slumber in favor of a one-off return to the roads he knew best.
Armed with a year-old Focus WRC (the ins and outs of which were explained to him by one Mikko Hirvonen) Kankkunen lamented the two-liter four-cylinder engine, a powerplant he felt was no match for the Group B monsters he once tamed. That said, the Finn was forced to admit that when it came to steering, braking, downforce and chassis balance, these current-gen cars were virtually untouchable.
Having turned 51 just three months prior, few were expecting fireworks, and while the leaders were left largely untroubled, Kankkunen was able to break into the points after just four stages, following which he began jostling for position with privateer Mads Østberg.
Granted, the Norwegian ultimately came out on top, but eighth place, four championship points and the distinction of being the ‘second best Finn’ after rally winner Latvala was a more than graceful note on which to sign off on one of the sport’s finest careers.