Ford Escort RS 1800
Ford Escort RS 1800
"Works drivers Timo Mäkinen and Hannu Mikkola had Mk1-shaped Escorts they could use on Finnish events maintained by a dealer in Joensuu, not so far from Tuupovaara. I tended to hang around peeping though the door to get a glimpse of them.
One of the key people involved in preparing these cars was Ali Haimakainen. He also worked on my Opel in his free time and for the 1974 Itäralli I asked him to be my co-driver - hoping that this would make him forget how much I owed him. Yet, he still had to tow Hannu Mikkola's Escort back to Joensuu after the event, too.
We'd managed to push Hannu surprisingly hard in the rally and on our way back Ali took the risk of letting me briefly - and very secretly - try the Escort.
It was an overwhelming experience! I was so impressed by the power and everything and brought the Escort back eyes gleaming, hoping I could one day drive a car like that myself.
As fate would have it, it was a further development of that Escort that allowed me to impose my own handwriting, so to speak, on the world rally stage. Let me quote from the foreword I wrote to Graham Robson's splendid book ‘The Works Escorts:
‘For me, at this time, everything was a novelty, and I was discovering life - with Ford and the Escort. I always drove the Escort with the same enthusiasm as I live - flat out into each corner, and we'll see what happens. Living to the full left no time for tactics, because life is not a game, and it cannot be rehearsed. The panel beaters got plenty of practice, though...
The Escort suited my style as a glove fits a hand. It was so easy to drive that it must have guessed what I wanted to do. Side numbers were usually the first thing that spectators saw of my Escorts. And I had a smile on my face.
I felt as if I was the painter, who expresses his joy of life by painting. At times I was overwhelmed by joy, and a brush did not stay on the canvas. Looking back now, those setbacks were not defeats. They gave more depth to my life, and they kept my feet on the ground. Humility helps us extend our hands to each other in a big rallying family.'"