Timo Makinen (b. 1938)

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Timo Makinen (b. 1938)
Timo Makinen
Timo Makinen

Timo Makinen - The Brilliant Finn

Timo Makinen was one of the finest rally drivers to emerge from Scandinavia during the 1960s. His compatriots, Rauno Aaltonen, Simo Lampinen, Hannu Mikkola and Markku Alen, learned from Makinen. Born in Helsinki on 18 March 1938 Makinen gained an early grounding in motor vehicles because his father owned a large transport company.

He was soon racing around the countryside, attracting the notice of the police, but luckily he began chaneling his energy into rallying and ice racing in 1960. The most popular cars in Finland were, naturally enough, Saabs and Volvos, so he used them to good effect, although on one notable occasion he drove a D-type Jaguar in an ice race.

The natural driving ability of Makinen soon brought him to the notice of the Finnish importer for BMC who gave him various drives in local events and also employed him as a salesman. The importer recommended Makinen to the BMC factory when they were looking for new drivers and he joined the team to drive a Mini-Cooper in the 1962 RAC Rally.

Makinen spoke no English and had never driven in England before, but he took it steadily and won his class, a performance which gained him a full works drive for 1963. He drove an Austin-Healey 3000 in the 1963 Monte, winning his class, but he retired from most other events with mechanical problems. However, he again won his class and came fifth overall in the RAC Rally.

Teamed with Paul Easter

Makinen returned to a Mini-Cooper for BMC in 1964, first with the 1071cc model then with the 1275cc version, with which he won the Tulip Rally. Towards the end of the season he was teamed with a new co-driver, Paul Easter, who seemed to fit in well with Makinen, and they remained together for the remainder of Makinen's time with BMC. The year 1965 started off with a sensational victory when Makinen and Easter overcame appalling blizzard conditions on the Monte Carlo Rally to give their Mini-Cooper a great victory. He followed up with a win on the 1000 Lakes Rally and looked likely to win the RAC Rally in an Austin-Healey 3000, but he lost time and finished second.

In 1966 he again stayed with BMC and he once again 'won' the Monte, but the BMC team was disqualified because the organisers claimed that their lighting did not accord with the regulations. Most observers felt it was largely because the organisers simply did not want yet another British win - which would have made it three years in a row. However, Makenin followed up with another win on the 1000 Lakes, plus a win on the Three Cities and second place in the Polish Rally.

Timo Makinen in his Mini Cooper S which he drove to victory at the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally
Timo Makinen in his Mini Cooper S which he drove to victory at the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.

Timo Makinen at the wheel of his Escort RS, on his way to taking out the 1974 RAC Rally
Timo Makinen at the wheel of his Escort RS, on his way to taking out the 1974 RAC Rally.

Taking Out the Round Britain Power Boat Race

By 1967 the Mini-Cooper was nearing the end of its competition career, but Makinen was again leading the Monte, only to hit a large rock that fell into the road. However, he completed his hat trick of 1000 Lakes wins. The BMC Competitions Department was being run down in 1968 so Makinen had little to do, but he drove a Ford Escort Twin Cam in the RAC Rally, which he was leading until the car suffered mechanical trouble. It seemed that Makinen's interest in rallying had waned by 1969, because he turned to power-boat racing, winning the Round Britain race, but he signed for Lancia in mid 1969 and drove several rallies for them without success.

For 1970 his old BMC boss, Stuart Turner, moved to Ford and immediately signed Makinen again. He finished seventh on the Monte and second in the lOOO Lakes and won the Finnish Snow Rally, all in Escort Twin Cams, while he also recorded fifth place on the World Cup Rally. The years 1971 and 1972 were disappointing ones, for no real success came Makinen's way apart from a win in the Hong Kong Rally, but this was partly due to Ford's selective approach to rallies as they took in only a few events each year.

He finished eighth in the 1972 East African Safari in an Escort RS 1600, but generally he retired from most events with mechanical trouble. He stayed with Ford for 1973, driving an improved 2-litre Escort RS, finishing eleventh on the Monte, rolling the car out of the Safari, then winning the Finnish 1000 Lakes once again. Although he had opportunities to drive other cars he preferred to stick to the few events Ford did and spend the rest of his time powerboating.

Ford's 1-2-3 Victory in the RAC Rally

Towards the end of 1973 came arguably his greatest ever victory. Togther with co-driver Henry Liddon, Makinen spearheaded a Ford 1, 2, 3 victory on the RAC Rally. For the 1974 season Makinen again stayed with Ford, but the fuel crisis restricted the rally season tremendously, giving Makinen few events during the early part of the season. However, Ford gave him a car for the Arctic Rally on which he finished third and he followed up with second place on the 1000 Lakes Rally to his team mate Hannu Mikkola.

The 1974 season ended on a high note for Makinen, however, with another brilliant victory in the RAC Rally. In fact, Makinen went on to achieve his RAC Rally hat trick the following year, again with Ford. Only the legendary Erik Carlsson, who drove for Saab, could match that. The 1976 RAC was the one in which Makinen made his final appearance but he rolled his Escort in the Forest of Dean. In 1977, Makinen was driving for both Fiat and Peugeot but with limited success, However, at 39 he was still competitive, putting up some of the best stage times in Finland's 1000 Lakes rally.

Makinen may not have been the fastest, but he was certainly one of the greatest. No wonder then that, In 1994, he made a brief return as Mini celebrated the 30th anniversary of their 1964 Monte Carlo win by Paddy Hopkirk, who also participated in the race. Makinen retired on the second stage with a fuel system problem.
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