Mouton by nine seconds was frustrating.
“I know that my time will come,” he
shrugged. “But when…?”
Very few drivers at that time had the will
or ability to offer a challenge to Audi. Yet
Toivonen was always in its face, never willing
to accept the overwhelming odds science
provided every time the flag dropped.
He could have shaved a season off his
waiting time had he not turned down Jean
Todt’s offer of an AWD Peugeot for 1984.
Toivonen wasn’t convinced the 205 T16
would arrive on time and put his eggs in
David Richards’ basket. Porsche’s 959,
Richards assured him, was just around the
corner. It wasn’t. More waiting...
Toivonen’s natural flair for loose surfaces
was obvious. Unlike many Finns, his pace
on asphalt was just as pronounced – as a
rampaging, minute-plus win over Opel
team-mate Ari Vatanen on the 1983 Manx
would testify. For further proof, witness a
televised F3 race at Thruxton in fall ’ 82,
where he finished fourth for Eddie Jordan’s
team, albeit a respectable distance behind
eventual winner Ayrton Senna.
And then, finally... December, 1984.
Breakthrough. Toivonen helps Lancia pull
the covers off its future: the Delta S4.
Group B is into its second season, Peugeot’s
205 has overtaken Audi, but now Henri’s
got a car to communicate his potential.
As a warmup, there were just a handful
of rallies in a Lancia 037 through 1985 –
partly because of a vertebrae-cracking
Costa Smeralda shunt mid-season.
Toivonen’s head was locked into a frame
to make sure he couldn’t move a muscle
for six weeks. It didn’t stop him playing
tennis mid-way through his recuperation,
frame or no frame. Sitting still, not
competing, wasn’t for Toivonen...
November came. After what felt like a
five-year holding pattern since winning the
RAC in a Sunbeam, he was handed the keys
to his own future. The S4 gave plenty of
niggles on its debut, but when the front diff
did its thing and the supercharger whistled
its tune, there was no stopping him. He
was master of the machine he’d longed for.
Monte Carlo, the 1986 WRC season-opener a couple of months later,
confirmed Toivonen’s time had begun.
A road accident on the way out of
Burzet was a minor distraction early on;
his speed through an increasingly wet
final night quite breathtaking. He
destroyed Timo Salonen and his 205 to
take a commanding victory in the Alps.
A dropped valve forced him out of
Sweden and he withdrew – along with the
other factory drivers – from Portugal
following the death of three spectators at
the scene of a first-stage crash.
So, on to Corsica.
Toivonen’s ducks were lining up nicely:
his marriage with Erja was back on track
(after a misdemeanor with Miss Finland)
and his career was everything he’d been
waiting for. The world was at his feet.
He certainly looked to have Corsica in
the bag. Midway through the event, and
despite suffering from ’flu, he was almost
three minutes clear and driving beautifully.
Malcolm Wilson had retired his MG Metro
6R4 early on. His wife, Elaine, and co-driver
speed delivered a
podium on the 1984
1,000 Lakes Rally in
an outmoded Lancia
Rally 037 (ABOVE).
Results like that
convinced the Lancia
brass he should be
part of its lineup with
the all-wheel drive S4. In fall 1982, Toivonen finished fourth in an
Eddie Jordan Racing Formula 3 Ralt RT3 at
super-fast Thruxton, but was overshadowed
by the debutant winner, Ayrton Senna...
WHEN HENRI WENT RACING...