Timo Mäkinen: one of the greatest ever rally drivers
In Formula One, 'flying Finns' are so-called because they're fast. In the world of rallying, they're not just fast, they're often genuinely flying, too. One of the originals, Timo MÃ¤kinen, has sadly passed away, aged 79.The reference books and online resources tend to big-up Helsinki-born MÃ¤kinen's sideways-to-victory hat-tricks in the RAC rally, in 1973, '74 and '75 piloting that ultimate Seventies rally weapon the Ford Escort RS, and in the 1000 Lakes rally in Finland, driving the equally fondly remembered giant-killer the Mini Cooper S, in 1965, '66 and '67. Like Ulster hero Paddy Hopkirk, who won the Monte Carlo rally in 1964 in one, MÃ¤kinen could work wonders with BMC's tiny front-drive wonder, not least figuring out that left-foot braking was a great way to maintain momentum in a car that only had 100bhp. For a while, nobody could touch them.It was BMC team boss Stuart Turner who gave the young Finn his big break in a works car outside his homeland, back in 1962's RAC rally, during which he scored a class win. He won the Monte back-to-back in 1965 and '66, although the second of these wins was stripped by the governing body over some nonsense to do with incorrect headlights. By this stage, Mini's rivals were getting resoundingly fed up with being beaten. It may not have been a coincidence.During the 1967 1000 Lakes rally, MÃ¤kinen also famously managed to finish the Ouninpohja stage third fastest despite having driven 12km of it peering past the bonnet, which had broken free of its retaining straps and become wedged against the windscreen. One wonders how much of that stage was tackled via the side windows... He also co-drove to a third place finish with Paddy Hopkirk in Australia's Bathurst 500 in 1965, and to another podium finish there two years later.When BMC canned its rally effort in 1968, MÃ¤kinen moved to Ford, and dominated the RAC rally. There were 14 international wins overall, and latterly some appearances in the Peugeot 504 in the gruelling rallies held in Kenya and the Ivory Coast, as well as drives in a BMW, Fiat and Toyota. Like others blessed with such supernatural speed and reactions, MÃ¤kinen was also a dab hand in other forms of competition\: he even won the first round-Britain powerboat race, co-piloting Avenger Too, in 1969.But it's his contribution to rallying for which we'll most remember him. For decades, the skill and physicality of Finnish drivers saw them absolutely dominate world rallying. Timo MÃ¤kinen set the template.