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JAZDEC

Kankkunen  Juha

Kankkunen Juha


Prezývka: KKK, Kankers
Štát: Fínsko Fínsko
Dátum narodenia: 2. 4. 1959
Disciplína: Rally, Rally, WRC


Juha Kankkunen, who at one time was the most successful driver in the history of WRC and still holds some unbreakable records, is deep down a very traditional Finnish rally driver. He hails from Laukaa, small municipality in Central Finland very close to Jyvaskyla where Rally Finland traditionally is based. His father, a farmer, also competed in rallies earlier and living in a farm offered plenty of room for young Juha to practice driving despite not having a drivers' licence. But most importantly - and here things start to break away from tradition - Juha's father was a friend with Timo Makinen, who arrived to Laukaa every summer to test and practice for the 1000 Lakes Rally.

Makinen recognized Juha's talents and was able to give valuable advice to young aspiring driver. In motorsports pure skill is not everything, unfortunately, and luckily for Juha he came to know another important Timo in form of Timo Jouhki. A member of wealthy family and a shrewd businessman, Jouhki was interested in rallying himself and his father Leo Jouhki had helped Hannu Mikkola to get started. With Jouhki's financial help, Juha was able to drive more and more, heading abroad to drive very early in his career.

Only after three WRC starts, Toyota Finland offered Kankkunen a chance to drive Bjorn Waldegard's old Group 4 rally car on some local events. From these, he produced four excellent results and this success snowballed into an works entry at 1983 1000 Lakes Rally - where he promptly finished sixth overall. Juha had now made his mark and Toyota began to invest into him. For 1984, he got to drive with Fred Gallagher and had an expanded programme, though at Toyota that meant relatively little as TTE had very limited programme of their own. Kankkunen's only result from 1984 was 5th overall at home but the really big break was coming next year.

For 1985, Toyota was able to offer already five WRC outings and first of those was the legendary Safari Rally. Kankkunen had no experience from there, starting for the first time so even though he was in a car capable of winning the event, a win was not expected. One by one other competitors encountered problems and fell away, leaving young Kankkunen against young Erwin Weber. German's luck didn't hold while Finn's did and so Juha arrived back to finish as the first driver to win gruelling Safari at first attempt - and also 4th youngest WRC winner at that time. Having tasted winner's champagne, Juha went on to win Ivory Coast as well.

For Juha, Toyota had been a good, family-like place to work and learn in - but unfortunately could not offer a competitive car or extensive WRC programme. Peugeot had lost Ari Vatanen in the nearly fatal accident in 1985 Argentina, leaving the team short of one top driver. Kankkunen hardly could resist what Jean Todt was able to offer, a good programme in championship winning team and so he signed for Peugeot for 1986 season. His arrival to the team was a bit similar than that of Timo Salonen's one year earlier, to learn and build experience thus allowing the more experienced team leader to go for the title.

But as it had gone between Vatanen and Salonen in 1985, things quite didn't turn out like that in 1986 either. While Salonen's fortunes took a dive, Juha had won three rallies by mid-season and was leading championship race with a handsome margin. Lancia's Markku Alen was second and the rest of the season turned into a tight rivalry not only between Juha and Markku but also Peugeot and Lancia. The year was marred with tragedies and tarnished with scandal at San Remo, which eventually meant that fate of the drivers' title was decided by FISA weeks after final rally of the season was over. Before that, Juha had almost lost his chances by going off in RAC Rally but hung to the title even though no further wins came along.

End of Group B also meant exit for Peugeot and Juha had to look for a new team for 1987. Lancia showed interest to him and perhaps a bit surprisingly Juha accepted, joining alongside his great rival Alen. As history would reveal, Lancia was both good and bad choice but above all, it was very educating stint for Kankkunen. Already in first rally with the new team, 1987 Monte Carlo he was at the receiving end of Cesare Fiorio's team orders which saw victory go to Massimo Biasion. Understandably Juha was not too happy about this, often recalling it as biggest disappointment in his career. Lancia offered him fewer starts but he exploited these chances better than in previous year, finishing on points on every occasion and only twice outside podium. By winning the final round of the 1987 season, Kankkunen became the first world champion able to defend and retain the title.

Despite the title, relations between Juha and Lancia weren't overly warm and for 1988 he decided to return back to Toyota. He knew that team would start the season with an uncompetitive car and that the new Celica GT-4, which would be debuted later, would take time and effort to develop. But that knowledge hardly helped as retirement after retirement followed during the year, leaving virtually nothing to remember the season for. 1989 started a bit better but by the time that first victory came in Australia, Juha had already signed a deal to return to Lancia.

