Pentti Airikkala, one of the famed “Flying Finns” of Scandinavian and then worldwide rally fame, died in Berkshire, England, at age 64 after a long battle with cancer from which he had bounced back in his exuberant fashion. The Helsinki native competed in 36 World Rally Championship events over four decades, but was rarely a full-time rally driver. He drove many private cars as well as works Vauxhalls, Rothmans, Fords, Mitsubishis, Martini Lancias, Nissans, and others. He was the master of left-foot braking, and indeed turned that into a successful business, as his rally driving school was attended by not only amateurs but many professional drivers as well, among them World Champions Colin McRae and Richard Burns.
Pentti was a long-time British resident and loved the RAC Rally. One of his greatest successes was his victory in the 1989 RAC with the Mitsubishi Galant alongside codriver Ronan McNamee. Airikkala also won the British Rally Championship in 1979. Above all, he was a great storyteller and humorist. I visited him at home when he was recovering from serious surgery during his long struggle with cancer, and he literally said we had to stop laughing “because it hurt!” He was a great guy who will be missed.
By Ed McDonough