With the 1983 World Rally Championship under his belt, Hannu Mikkola earned his place among the rally legends from one of the sport’s most competitive eras. At the age of 78, his son has confirmed that Mikkola has died of cancer.
Mikkola was born in Finland in May of 1942, and it was there that he carved out a space for himself in rally history. His first win came behind the wheel of a Ford Escort RS 1600 at the 1974 1000 Lakes Rally, widely regarded as one of the most difficult courses on the rally calendar. It took a few years for his talent to be recognized on the international stage, but during that time, Mikkola was taking home one win after another. In 1979, he missed out on the WRC title by a single point.
He swapped to Audi in 1981 alongside Michèle Mouton (and later Walter Röhrl and Stig Blomqvist). The Quattro was in fine form during that era, and it was behind its wheel that Mikkola secured four total wins, two third-place overall finishes, one second-place overall, and his well-deserved 1983 Championship. He was the first driver to win a title with an all-wheel drive car, and he was one of the several drivers responsible for honing that difficult beast into the championship-caliber machine it ultimately became.
Despite the fact that he retired in the early 1990s, his total of 18 wins is still top-10 worthy.
“I have had enough excitement in my life,” Mikkola said in a 2014 interview. “I didn’t have any regrets when I stopped rallying in 1993.” He frequently made guest appearances at rallies and other racing events, but he remained content with his decision after the end of the legendary Group B era.
Our thoughts are with the Mikkola family.