Legendary flying Finn Markku Alèn was born in Helsinki. He passed his driving licence at 18 in 1969 and, the following day, he finished second in his first ever Ice Race (his father was a regular competitor in this popular form Scandinavian racing) and later in the year, he started his first 1000 Lakes Rally in a Renault 8 Gordini.
He continued racing in the popular Finnish Ice Racing Series in 1970, becoming National Champion.
After a number of rallies in private Volvos and Fords, Markku became a Fiat works driver in 1974 and stayed with the Italian team for 15 years, thus earning the reputation of being the most Latin of the Nordic drivers.
In an international career lasting over 30 years, Markku built one of the greatest records of rallying history. He started 129 WRC events, winning 20 of them and scoring 840 points.
Despite this, he was never crowned World Champion. He did win the 1978 FIA Drivers Cup (forerunner to the Drivers World Chmpionship introduced in 1979) and can be considered as the main factor in Lancia's 1983 World Manufacturers title against the mighty Audi team. He was in fact also World Champion for eleven days in 1986 after winning the Olympus Rally. But shortly after, the FISA decided that the points of the San Remo Rally (which Markku had won) would not be included into the WRC standings and handed the title to his arch-rival Juha Kankkunen. After this rather controversial episode, Markku remained three more years with Lancia, winning his last WRC event at the 1988 RAC Rally.
He then drove selected rallies with Subaru and Toyota, also doing a lot of testing work for the two makes who used his skills to progressively become two of the most successful makes of the 1990s.
A big crash at the 1993 1000 Lakes Rally finally persuaded him to stop competing on a regular basis in the WRC. Many were surprised when he then decided to try his hand at Touring Cars through the DTM/ITC series. But it must be remembered that during his Lancia years, Markku started a handful of World Sportscar events (notably at Le Mans in 1980) and twice won the Giro d'Italia. However, he could not benefit from a top-team car and had to be happy with Italian privateer Giani Giudici's Alfa's. Results were predictably disappointing, and for the 1997-98 seasons he went back to his roots, Ice Racing in the French Andros Trophy. Now at the wheel of a factory Opel, Markku was one of the top performers of the series for two years, scoring several podium finishes.
After celebrating his 50th birthday in February 2001, Markku decided to compete one more time in his home event, the 1000 Lakes Rally (of which he is the best performer ever with 6 wins and 10 other podium finishes). At the wheel of a private Ford Focus WRC, the veteran driver finished a creditable 16th overall.