NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 28 – The motorsport community across the globe has paid tribute to Hannu Mikkola, the 1983 world champion and one of Finland’s great rally names.
Mikkola was a two times Safari Rally winner in the 20th edition in a Ford Escort RS 1600 and 35th WRC Marlboro Safari Rally in 1987 in an Audi.
After making his name driving a series of Ford Escorts, Mikkola was at the forefront of the four-wheel drive revolution in world rallying and claimed the title in an Audi Quattro – the first for an all-wheel drive car in FIA World Rally Championship history.
Mikkola, who visited Kenya three years ago, died on Saturday aged 78.
The first Audi to win the original WRC Safari Rally and Audi’s final world championship rally car returned to Kenya in 2017 with the winning driver, Hannu during the eighth edition of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally.
Among those who condoled with the family of the fallen legend were Charles Hinga, a former Kenya F2 National contender and official George Njoroge.
KMSF Sponsorship Liaison Sylvia King, on her part, said: “Very sad to hear this news. Condolences to his family. He was the first overseas driver to win the Safari Rally in 1972. Always a gentleman. The last time I met him was during the 2017 EA Classic Rally when he came around with the Audi. Rest in peace Hannu.”
Mikkola was born in May 1942 and started his career on home country rallies in a series of Volvo cars. He scored his first win at the Pohjala Ralli in 1966 and took his first 1000 Lakes success two years later in an Escort Twin Cam.
He claimed the 1983 world title with Audi.
A move to Audi transformed Mikkola’s career. He piloted a Quattro to two WRC wins in both 1981 and 1982 before clinching the drivers’ world title the following season with four victories in a Group B Quattro A2.
Mikkola won his final WRC event at Kenya’s Safari Rally
Mikkola achieved his final world rally win in Kenya in 1987, after which he moved to Mazda before departing the WRC on a full-time basis in 1991. He made 123 WRC starts and continued to compete as a guest driver at a variety of events until 2017.
Former world champion Petter Solberg wrote on Facebook:
“Really sad to hear the news about Hannu Mikkola – he was a legend, a proper gentleman, a real Champion, and a great father to great kids. Sending all my condolences to his family and friends. Rest in peace.”