A new work by Esa Illionen, Toivonen: Finland’s Fastest Family, focuses on Harri, Pauli and Henri Toivonen, the latter of whom was on-course to win the World Rally Championship before his fatal accident in 1986.
Motorsport, regrettably, is littered with ‘what ifs’. What if Jim Clark’s F2 Lotus hadn’t speared off-track at Hockenheim in 1962? What if Gilles Villeneuve hadn’t taken his Imola frustrations into qualifying at Zolder in 1982? And, from the world of rallying, what if Henri Toivonen hadn’t competed on the Tour de Corse in 1986?
Toivonen, the Fast Finn predominantly known for his ferocious speed on the rally stages, was only 29 years old when he met his fate in the Lancia Delta S4 that fateful day in Corsica. For many, his speed and dedication marked him out as a World Rally Champion of the future, and yet he would never get the chance to enjoy the laurels around his neck.
Famous performances such as the RAC Rally in 1980 (which, until Jari-Matti Latvala’s victory on Rally Sweden 28 years later, marked Toivonen as the youngest ever winner on a WRC event) and Rallye Monte Carlo in 1986 ensure Henri’s legacy lives on, as it does with Esa Illionen’s latest work to be published by McKlein, Toivonen: Finland’s Fastest Family.
The work covers not only Henri’s success on the stages but father Pauli – who was not only crowned European rally champion in 1968 but was also gifted the infamously controversial Monte Carlo Rally win in 1966 following the disqualification of the top three Minis – and Henri’s younger brother Harri, himself a prodigious talent in both rallying and sportscar racing, and a former 24 Hours of Le Mans competitor.
Interviews with team bosses, rival drivers and even Henri’s widow are published alongside a grand collection of period photography, leading up to that day in Corsica. What if?