Timo Makinen 1938 - 2017

An archetypal and proud Finn, Timo Makinen started competing with brother Harri in a Triumph TR3 and their first 1000 Lakes Rally gave them third in class, just behind a couple Saabs driven by Erik Carlsson and Rauno Aaltonen. Timos sublime driving talent was quickly spotted by the Helsinki Morris dealer, who rang Stuart Turner; then the BMC competitions manager and asked if he could give Makinen some works support and publicity. Typically, Turner followed this good advice and the rest is etched in rallying folk lore. A works Cooper was provided for the 1962 RAC Rally and Makinen responded with a class win.

Turner had seen enough and lost no time in securing Makinens signature on the bottom of a BMC contract for 1963, mixing his steeds during that inaugural year between Minis and Austin Healey 3000s. The first international win came in 1964 on the Tulip Rally and victory on the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally kick-started the following season. With Paul Easters steady influence alongside him Makinen scored an emphatic win in a Group 3 1275S, his closest competition being Eugen Bohringers Porsche 904 but some 20 minutes behind in second.

Continuing to repay BMCs faith in him, Makinen scored back to back wins in Monte Carlo January 1966 but was then famously stripped of his win, with contrived and spurious charges made by the French scrutineers that centred on the ability of his Mini Cooper headlights to dip properly, as if this had in any way enhanced the performance of the winning car. As a result, Makinens rightful victory was handed to Citroen driver Pauli Toivonen, a true sportsman who always remained extremely unhappy to inherit his win by nefarious means and later went to strenuous lengths to avoid the regal prize giving ceremony and the awaiting Prince Rainier.

In 1966 the disappointment of the Automobile Club de Monacos distorted interpretation of the Monte Carlo Rally rules was more than compensated for by Makinens second successive 1000 Lakes win and later in 1967 he and co driver Pekka Keskitalo become the first crew to achieve a hat trick of wins on their demanding home event.

Sideways Minis became synonymous with Timo Makinen, who along with other Finnish drivers pioneered and executed the revolutionary and unthought of technique of left foot braking, but he famously reasoned that with just about 100bhp to use, he rarely saw the need to actually lift the accelerator from the floor, once steering the car from the rear had been mastered.

Throughout Timo Makinens career, Stuart Turners name has become intrinsically linked and when BMC lost momentum, Turner left and worked at Castrol for a short time before joining Ford for the second act of his successful team management career. Once at the Blue Oval, Turner astutely recruited Makinen and when Timo finally got behind the wheel of one of Fords sensational RS1600 Escorts, finally in a car with the power and potential with which to deliver his undoubted, world class ability and as a result, Makinen dominated the RAC Rally from 1973 to 1975 with the late lamented Henry Liddon co driving.

As a result of Fords relentless drive to keep winning and its constant desire to recruit the best of the current crop of international drivers, Timo lost his seat at Ford to Bjorn Waldegaard in 1977 but undeterred, Makinens adaptability and versatility enabled him to morph into a classic long-distance racer and joined by co driver Jean Todt, the pair became regulars on the African marathons for Peugeot in a V6 504 Coupe.

There was always far more to Timo than just rallying and eager to try anything with an engine, he won the inaugural round Britain powerboat race in 1969, but only after convincing his boat builder to install a third V8 motor on the back of his boat. He was also a useful racing driver, starting in his native Finland during his formative years in a Jaguar D type but also at other times during his career, including racing a Mini Cooper for BMCs Australian distributors in the 1965 Bathhurst 500 road race where he finished 6th overall and 3rd in class with Paddy Hopkirk and again in 1967, finishing 7th overall and 3rd in class with Australian co-driver John French.

In 1994, Mäkinen made a brief and final return to international rallying in a Mini to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Paddy Hopkirks 1964 Monte Carlo Rally victory but was forced to retire his car on the second stage with a fuel system problem. He also made several appearances at the Goodwood Revival and Festival of Speed meetings, including the rally stage where he always remained a firm favourite with the knowledgeable crowd.

The writer vividly remembers being at a Ford Sport seminar in Cardiff during the early 70s when Timo was a part of the Ford celebrity panel and his only chivalrous concern after the Q & A forum was over was picking the winning tickets belonging to female fans in the audience when drawing the raffle and, on viewing the overflowing bucket of tickets loudly asking the compare - Where the ladies are?
The quintessential rally driver, Makinen was largely responsible for the evocative and much used title Flying Finns, describing an elite category of drivers from a small nation who seem to have dominated rallying since the 1960s and Timo must be credited with much of that early success.

On May 4th 2017 we lost a true gentleman and legend of motor sport, Timo Makinen, the rally drivers rally driver.
Ken Davies

5th May, 2017