|May 2nd 2016 was already the
30th anniversary of
Henri Toivonen´s death. In Rally Sweden 2008 Jari-Matti Latvala was able
to beat his hero´s record
to become the youngest ever
winner of a WRC event.
Just like in 2006, Rally Finland 2016, will celebrate the memory of Henri Toivonen in collaboration with his brother Harri by launching a project called “Henri Toivonen Tribute at Neste Rally Finland”, which honours the memory of the talented driver in a worthy manner.
Through his contacts, Harri Toivonen has been able to get Henri’s winning car from the 1985 RAC Rally, the Group B Lancia Delta S4, for a visit to Finland. Harri will be doing a show run with the car on the Harju City Special Stage on both the opening day of Neste Rally Finland, Thursday 28 July, and on Friday 29 July.
May 2nd 2006 was the 20th anniversary of Henri Toivonen´s death. He holds still the record of being the youngest ever winner of a WRC event. He won the RAC Rally at 24 years of age in 1980. One of the all-times greatest rally driver and his American co-driver Sergio Cresto died at Corsica 1986, when their Lancia Delta S4 simply exploded after it left the road. What little remained of the car was unrecognizable. It remains the most bleak day in modern rallying. Group B and Group S were cancelled immediately following this crash. Now 20 years later he's still remembered and people are idolizing him, realizing that Henri was one of the greats, and would have very likely been the greatest of them all...
I was rather young at the time of his dead, but I will always remember the May 2nd in 1986. At that time there were no Internet or any kind of online results available and the only media to follow the rally was newspapers and TV´s sports news once in a day. In knew that Toivonen was leading the event and I was waiting for the news. In Finland sport news are always after the evening´s main news broadcast, but this time they mentioned rallying also in the main program´s flash. I reached to think about that my hero was still leading, but then my world totally collapsed. The newscaster said that Finland´s Henri Toivonen has lost his life! I was already at that time so passionate about rallying, that it really took time to accept the course of event, but living and rallying had to continue.
I hope that all rally fans around the world takes time to silence and look some videos and pictures of Henri. Remembering rally legend Henri Toivonen.
During the Rally Finlad in August, the organiser of Finland's round of the WRC AKK Sports Ltd wishes to honour Finnish rally drivers achievements by launching the Flying Finns theme at the event. In accordance with the theme, every year a great hero of the sport will be celebrated at Neste Oil Rally Finland. The first in this line of legends is Henri Toivonen. Henri had been born in Jyväskylä, so he naturally had a soft spot for the city and it's rally. The exhibition in memory of Henri Toivonen will be opened at Rally HQ Jyväskylä Paviljonki, on the Thursday, August 17th 2006.
PROFILE1974: Started rallying with Simca Rallye
1975: His WRC debut in Finland
with Simca Rallye
1977: Drives Chrysler, 5th in Finland
1978: Drives Citroen, Porsche and Chrysler
1979: Drives Fiat and Ford
1980: 1st WRC win in Great Britain with Talbot, 10th WRC for Drivers
1981: Drives Talbot, 2nd in Portugal and Italy, 7th WRC for Drivers
1982: Drives Opel, 3rd in Greece and Great Britain, 7th WRC for Drivers
1983: Drives Opel, 4th in Italy
1984: Drives Lancia and Porsche, 3rd in Finland, 2nd ERC for Drivers
1985: Drives Lancia, Win in Great Britain, 6th WRC for Drivers
1986: Drives Lancia, Win in Monte Carlo
|Date of Birth:
25/8/1956 at Jyväskylä
2/5/1986 at Ajaccio
was one of the most spectacular drivers in the world to watch. He was able to make up
enormous amounts of time in single stages.
Henri started his competitive career in Karts, but once he moved onto cars proper, his grounding was wide and varied. He drove saloon cars - where he was the Finnish Cup Champion, and then he switched to single seaters (Formula V) and won one round of the Scandinavian Championship. He became the Finnish FVee champion in 1977.
Rallying was denied him initially due to Finnish legislation on new drivers - hence his exploits on the circuits instead. For the first year after obtaining his license Henri was limited to 80 kph on the open road (50 mph) and so had to wait until he was 19 to compete in his first rallies. His first major event was the 1975 1000 Lakes, where he competed in a Simca Rallye 2, partnered by Antero Lindquist.
Under pressure from his family about the safety aspect of circuit racing, he switched to rallying full time. His first major result was in the 1977 1000 Lakes, where he took the fifth place. He returned to the world scene in 1978, driving two events (Portugal and Acropolis) for Citroen. He didn't finish either event, but he was quick off the mark, and impressed a lot of people. This led to being offered a privateer Porsche for his home event (1000 Lakes) and a semi-works Chrysler for his first visit to the UK's premier rally, the Lombard RAC. Henri finished 9th, and thus began his love affair with British forests in November.
Other one-off works and semi-works drives followed, alongside the campaigning of privately-run Chryslers and Ford Escorts on UK and European and WRC events. In 1980, after winning the Arctic Rally, he came to Britain to contest the Open series as team mate to Guy Frequelin and Russell Brookes in the Talbot team, with Antero Lindqvist as his co-driver. He also drove in selected WRC rounds, managing a fifth place on that years San Remo.Frequently faster than his more experienced colleagues, his performances were however, somewhat inconsistent until the team decided to replace Antero with first Neil Wilson and then by Paul White. The big breakthrough came on the RAC rally, where he outdrove Frequelin and Brookes to win the rally convincingly in a car that wasn't expected to do that well on the event. At just 24 years of age, he was the youngest winner of a world championship rally. Jari-Matti Latvala was able to beat his hero´s record to become the youngest ever winner of a WRC event in Rally Sweden 2008.
In 1981, Henri was signed up for a full WRC programme with the Talbot squad, but the car was no longer truly competitive against the fledgeling group B machinery. Despite the performance handicap, he still managed second places on both the San Remo and Portuguese Rallies as well as a 5th place on the Monte Carlo Rally. He also had a new co-driver, Fred Gallagher, later of Juha Kankkunen fame.
1982 brought a move to the Rothmans-sponsored Opel Europe team, where his team mates were Walter Rohrl, Ari Vatanen and Jimmy McRae. He managed 3rd on the Acropolis, 5th on the San Remo and 3rd on the RAC, all in the Ascona 400. He stayed with Opel until the 1984 season, achieving little success because of the Opel's lack of pace compared to the all-conquering Audis.
In 1984, Toivonen had two rides: he drove a Rothmans-sponsored Porsche 911 in the European championship, and he ran a works Lancia 037 with limited success. 1985 saw Toivonen staying with the Lancia team, with Markku Alen as a teammate. By this point, the 037 was well behind Peugeot and Audi in terms of performance. The team was pinning their hopes on their new Delta S4. The S4 completely changed Lancia's fortunes. Its first event, the 1985 RAC, saw Toivonen, Alen, and Lancia completely crush the opposition.
1986 started as 1985 had finished. Toivonen looked set to run away with the title. He dominated the Rallye Monte Carlo and that victory was very emotional. It was exactly 20 years earlier when his father Pauli had won the same rally.
Then, tragedy struck; On the 18th stage in the Tour de Corse, Toivonen's Lancia Delta S4 simply exploded after it left the road while leading. What little remained of the car was unrecognizable. Toivonen and his American co-driver, Sergio Cresto, were killed in the crash. It remains the most bleak day in modern rallying. Group B and Group S were cancelled immediately following this crash. Henri Toivonen will not be forgotten; it's a shame he never won the title he so richly deserved. The greatest of them all?