Last year a new tradition was started during Rally Finland when one of the ‘Flying Finns’ of the past was honoured. In 2006 that driver was Henri Toivonen, who was tragically killed in the 1986 Tour de Corse when his Lance Delta S4 left the road and burst into flames, killing Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto.

This year's hero is Timo Mäkinen, one of the original Flying Finns, whose driving helped put Finland and 'Finnishness' on the map in the 1960's and 70's.

The motorsport career of Timo Mäkinen (born in 1938) began in 1957 when he tried out racing on an ice track race on lake Lohjanjärvi, driving a Citroën Berline. The first hints of Mäkinen's true speed came in 1960 when he competed in Finnish national rallies with his mother's 850cc Mini.

A Finnish Mini dealer became interested, and thus Mäkinen took part in his first Rally Monte Carlo as early as 1962. The result was not that impressive but the Finn did set the fastest time on the final stage, driven on the Monaco Grand Prix track, and beat the BMC factory drivers.

That aroused the interest of the British manufacturer. Later that year Mäkinen got to drive a works Mini Cooper in the RAC Rally where, as a first-timer, he won his group and finished fifth overall.

This kick-started Mäkinen's rise towards international rally stardom. Two years later the combination of Timo Mäkinen and Mini had already become a concept in Europe. In 1965 Mäkinen won Rally Monte Carlo. Later that year he also secured the first of his three consecutive victories in the 1000 Lakes Rally.

In 1967 the legend of Mäkinen and Mini only grew in strength as pictures of the madcap Finn driving his Mini at a furious speed through Ouninpohja - with the car's bonnet open - spread around the world. Mäkinen was third fastest on that special stage, and he also won the rally.

During his long career Timo Mäkinen competed a total of 20 times in the 1000 Lakes Rally, also known as 'the Grand Prix on Gravel.' On four occasions he was presented with the winner's trophy.

If Mini and Mäkinen were a legendary pairing, the partnership of Mäkinen and Ford that began in 1968 can be regarded as almost as legendary. Mäkinen took part in the 1000 Lakes Rally at the wheel of a Ford in 1970 and 1972-1976. He finished 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively.

In 1973, driving a Ford Escort, Mäkinen secured his first RAC Rally victory and in the following two years continued his winning streak in the UK's biggest rally competition.

Whether it was a question of a big international rally event or of a small local club meet, Mäkinen always enjoyed driving. He was successful in both national and international competitions, and if rallying hadn't prevailed over his driving, he could have built a career in racing formula-style cars as well.

Timo Mäkinen is a living motorsport legend who excelled both on land and at sea. He was as fast racing powerboats as he was at the wheel of a rally or race car. During his career he scored several wins with different boats and set many route records.

"In my opinion Timo Mäkinen is the first Finnish motorsport superstar and he has played a key role in the creation of the the Flying Finn concept. It is therefore only natural that our choice this year is Timo Mäkinen," said Risto Laine, the Neste Oil Rally Finland Clerk of the Course.

The Finnish round of the World Rally Championship, Neste Oil Rally Finland, will take place from August 2-5.

The Flying Finns exhibition that showcases the career of legendary Timo Mäkinen, located in the Paviljonki Rally HQ, will be open throughout the rally weekend.


Timo Makinen competed in Australia in 1976 when he took part in the Southern Cross International Rally, based at Port Macquarie on the NSW mid-north coast.

Driving a works Escort RS1800, Makinen formed a two-car Ford team with Britain’s Roger Clark, but both cars suffered mechanical problems during the event.

Makinen’s car was stranded with a seized differential during the event’s second night, while Clark fared little better as the Mitsubishi Lancer of Andrew Cowan and the factory-backed Datsun 710s of George Fury, Rauno Aaltonen, Shekhar Mehta and Per-Inge Waldridsson proved to be too reliable.

Interestingly, Greg Carr drove a works Datsun 710 in the event, before being picked up by the Ford team the following season.

Makinen returned again in 1977, this time driving for the factory Datsun outfit, but any hopes he had of victory disappeared on the third night of the event when he left the road, losing 10 minutes.

He was eventually pulled back on the road by team-mate Fury, but later retired when he smashed the sump of his 710.

From RallySport Magazine’s perspective, perhaps the most memorable images of Timo Makinen are from a film made in the 1970s titled “The Flying Finns”. If features brilliant in-car footage of Makinen as he explained how to drive the Mini Cooper flat out, the technique of left-foot braking, and how to get the car a “little bit sideways”.

The film is still available to this day, and is a must for any collectors’ video or DVD library.

Photos: Australian Competition Yearbook 1977 & 1978, Illustrated History of the Works Minis

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