Remembering Toivonen with one of his great drives

On the anniversary of Henri Toivonen's death, we chose his win on the 1985 RAC Rally for our second VHS Rallies collaboration

Today of all days, it’s not hard to imagine why we’ve gone for the 1985 RAC Rally for our second instalment of VHS Rallies fever.

Thirty four years ago on May 2, 1986, the world lost Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto in a fiery crash on the Tour de Corse. That 1986 season should have belonged to the Finn, his American-Italian co-driver and their Lancia Delta S4. Instead, the world was robbed of one of the world’s fastest and most naturally gifted rally drivers in the sport’s history.

After taking his first WRC win on the RAC Rally in 1980, Toivonen had to wait five years for his second success. And that came – as he knew it always would – the moment he stepped aboard a four-wheel-drive Group B car. Deeply frustrated at the time it took him to pedal something with a driveshaft at each corner, he made the most of the S4 from the very beginning.

After just 25 miles of testing, he took victory on a 65-stage RAC Rally that comprised 550 competitive miles. Starting and finishing in Nottingham, the event went through the Midlands and into Wales on Sunday November 24. Tuesday was up through Yorkshire for a day in the Borders on Wednesday. Thursday’s run south commenced with the mainstay of this film – the 17-miler through Grizedale 1.

There are a few reasons for picking this film of the final-day highlights. The first is shown at six minutes, and again at 19 minutes – that’s the sheer speed of the Toivonen and S4 combination. Context comes from seeing Juha Kankkunen tip-toeing the Toyota Celica Twin Cam Turbo across the same stretch of snowy, icy Cumbria a couple of minutes earlier.

Reason two is Takatsgo Aoki’s fantastic all-angles approach in his Toyota Corolla. Then there’s the moment the Nuss stage is canceled and, realizing there wouldn’t be any action footage, the camera crew interview a marshal in a deerstalker instead.

And the final reason is the verve with which RAC winner Henri Toivonen goes about his interview with Sue Baker.

Oh, and if you need any more reasons, look out for Glyn Jones understeering off on a right-hander and listen out for Tony Pond’s utterly gorgeous-sounding MG Metro 6R4.

VHS Rallies is an unofficial, unapproved project to save old TV rally reports and footage from decaying VHS tapes before they deteriorate beyond the point of no return. Several hundred hours of material have already been saved and some highlights are shared on

VHS Rallies is always keen to find new material, so if you have old tapes you think might be of interest, you can contact the project on Facebook or via Twitter.