Friday | 05 May 2017

Timo Mäkinen 1938 - 2017

Finland's Timo Mäkinen, one of the most successful rally drivers of the 1960s and 1970s, has died at the age of 79.

Part of the original group of trail-blazing drivers that inspired the term 'Flying Finns', much of Mäkinen's considerable success pre-dated the start of the WRC in 1973, but he notched-up four world championship rally victories - including a hat-trick at Rally Great Britain - before his retirement in 1981.

Born in Helsinki, Mäkinen's competitive career began in 1959 when he steered a Triumph TR3 to third in class at Finland's 1000 Lakes Rally. He later switched to Austin Healey 3000s and then Mini Coopers - becoming the driving force behind many of the little car's remarkable rallying triumphs in the years that followed.

A class win in a Mini on Great Britain's 1962 RAC Rally led to a more comprehensive programme in 1963 when he drove both Healeys and Minis. He claimed his first international victory at Holland's 1964 Tulip Rally in a Mini Cooper S but really caught the sport's attention with an emphatic win in a similar car at the 1965 Rallye Monte-Carlo.

A second win on the Monte the following year was controversially overturned by rally organisers who felt the Mini's headlights breached its rules. The decision handed victory to Citroën driver Pauli Toivonen instead.

On home ground however, Mäkinen was enjoying great success and in 1967 he sealed a hat-trick of 1000 Lakes wins - despite driving 12km of the iconic Ouninpohja stage unable to see through his Mini's windscreen after the bonnet flipped up. 

A switch to Ford from 1968 led to more victories in an Escort RS, most notably a second hat-trick of wins - this time at the British RAC Rally from 1973 to 1975.

Replaced at Ford in 1977, Mäkinen drove for Toyota, BMW, Fiat and Peugeot - with whom he focused on the championship's endurance events in Kenya and Ivory Coast - before his retirement.

Away from the rally stages, Mäkinen excelled in other forms of motorsport. A three-time saloon car champion in Finland, he also won the inaugural Round Britain Powerboat Race in 1969!

Having done so much to put Finland on the international motorsport map, and inspired so many of his compatriots to follow in his tracks, Mäkinen was one of the first group of inductees to Finland's Rally Hall of Fame in 2010.


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