Kankkunen through the eyes of his co-driver


Fred Gallagher first met Juha Kankkunen down a firebreak in Northumbria’s Slaley Forest, SS21 of the 1983 RAC Rally.

“Henri [Toivonen] and I were surveying this Opel and wondering how the hell we were going to get it back on the road when this white thing passed overhead, at a fairly low altitude,” says Gallagher.

The UFO turned out to be a Toyota Celica Turbo and its pilot was a 24-year-old Finn touted as the next Henri Toivonen.

Gallagher was in his third season – one with Talbot, two with Opel – as Toivonen’s co-driver. Theirs had been a frustrating time in underpowered rear-wheel-drive cars against Audi’s turbocharged Quattro.

Toivonen’s career had lost momentum since his incredible 1980 RAC Rally victory – as a 24-year-old. Second places in Portugal and San Remo in 1981 – plus a 1983 Manx International win – were relative disappointments.

So there was a lot riding on his new deal with Lancia.

From the Archive: Spotlight on the Lancia Delta S4 and Integrale (October 1997)

“It was probably best that we went our separate ways, although it was a bit messy,” says Gallagher. “Henri was doing selected WRC events with Lancia, and David Richards [running a European Rally Championship campaign for Porsche with Henri (below)] wanted a separate co-driver for his programme.

“But I wanted to do all or nothing.”

Having missed an opportunity to join Team Toyota Europe in 1980 because of driver Tony Pond’s unmet demand for a right-hand-drive car, Gallagher jumped at a second invitation – even if it meant co-driving the inexperienced Kankkunen.

“Joining TTE was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says. “It was a very small but fantastic team. Henry Liddon and Ove Andersson were superb teachers. Plus I learned a lot from Björn Waldegård, who was completely open as a team-mate.

“It was the making of me.

“Juha and Henri were immensely different bar their natural talent. Juha was very laid back whereas Henri was exuberant. The Italians took Henri to their hearts – they loved him at Lancia – but he was inconsistent and there were lots of ups and down.

“Life was a lot easier with Juha.

“Henri hadn’t really grown up by the time he started winning rallies. He was driven hard by his father, Pauli, who was a tough guy and wouldn’t accept second best.

“That said, we were both learning. If I’d been the co-driver that I became with Juha by 1985 I’m sure I could have got more out of Henri than I did. I would have calmed the whole situation down. Been a bit more authoritative.

“If Henri was in the bar with the other drivers they would wind him up with talk of their pace note systems. Immediately he’d want to change his, and get frustrated when they didn’t work.

“Juha preferred to keep his simple. He made lovely notes that were easy to understand.

“With Henri, we’d finish the recce and have two packed days ahead of us writing notes. But if he heard that it had rained halfway across the country, he’d jump in a car and insist that we drive the stages again. It would make bugger all difference except that we wouldn’t finish the notes properly.

“Juha’s view would be that it was the same for everybody and that we should do the notes properly. He was more attentive, too.

“He crashed, of course. In our first year together we had accidents in New Zealand and on the RAC Rally. But in our second we won the Safari and Ivory Coast rallies – events that require intelligence and patience from a driver.”

Seeded at 21 for his first attempt at the Safari, Kankkunen was not expected to win – there were works entries from Audi, Peugeot, Lancia, Opel and Nissan – and he began the 3250-mile event cagily.

“Our tactic was to match the times of [five-time] winner Shekhar Mehta,” says Gallagher. “We knew our car was faster than his Nissan 240RS and that we could make a push towards the end.”

When most of the supercars hit trouble early, however, it became a battle for victory between the rugged rear-wheel-drive Toyotas, Opels and Nissans.

Kankkunen in the 1000 Lakes Rally, Finland 1993

Kankkunen lay third with 200 miles to go – Mehta had crashed out before TC65 (of 88) – and, despite a broken rear shock absorber mount, he pounced when the Manta 400s of Rauno Aaltonen and Erwin Weber suffered clutch/gearbox and engines troubles respectively.

“We’d been very cautious,” says Gallagher. “On the Monday morning after the rally we spent an hour driving through muddy puddles because Ove’s wife, who was doing the PR for the team, didn’t think the photographs of us on the event were spectacular enough.”

Even so, Kankkunen’s winning margin over runner-up Waldegård had been 32 minutes.

From the Archive: Look back at Henri Toivonen, 25 years on (August 2011)

In Ivory Coast they tied on time in a staged 1-2 finish, but Kankkunen got the nod because he’d been one minute faster through the designated tiebreak section during the first leg. It was said that neither driver knew which section this was.

“I knew, but kept it to myself,” admits Gallagher.

Kankkunen signed for Peugeot in 1986 and promptly won the first of his four world titles.

Gallagher remained with TTE to join forces with Waldegård. They won the Safari and in Ivory Coast that year, and won the Safari again four years later.

The Belfast-born co-driver has no regrets: “Ifs and buts. If I’d stayed with Henri I might have been killed with him. I prefer to deal with whatever is in front of me. Björn became my best friend in rallying and we had a very successful and pleasant time. I will happily lecture anyone about how good he was.

“I’ve sat with Kankkunen, Pond, Timo Salonen, Vatanen and Toivonen [above] too, and all of them operated at a level beyond my comprehension as a driver, so I couldn’t honestly say if Henri was quicker than Juha; I don’t see how anybody could.

“But I couldn’t see Henri becoming a multiple world champion like Juha.”

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