Obituary: Andrew Cowan

Former Mitsubishi WRC head Andrew Cowan has died. He was 82.

Cowan, who passed away in hospital on Tuesday, headed Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe and guided Tommi Mäkinen to four consecutive WRC drivers’ titles from 1986 to 1999. The team also won the manufacturers’ crown in 1998.

He was born in 1936 and raised in the small town of Duns in Scotland’s Borders region, where he became close friends with future Formula 1 world champion Jim Clark.

After becoming involved with his local motor club, Cowan started rallying and in 1962 he won the Scottish Rally in a Sunbeam Rapier, an achievement he regarded as one of his greatest in motorsport. He repeated his victory the following year.

He became a works driver with the Rootes Group and Mitsubishi and arguably his greatest wins as a driver were in the London to Sydney Marathons.

Cowan won the 1968 event, which covered almost 17,000km in Europe and Australia, in a Hillman Hunter alongside Colin Malkin and Brian Coyle. He repeated his success in 1977, over a 30,000km route with Malkin and Mike Broad in a Mercedes-Benz 280E.

He won Australia’s Southern Cross Rallies five times between 1972 and 1976 and the world’s longest rally, the 32,000km South American Marathon in 1978. He finished Kenya’s gruelling Safari Rally in the top four on four occasions and was second in the Paris - Dakar Rally in 1985.

Andrew Cowan leads the celebrations for Tommi Mäkinen's 1996 Safari Rally victory

His reputation as Britain’s greatest long-distance rally driver earned Cowan many awards, including the Jim Clark Memorial Trophy and the British Racing Drivers’ Club’s John Cobb Trophy for outstanding success.

In 1983 he established a British headquarters in Rugby to run Mitsubishi Motors’ sporting activities. Andrew Cowan Motorsports evolved into Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe and Cowan and Mäkinen celebrated 22 WRC wins between 1996 and 2001.

Cowan also gave Richard Burns his big break in the WRC, the Briton winning the Safari Rally and home Rally of Great Britain in 1998 during a three-season stay with the team.

Mitsubishi took over the business and Cowan remained with the company until retirement, when he returned to Scotland where he farmed 700 acres of land near Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Mäkinen paid tribute to his former boss. “I’m very sad to hear that Andrew has passed away. Andrew had a massive influence on my career, not only while I was driving for him but also now that I’m managing a team myself.

“He remained a close friend even after our years of working together, and we met just recently at his home in Scotland a few days before Rally GB. My thoughts are with his wife, Linda, and the rest of the family,” he said.

Wrc.com sends its condolences to his wife, Linda, his family and friends.

Photographs courtesy of Les Kolczak

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