I’d like to add some memories of Henri Toivonen following your article last month.
At the time of his F3 try-out in 1982, I was involved with the Rothmans-backed factory Opel squad, and in the process of setting up the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team at Silverstone in a unit next to Eddie Jordan’s.
Henri had always been interested in doing some circuit racing, and when he was offered the chance, despite the fact that it was in conflict with his rally contract, we allowed him to take it up.
I always felt that he was more enthusiastic about circuit racing, but he was being very well paid as a rally driver and he had a clear career path ahead of him. In racing, on the other hand, he was going to have to start again, almost from the beginning.
He moved to England and lived in Marsh Gibbon in Oxfordshire, a few hundred yards from my house, and we spent a long time discussing what he wanted to do. There was a point in time when he could have gone in either direction, but it was clear from my perspective that he had to make a decision and, ultimately, that was to concentrate on his rally career.
Henri was relatively immature, despite the fact that he was married with two young children. He was a little bit torn between the responsibilities of a young family and the nomadic life he led travelling around the world being feted as the new prodigy of the World Rally Championship.
Like most top drivers, he was very self-centred and focused on his own personal goals. It was a very difficult environment for him – questioning whether he wanted to be a racing driver, where he clearly had the talent, or pursuing a rally career, where he was already highly successful — with the demands of a young family and the natural excesses of a young man who was being highly paid.
In reality, he was no different from a lot of other young racing and rally drivers of a similar age, and I am quite confident he would have gone through this phase and matured to be a very well-balanced individual like so many of his compatriots.
When he joined my Porsche team in 1984, it was an emotional decision because there were many better drives for him to take. His father, Pauli, had driven for Porsche and I’m sure this was a significant influence on him.
There was no-one quicker when the car was reliable and I still have some extraordinary memories of his successes in that year in the European Rally Championship. In my study at home I have a wonderful photograph of Henri standing in his Rothmans overalls alongside the Porsche, and have no doubt that had things been a little different he would have been world champion, and probably one of the greatest drivers of his era.
I am, Yours etc
David Richards, Team Principal, BAR
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