Juha Kankkunen grew up in Laukaa, close to Jyväskylä, the home town of Finland’s WRC counter and the event on which he made
his competitive debut in 1979.
He was mentored by Finnish WRC star, Timo Mäkinen, and with financial backing from renowned Finnish talent scout Timo Jouhki, Kankkunen had the perfect chance to learn his craft.
His performance on two WRC rallies in 1982 persuaded Toyota Finland to lend him a Group 4 rally car for national events and continued success led to a works team entry in a Celica TCT at the 1983 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland. He finished sixth and began a two-year association with Toyota, during which he won his first rally, the 1985 Safari in Kenya.
A move to Peugeot followed in 1986 and after a dominant season in a Group B 205 Turbo 16 E2, he became drivers’ champion. The following year he moved to Lancia and successfully defended his title, taking victory in a Group A Delta HF 4WD.
Kankkunen moved to Toyota Team Europe in 1988 before returning to Lancia in 1990 and helping the Italian company to a third successive manufacturers’ title. The next year was Kankkunen’s most successful with Lancia and, in a Delta Integrale 16V, he became the first man to win three drivers’ championships.
Following Lancia’s withdrawal from the WRC, Kankkunen returned to Toyota in 1993 and crushed the opposition in a Celica Turbo 4WD, securing an unprecedented fourth title. Later in his career Kankkunen proved a consistent points scorer for Ford, Subaru and Hyundai and his last WRC win before retirement came at home, on the 1999 Rally Finland.