Björn Waldegård, The WRC's First Champion, Passes Away At 71

Sweden's Björn Waldegård was the first person to win the WRC's driver's championship back in 1979. Today it was announced he has passed away from cancer.

Waldegård (you'll often see it spelled Waldegaard or Waldegard) was one of the great drivers of rallying's immensely strenuous transition years, when rallies were still long-distance endurance events, but the cars participating were growing faster and faster.

His career lasted three decades - from his debut in 1962 to when he broke his arm in the 1992 Safari Rally. He was fast (you can see him pictured above, right, holding up the trophy for winning the 1969 Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche 911) and he was tough. He drove for all kinds of teams, winning in ultra fast Lancia Stratoses as well as long-lasting Toyota Celicas. This is Waldegård at the 1988 Lombard RAC Rally in Great Britain in one of those Toyotas, pressing on with a slight deficit in the tire department.

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Here he is celebrating the first WRC driver's title in 1979.

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Waldegård remains the oldest driver to ever win a WRC rally, 46 years old at the grueling 1990 Safari Rally.

Autosport reports that Waldegård suffered from cancer and his death at age 71 followed a rapid deterioration in his health.

Photo Credits: AP, Getty