Six Questions: Hannu Mikkola

Cars People

Influx talks to the most dexterous Flying Finn

Finnish rally maestro Hannu Mikkola was one of the legendary flying Finns who powered their way into motorsport lore during the Group B era at the wheel of the monstrous Audi Quattro S1 Sport. But as World Champion in 1983 and with a total of 18 World Rally wins (and an obscure reference in punk culture) – the understated driver’s legacy bleeds out of WRC’s narrow confines.

How did your involvement in Audi’s Rally Team emerge?
The Head of Audi Sport at the time, Jürgen Stockmar, invited me to see the four-wheel drive Audi road car prototype (Ur-Quattro) in the autumn of 1979, and asked me to join their emerging rally team as the development and lead driver. I realized the potential of four-wheel drive in rallying, and we agreed to terms quite quickly. I started development work on the car in 1980, and we competed in our first rally in 1981, which was the Monte Carlo. I stayed with the team until 1987, when they stopped rallying activities.


Cutaway illustrates why the Sport Quattro was such a beast.

What is your defining memory of the Group B Era of Rallying?
Extreme power. The cars were quite difficult to drive because of the turbo lag, and in retrospect, the somewhat undeveloped four-wheel drive characteristics. However it was very satisfying to rally a car with virtually unlimited power, where you could always get the car sideways with the throttle!

Describe for us the sensation of racing the Audi Quattro Sport in Group B.
The sensation of driving the Audi S1 on the limit in the Ouninpohja stage of Rally Finland 1985 was surreal. In my 30+ year career, it was the only time that I felt like I was outside of the car looking in. In the last uphill section of the stage, my co-driver Arne Hertz was so impressed that he told me he would give his overall to any driver who was quicker in the stage! To this day it’s one of my fondest rallying memories.

Was Group B the high-point in Rally sport?
Yes, I think it was. The spectators, the noise, the sideways action – it was a great time to be involved with the sport! In my home event the 1,000 Lakes Rally we would see over 400,000 spectators during the weekend.

Were you flattered by the reference to you in the Half Man Half Biscuit tune ‘Architecture and Morality – Ted and Alice’?
To be completely honest, I didn’t hear about it until much later in my life. I’m very flattered to be mentioned in their song and it’s pretty cool to be recognized in that way.

Is there something definitive in the Finnish blood that makes them quick drivers?
Yes, I think Finnish people succeed in sports that require extreme resilience and also the environment is perfect for developing talented drivers. The Finnish rally championship has always been on a very high level, and the winners there are usually ready for the world level. It also doesn’t hurt that Finnish drivers have had so much success in the World Championship previously.