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GP Week : Issue 113
The accident which took the lives of Henri Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto, the only WRC rally winners to die in competition, happened on May 2,1986, 25 years before the start of the forthcoming Sardinia WRC event, in Corsica, the adjacent island in the Mediterranean. In his quiet way, Henri was the forerunner of the new younger breed of driver which now dominates the sport. A man before his time. Tragedies in rallying of this kind have always been rare, but it was by a very strange coincidence that Henri and Sergio died exactly one year after Lancia team driver Attilio Bettega died on the same event. Bettega’s Lancia 037 slid off the road, down an embankment, and impacted a tree. There have been many unconfirmed theories as to why Henri left the road in his Lancia Delta S4 but there are two inescapable factors. Firstly, Henri had been suffering from a head cold and had been given medicine from the team. Secondly, there have been many reports that Henri suffered momentary blackouts. I attended the scene of the crash some 2-3 hours after the accident and noted that there were no signs of anything unusual which might have caused the crash. There were gentle tyre marks leading to the outside of the bend, like the driver thought the bend would be less severe than it was. No sudden brake marks, no suggestions of mechanical failure. Roadworks since the accident mean that the bend is now a lot less sharp than it was, while the inside of the bend has been opened up so it is not blind. Henri’s car left the road and landed in a copse, where it exploded and was consumed by fire. Henri Toivonen was 29 years old when he died in that fearsome accident on the Tour de Corse in 1986. He had contested less than 40 world championship rallies, and had won three, but in his short life achieved a rare degree of perceived immortality in the sport. His years in the sport, however, were record-breaking and traumatic. When he won the RAC Rally in 1980, a quite unexpected result, he was the youngest driver at that time to win a world rally, but he was a very troubled character. I had the pleasure of knowing him for many years. The first time I was introduced to the 19 year-old was when he had travelled to the far north of Finland to watch his famous rally driving father Pauli in action. In those initial idyllic days, rally life was bright-eyed ... amazing. He had the chance of learning from many very special 24