Hannu Mikkola left it late to become world champion. Prior to his title season in 1983, the Finn had told his bosses at Audi that he wanted to contest fewer events in 1984 to spend more time with his young family.
However, had Mikkola failed to net rallying’s biggest prize then he would still have embarked on the twilight years of his career satisfied that he had achieved what he set out to do when he tackled his first rally in 1963.
For Mikkola, winning the Finnish title and his home 1000 Lakes Rally represented mission accomplished. Everything else was just a bonus.
In a career spanning 31 years there were plenty of bonuses. He won 18 world championship rallies, was runner-up in the battle for the first drivers’ crown in 1979, triumphed on the 1000 Lakes Rally on seven occasions, claimed victory on the gruelling London-Mexico World Cup Rally in 1970 and the re-run in 1995 and helped develop Audi’s dominant Quattro.
Mikkola’s most successful period followed his alliance with Swedish co-driver Arne Hertz in 1977, which lasted until the end of 1990. After claiming the British title in 1978, they won their first WRC round in Great Britain that season and were a dominant force in the world championship for almost a decade.
Although he did scale down his competitive outings from the mid-1980s, Mikkola was a winner with Audi on the Safari Rally in 1987 and was a factory Mazda driver from 1988 until 1991. He took part in his final WRC event in Finland in 1993, finishing seventh in a Toyota.