12 Jun 08
Friends and colleagues from the WRC have paid tribute to Ove Andersson, the rally driver and co-founder of Toyota Team Europe, who died on Wednesday while competing in the Milligan Vintage Trial in South Africa.
Andersson, 70, was involved in an accident on the rally when the 1957 Volvo he was driving collided head-on with another vehicle.
As co-founder of Toyota’s rallying operation, Toyota Team Europe (TTE) in 1973, the Swede was a hugely influential figure in the WRC in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. Toyota Team Europe grew out of his own Andersson Motorsport squad and later relocated to its present base in Cologne, Germany.
Under his leadership Toyota won four drivers' and three manufacturers' World Rally titles. Carlos Sainz took the first drivers’ title in 1990 with the Toyota Celica GT-Four. While the GT-Four’s successor, the Celica Turbo 4WD, brought Sainz a second trophy in 1992 and subsequent wins for Juha Kankkunen in 1993 and Didier Auriol in 1994. Andersson’s Toyota team won the manufacturers’ title in 1993, 1994 and 1999.
Andersson’s own rallying career started on the Acropolis 1964 in a Saab, although he was best known for his results with Toyota’s Corolla T20 and later the 16-valve T27. These were the cars which established his rallying team; with Hannu Mikkola's 1975 1,000 Lakes win in Finland a particular highlight. Andersson stopped full time driving in 1980 to concentrate on his team management role.
After managing Toyota's European motorsport arm for over 30 years, and overseeing the switch to Formula one in 2002, he retired in 2003 but remained an advisor to the Japanese team.
Subaru’s Group N project manager, George Donaldson, was team manager at TTE from 1994 to 1999, and says Andersson was effectively the first World Rally Champion driver. “When the series was first established, in 1973, it was just for manufacturers, but if there had been points for drivers Ove would have been champion,” said Donaldson. “Ove loved rally with such a passion. As a team manager he though the future, and the way that rallying would develop, was his responsibility. He co-founded the World Rally Team’s Association, which was basically taken over by the FIA because it was so good. He was a demanding but wonderful man to work for. He regarded it as a privilege to work in the sport and everybody in his team that was there for any length of time ended up feeling the same.”
BP-Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson worked for Andersson writing gravel notes for Bjorn Waldegaard on the 1987 Safari rally. Wilson said the way he was welcomed into the team by Ove was a big influence on his own management style. “I came away thinking it was a family,” said Wilson. “I always thought, if I ever get into the same sort of position as Ove then I would like to create the same feeling in my team. He made a big impression on me. We talk about our team as being like a family - but that came from Ove. He was unique; a fierce competitor, a great team manager, a gentlemen both in and out of the WRC and a man of his word.”
“Ove was one of the real traditional rallying team principals,” said David Richards, head of the Subaru World Rally Team. “He’d worked his way up through the ranks. He was a very competent driver in his own right and was always a very solid character in his opinions and the way he stood firm on a number of issues. He was there at Toyota in the very formative days and he saw it from zero right the way through to world champions. He was one of the real characters of the sport and someone I had an enormous amount of respect for.”