Juha left the now developed and competitive Celica in the hands of Carlos Sainz and during 1990 season saw that decision to work against him. Lancia had, as usual, a large number of drivers arrayed against Toyota's relatively thin driving team and Juha had fewer opportunities to compete - in addition to suffering more retirements. With just one win, he was again third in the championship, sandwiched between team mates Auriol and Biasion. The next year seemed to belong to Sainz as well, after eight round of the season in Argentina, Spaniard had already won five events. But when Kankkunen finally, after having started his home rally 11th time, scored his first win at 1000 Lakes, his luck seemed to turn. He won twice more whereas Sainz crashed violently in Australia and scored only 18 points during the rest of the season, allowing triumphant Juha to become the first driver ever to win the drivers' title three times.

The 1992 season was the most consistent in Kankkunen's career, he started nine times and finished on podium every single time. Unfortunately, he only won once against Sainz's four and lost the title by a small margin. Having remained at Lancia for consecutive three years, for 1993 Juha again returned to Toyota. The team now had the second version of the Celica, the ST185 and both performance and reliability was on another level altogether while Lancia was represented in the WRC by semi-official Jolly Club entry. Again season started well and after having won Safari, Juha was leading the championship. Skipping Corsica and retiring from Acropolis, he had dropped to third going to Argentina. During practice, his long-time co-driver Juha Piironen suffered a stroke and Juha was left to compete the event with stand-in co-driver Nicky Grist on short notice.

To everyone's surprise, Juha and Nicky won. Another major surprise - and a record - came two rallies later when Grist had pre-arranged to co-drive with Armin Schwarz. Juha got Denis Giraudet to co-drive for 1000 Lakes and he won again. Wins with three different co-drivers, each of them of different nationality as well, is a feat that nobody has achieved during one season. By claiming two more wins, Juha's fourth championship title was sealed. 1994 was again a difficult year, Juha had a huge accident in Safari and despite scoring several good results during the remainder of the season, had to content with third in the championship. His win in Portugal was to be his last for the next five years.

Toyota Celica was getting aged against new breed of rally cars and in a bid to remain competitive, Celica was fitted with illegal turbo sometime during 1995 season. Team was caught in the act and got banned, their drivers being stripped of points and left with little to do for the next year. And so it was that Kankkunen only started three times in 1996, always in a local importer supported car. Then, 1997 he got an unexpected call: Ford had decided to drop Armin Schwarz and asked Juha to step in. Coming back to Ford which he hadn't driven since early days of his career, Juha was forced to play second fiddle to team leader Sainz and twice slowed down to hand the win over.

Next year Sainz went to drive new Toyota Corolla WRC and Kankkunen was left to head the team. Unfortunately, Escort WRC too was already aging car and was quite not capable of challenging for wins as Ford was already putting resources on planning the new car. Sadly enough, team also decided to sign Colin McRae to lead the team and Juha, who obviously wasn't happy to be again relegated to supporting driver, decided instead to switch to Subaru to fill McRae's place there. Alongside young and ambitious Richard Burns, Kankkunen helped the team to improve the Impreza WRC99. When the first win in five years was in his sights at Argentina, Juha went for it. Prepared to accept team orders after the last stage, he burst in tears when David Richards didn't want to implement orders in front of TV cameras and instead let Juha to keep his win. Burns obviously wasn't impressed but got his revenge by winning the next rally.

The last win for Juha came in 1999 Rally Finland, a fitting place to score it. Subaru got new version of the Impreza for 2000 but apparently Juha found that difficult to drive on the limit and perhaps the relations inside the team had been affected as well. After young Petter Solberg joined the team, it wasn't a big surprise that Kankkunen did not finally re-sign for 2001. Instead, he did one-off drive for Hyundai at Rally Finland and returned to the team to do majority of the events for 2002 before retiring for good.

WRC starts: 161
first: Finland 1979
latest: Great Britain 2002
Results wins: 23 (14.3% of starts)
second places: 32
third places: 20
total podiums: 75 (46.6% of starts)
points finishes: 103
total points scored: 1136 (drivers' championship points)
DNF's: 43 (26.7% of starts)
Stage wins: 700
WRC titles: winner of 1986 FIA World Championship for Drivers
winner of 1987 FIA World Championship for Drivers
winner of 1991 FIA World Championship for Drivers
winner of 1993 FIA World Championship for Drivers

First WRC event: 1979 Finland
First DNF: 1982 Finland
First scored point: 1983 Finland (6th)
First stage win: 1984 Great Britain (SS31)
First time led rally: 1986 Sweden (SS13)
First podium: 1985 Safari
First win: 1985 Safari