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GP Week : Issue 15
years of Escort competition. That snub brought out the strongest part of his character, his incredible power of determination. We were often to see this, albeit this time the determination was for revenge. He wanted to drive on the Monte Carlo Rally and, despite the difficulty of fitting his tall size into such a small car, and the fact that the Alpine factory traditionally never engaged foreign drivers, he secured a drive in a Renault Alpine A110. He scored his first major victory on that event and made quite a point. He went on to score a series of other major wins in 1971, and had there been a world championship in those days, he would have won the title hands down For a driver who became synonymous with Toyota competition, and who earlier had been well known for his exploits in a wide range of cars, his greatest rally victories were at the wheel of French cars. He even scored the very first world championship win for Peugeot while he was busy building up the Toyota team. He only ever won one event in a Toyota, the marque he did so much to establish. This was the 1973 BNU Rally in South Africa, the country he loved, and had intended to make his retirement home. The Safari Rally in 1975 was Toyota’s first world championship rally victory. He had a most special character. He never said an unworthy word, and his caution made journalists mad. Every time we asked a question he would pause endlessly before making a reply; it seemed like he never heard us. Phil Short, team manager for Toyota Team Europe, said the same.: “We would ask him a question and we used to think he never heard us. But all the time he was thinking of the best reply.” The Toyota team was a special place. It became a really big budget affair but it delivered the goods on the friendly level, as it did when the team was small. Malcolm Wilson said “he was a great driver and a great team manager. I was working in his team as a gravel note driver in 1987. I could see that he had created a family spirit in the team, and this is what I wanted to do as well if I ever found myself in his position. It went on to become a big team – but TTE was still a family.” Ove had the chance to work with many of the world’s great co-drivers, and each had their memories. Arne Hertz recalls that first Safari win: “We went into a deep water crossing far too fast but the engine never stopped. We drove out of the water … just. We reckoned if the car could survive that we could win, which we did.” But as Fred Gallagher, who won five world rallies with Toyota, recalled “you never quite knew what was at the back of his mind. He never opened up. You could never really tell how happy he was, or wasn’t!” Under his command, Ove’s team won 42 world championship rallies. There were tragedies as well as successes in his life. For Ove, no tragedy was so devastating as in Ivory Coast 1987, when the team’s communications aircraft crashed, taking the lives of young British co-driver Nigel Harris and Ove’s right hand man, and former co-driver Henry Liddon. It was a moment when Ove could for once not hide his feelings. There was team tragedy when the turbocharger crisis led to TTE being thrown out of the world championship in 1995. These were moments of disaster but he was strong enough, in business and in humanity, to survive. The final tragedy was the one that has just happened. At least Ove departed this life doing what he enjoyed most – driving for the fun of it. He died from injuries when the steering column impacted his chest – the last thing he would have known was that the car that hit him was a Toyota. WRC INSIGHT >> 31