Timo Salonen earned the nickname Loysa, which translated from his native Finnish means slack. This had nothing to do with
his rotund appearance, unease at giving television interviews in English, nor his penchant for cigarettes.
Instead Salonen was known as Loysa because of his relaxed demeanour, which played a huge part in Peugeot’s decision to sign him from relative obscurity for its WRC attack in 1985 with its mighty 205 T16.
While Salonen had a proven record thanks to wins in Canada (1977), New Zealand (1980) and Ivory Coast (1981), he was never anything more than a bit-part player in the WRC, landing limited campaigns each season with Datsun.
That changed in 1984 when, lying in a hospital bed following back surgery, a phone call from Peugeot chief Jean Todt offered him the opportunity of a lifetime.
The French firm wanted a steady pair of hands to support Ari Vatanen, whose sometimes wayward tendencies meant a solid number two was essential for its championship bid.
While Vatanen led the drivers’ standings by 16 points after two rounds, Salonen was convinced he could outpace his younger countryman, particularly when Peugeot made the 205’s steering a less heavy at Salonen’s behest.
After winning in Portugal, Greece and New Zealand, Salonen was ahead when Vatanen suffered a huge crash in Argentina, which left him with life-threatening injuries. Salonen won in trying circumstances and by claiming his maiden 1000 Lakes Rally victory he became champion.
His title defence in 1986 netted two victories but a plethora of retirements meant he had to settle for third.
A move to Mazda in 1987 was followed by two years at Mitsubishi before Salonen called it a day, apart from a one-off return in Finland in 2002 when he drove a Peugeot 206 WRC to 14th overall.