Hannu Mikkola, one of the top 10 rally drivers of all time, has died of cancer aged 78, his sons and the World Rally Championship have said. “Yes, this sad news is correct,” a World Rally Championship spokesperson told AFP on Saturday. The Ford and Audi driver, known as the “Flying Finn”, won the coveted World Rally Championship in 1983 and Finland’s notoriously unnerving 1000 Lakes Rally seven times. His sons paid tribute to him on social media late Friday.
“We lost my father Hannu to cancer this weekend,” tweeted Vesa Mikkola, one of the driver’s two sons.
“Most knew him as a rallying great who ushered in the golden years of the sports. To me he was dad – and an incredible one at that.”
Other racing veterans such as World Rally champions Carlos Sainz, Sebastien Ogier and Petter Solberg mourned his death.
“Heart warming to see the posts remembering my dad,” Juha Mikkola, the Finnish driver’s other son, wrote on Twitter.
“Most knew Hannu Mikkola as a rally driver; I’ll remember him as an amazing husband to my mom Arja, father to Vesa and me, and grandfather.
“Thank you for everything dad, you set an incredible example for us to follow in life.”
Mikkola began his career at Volvo, won his first World Rally Championship race in a Ford Escort and secured his only championship with Audi, his Quattro ushering in the four-wheel drive revoltion.
He came close to winning his first title several years earlier, finishing runner-up to Bjorn Waldegard in 1979 and Walter Rohrl the following year.
Mikkola would go on to join Mazda before he retired professionally from motorsport in 1993, with a career total of 18 wins on the WRC stage, the last coming in Kenya in 1987.
Solberg, the 2003 world champion, tweeted: “Really sad to hear the news about Hannu Mikkola – he was a legend, a proper gentleman, a real Champion, and a great father to great kids. Sending all my condolences to his family and friends. RIP.”
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