Timo Mäkinen’s start in international rallying came in the 1959 1000 Lakes Rally in a Triumph TR3, co-driven by his brother Harri. He went on to rally many British marques but became a household name after the 1962 RAC Rally when he won the class whilst driving a works Mini Cooper for Stuart Turner, BMC team manager of the day. Stuart remembers how the discovery of the flying fin came about with some fondness, “The local Morris dealer from Helsinki called into my office in Abingdon,” said Turner. “He told me he was supporting a young lad and it would help him get publicity if I could find him a drive on the 1962 RAC.”
Mäkinen was to remain on Stuart Turner’s team in a programme of international rallying that mixed Minis with Austin Healey’s 3000s throughout the early 1960s. The first big win came on the Tulip Rally in 1964, followed by a Monte Carlo and Coupe des Alpes win the following season. In 1965 he returned to the RAC to claim second place in an Austin Healey 3000.
In 1967, Timo Mäkinen found himself the subject of rallying mythology and legend when drove his Mini at a high speed through the famous Ouninpohja stage of the 1000 Lakes with the bonnet up. He later explained that the leather straps holding the bonnet down on his Mini were not thoroughly tightened, and they opened after a few rough bounces. “We did about 12 of the 25 kilometres like that,” said Mäkinen. “I kept trying to put my head out of the window, but the crash helmet was too big! I threw the car sideways this way and the other to try and get a view from the side windows.” Despite all that, Mäkinen was third fastest and also won the rally overall, for the third year in a row!
When BMC became British Leyland in 1968, Stuart Turner moved to Ford and Mäkinen went with him and it was in the Ford RS1600 and RS1800 that Makinen dominated the RAC Rally from 1973 to 1975.
His talents were not just limited to international rallying either. He was successful in circuit racing when he raced Mini Coopers in the Bathurst 500 road race in Australia. He finished 6th outright and 3rd in class in 1965 co-driving with English rally driver Paddy Hopkirk. Then, as the decade came to a close he tried his hand in boats winning the very first Round Britain Powerboat Race in 1969 with not one but three V8 engines powering his boat!
After losing his rally seat in the late 1970s he joined co-driver Jean Todt, and the partnership lead to success in African marathons rallying the Peugeot in a V6 504 Coupe. His return to BL marques came in 1980 when he competed a handful of times in the Triumph TR7V8. His well known works TR7V8 wore the numberplate HRW 251V and was the last new car built by the Abingdon Works. Also driven by Per Eklund and John Buffum.
In recent years, Timo Mäkinen was inducted into the Rally Hall of Fame in 2010 along with Carlsson, Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen.
The first of the ‘Flying Fins’ Timo Mäkinen was known and loved for his fun filled outlook on the sport and his extremely adaptable driving style. A photographers friend due to his excessive use of sideways sliding and his masterful pioneering of left foot braking ensure his place in motorsport history for the rest of time.
Timo Mäkinen (right) with Paul Easter (left) in 1966