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Toyota rally history. The Forgotten WRC Victories (Mikkola-Aho, 1975)

Photo: Benny Heuvinck archive

Spends these months Auto Motor Klassiek the magazine focuses on Toyota's rally history. In a diptych, we describe the background to the contemporary competition success of the largest manufacturer in the world. A success story that started in Belgium. This history is full of background stories. That is why we also share special events from that history with you online. We recently published the story of Walter Boyce and David Woods. They won the Press-On-Regardless in 1973 with the Toyota Corolla SR5. This time we highlight a special victory from Hannu Mikkola. After a troubled run-up, he won the 1975 Lakes Rally in his home country in 1000.

Hannu Mikkola is one of the greatest rally drivers in history. Until 1974 he achieved various successes in major international rally competitions, mainly in the service of Ford. To name a few, he won the 1970 London-Mexico Rally with the Escort Twin-Cam. And in 1972 he won the Safari Rally in Kenya, also with a Ford Escort. In 1978 and 1979, the marriage between Ford and Mikkola was also happy. He also won the Bandama '450 in Ivory Coast with the Mercedes-Benz 5.0 SLC 79, together with Arne Hertz. And in the 1983s, it was one of the determining factors for the rally success of the Audi, which was emerging with four-wheel drive and steadily shaking up the rally world. Mikkola became world champion in 1000 in the service of Audi. The Finn has won a total of 1975 WRC victories during his career, and the XNUMX Lakes Rally in his home country was just the thing for him. He won this seven times, of which four times in WRC. The XNUMX victory was a very nice one. Certainly, because Mikkola de home rally that year almost did not run.

Fiat ends Mikkola's account

It is August 1975. Hannu Mikkola has been driving his European WRC races for Fiat since the beginning of that year. That pulls out at the last minute from the 1000 Lakes rally in Finland. The Italians keep the Abarth Fiat 124 rally units in the Turin stables. Mikkola hears this while in South Africa. The late cancellation is a major blow to the Finn's account. But he insists on driving the rally in his home country. That is a fixed value for him, in addition, he has already won this rally four times at that time. The game in Finland is like wax in his hands.

Time is on Mikkola's heels

But Mikkola does have a problem now, that is certain. It's a short day. Mikkola has to arrange a lot to be able to drive in Finland at all. Fortunately, the drivers in 1975 have much more freedom than today. They have free rein if a manufacturer / constructor indicates not to participate in a rally. The drivers can then drive for a different manufacturer or for a different team. Or put together an occasional team yourself. Teams and manufacturers therefore choose their matches, also for budgetary reasons. The big money is far from being in rallying. That zeitgeist and the greater freedom quickly play into Mikkola.

Mikkola rents Corolla from TTE

He meets Ove Andersson in South Africa. At that time, the Swedish legend was the driver and team boss of the very young Team Toyota Europe. Mikkola discusses with Andersson the possibility of renting a Corolla for the rally in Finland. Ove Andersson agrees to Mikkola's proposal, rents him the Toyota Corolla Levin, and also provides support for the rally in Finland.

Support of small team, Hertz as service engineer

Toyota Team Europe is still modest within the rally world, it is the pioneering years of TTE. Although Toyota gives Ove Andersson factory support, financially there is not yet one carte blanche. TTE is therefore also forced to selectively choose the matches. In addition, TTE has not registered for Finland in 1975. That makes the rental of the Corolla (with a small service team) easier, and it also brings extra money into the coffers of Andersson and his people.

Navigator Hertz, mechanic in Finland

Mikkola is assured of the Corolla, and registers for his home race under the name HM Racing. He also contacts a local dealer, who offers support in combination with the service of TTE. It sends two service vehicles with the Corolla from Lot in Belgium to Finland. Mikkola is now assured of full support, provided by a small team. Special: the Swede Arne Hertz is already a successful navigator. He is also employed by TTE and is part of the team in Finland. Not as a co-pilot, but as a service engineer. Hertz will later experience numerous successful rallies as Mikkola's navigator. During this rally Atso Aho is in the passenger seat.

“Great rally car”

Two days before the rally, Hannu Mikkola receives the Toyota Corolla Levin rented from Andersson. He tests the car for two days and sees opportunities for victory. The Finn, who won nineteen races in his home country before the start of the rally, calls the Corolla with the 1.6-16 valve engine (151E-16, almost 200 HP) a great rally car. He is assured of less power than the competition, but is impressed by the maneuverability. Mikkola is ready for the anniversary edition of is rally.

Failed competitors

The 25th 1000 Lakes Rally is 287,5 kilometers long. It is held from August 29 to 31, 1975. At this Jyväskylän Suurajot 98 teams will appear at the start. They are faced with the challenge of completing 42 special stages on gravel as well as possible. During the first half of the rally, Ari Vatanen, Stiq Blomqvist and Markku Alén respectively lead the classification. However, they drop out for various reasons. Vatanen has an accident early on, Alén also has an accident later in the rally. Blomqvist is disqualified for a speeding violation in between two special stages. Talking about the 1975 dropouts: a total of 38 teams will not make it to the finish line of this 1000 Lakes Rally.

Exciting to the end

Mikkola does stay upright, he keeps the Corolla on course. After special stage 22 (Paakkunala) he is number one. He rides the following tests together with navigator Atso Aho flawlessly. Not all of them are won. But Mikkola no longer gives up the lead in the rankings. It remains exciting until the end, but the Finn keeps on the line decent names behind them. Lampinen (Saab 96 V4), Mäkinen (Ford Escort 1800 RS), Eklund (Saab 96 V4), Kulläng (Opel Ascona) and Salonen (Datsun 160 J) bite into the gravel dust. The lead of Mikkola and co-pilot Aho on the Lampinen-Markkanen team is 1 minute and 14 seconds.

Multiple memorable victory

The victory of the Finnish duo is memorable. T.oyota's first WRC win came in 1973 with the Boyce-Woods duo, which never played for TTE. The Finnish victory of 1975 is Toyota's first European WRC victory. In addition, this victory is Team Toyota Europe's first ever in the world championship. With the only Toyota in the field. Mikkola's victory in his home country is therefore a tremendous feat. And leads to a longer cooperation between him and TTE, for which he continues to drive until 1978.

You can find more articles about the forgotten Toyota WRC victories here..

Many thanks to Benny Heuvinck, Toyota rally archivist




Leave a Reply
    • Thank you Benny, it was another pleasure to describe this history. And don't forget the pictures I got from you, that's beautiful stuff.

  1. Good story, nice to get to know the backgrounds better.
    That lady with glasses in the opening photo, is that Fabrizia Pons?
    I played table football with her - somewhere in the Alps.
    But then she was now sitting next to Michèle Mouton in an Audi.
    That is why press moment; no merit from me….

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