Monday, January 30, 2017

HENRI TOIVONEN


Henri Toivonen was born on 25 August 1956 in Jyväskylä, the spiritual home of rallying in Finland

After making his WRC debut in 1975, Henri shoved his way into public consciousness when he powered his small Talbot Sunbeam Lotus to victory at the 1980 Lombard RAC Rally, beating his more experienced Mikkola and Makinen in the process.
Drives with the Opel team followed, but it was in 1984, when Toivonen  was recruited to the  lancia factory team   to drive the Italians’ beautiful but increasingly out-dated Group B-spec 037, that Toivonen cemented his legacy.



Toivonen managed two podiums in the rear-wheel-drive 037, including third place in front of his home crowd at Rally Finland. Then, at the tail end of the 1985 season, Lancia wheeled out the 037’s replacement, the brutal, 550bhp, four-wheel-drive Delta S4, and Toivonen found his wings.


“In my opinion, Henri was the one who best interpreted the S4,” Lancia’s 1980s team manager  N. Russo

 “It was a difficult car. I’m not saying the other drivers didn’t get a feeling for the S4, but Henri had something more. A very special feeling.”

The Tour de Corse was next for Lancia. Toivonen arrived with flu. Despite his fevered state, the Finn dutifully pushed his Lancia to its limit. As he negotiated the Delta towards the starting line of stage 18, aiming to increase his lead and claim his 13th stage win of the rally, he grumpily told a journalist that he was exhausted at having to control his vicious Lancia on the tight Corsican roads.
He and American co-driver Sergio Cresto left the road, plunged down a ravine and were killed in the ensuing fire.
Toivonen’s light had gone out, but his legacy refuses to be forgotten.





Henri had a very special feeling with the Delta S4Ninni Russo team manager of Lancia’s WRC squad in the 80s,


 Toivonen speaks with Lancia boss Ninni Russo © Ninni Russo Personal Archive

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