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Anders Kullang, winner of the 1980 Swedish Rally, has drowned in an an accident near his holiday home in Thailand, iRally has reported.

Kullang, whose father was a priest, was from - appropriately - the Karlstad region of Sweden, and drove Minis, Volvo 544s and Opels during his early career.

He took part in the very first WRC round, the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally, and was Swedish national champion three times.

He was a very popular competitor, who joked that he was the son of a preacher man who drove like the devil. Kullang admitted he sneaked out of church when his father was preaching, to practise his driving.

His greatest rally success was winning the 1980 Swedish Rally, the first victory for the Opel Ascona 400. He could have added the Safari to his wins the following year but he hit a herd of cows and retired having led for two-thirds of the event. He retired in 1988 at the age of 40 but kept close to the sport.

Photo: Anders Kullang (centre) with Bjorn Waldegard (left) and Stig Blomqvist after winning the 1980 Swedish Rally.

Photo credit: http://sverigesradio.se

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