25/8/1956 - 2/5/1986
Henri started out racing saloons and Formula V until he could take up rallying full time. He won the RAC Rally in 1980 and in 1985, he also won the Monte Carlo rally in 1986. Henri died in a fiery accident on the Tour de Corse rally which resulted in the FIA banning Group B rally cars. Henri Toivonen died 36 years ago, he was 30 , He would have been 66.
Henri started his competitive career in Karts, but once he moved onto cars proper, his grounding was wide and varied. He drove saloon cars - where he was the Finnish Cup Champion, and then he switched to single seaters (Formula V) and won one round of the Scandinavian Championship. Henri then graduated to Formula Super-V, where he promptly won a round of the European series. He became the Finnish FVee champion in 1977.
Rallying was denied him initially due to Finnish legislation on new drivers - hence his exploits on the circuits instead. For the first year after obtaining his license Henri was limited to 80 kph on the open road (50 mph) and so had to wait until he was 19 to compete in his first rallies.
His first major event was the 1975 1000 Lakes (Rally of Finland) where he competed in a Simca Rallye 2, partnered by Antero Lindquist. Henri Toivonen was one of the most spectacular drivers in the world to watch. He was able to make up enormous amounts of time in single stages. Toivonen's Group B career started with Opel, in the Ascona, partnering Walter Röhrl. Toivonen won the 1980 RAC rally at the age of 24, which is still the record for youngest driver ever to win a round of the WRC.
He stayed with Opel until the 1984 season, achieving little success because of the Opel's lack of pace compared to the all-conquering Audis. In 1984, Toivonen had two drives, a Rothmans-sponsored Porsche 911 in the European championship, and a works Lancia 037 with limited success. 1985 saw Toivonen staying with the Lancia team, with Markku Alen as team mate. By this point, the 037 was well behind Peugeot and Audi in terms of performance. The team was pinning their hopes on their new Delta S4. The S4 completely changed Lancia's fortunes. Its first event, the 1985 RAC, saw Toivonen, Alen, and Lancia completely crush the opposition. 1986 started as 1985 had finished.
Toivonen looked set to run away with the title. He dominated the Rallye Monte Carlo and that victory was very emotional. It was exactly 20 years earlier when his father Pauli had won the same rally. Then, tragedy struck, on the 18th stage in the Tour de Corse, between Corte and Ponte Leccia, Toivonen's Lancia Delta S4 simply exploded after it left the road while leading. What little remained of the car was unrecognizable. Toivonen and his American co-driver, Sergio Cresto, were killed in the crash. It remains the bleakest day in modern rallying. Group B and Group S were cancelled immediately following this crash. In his honor the former driver Michelle Mouton organizes the yearly Race of Champions in Canary Islands, Spain.