What does the internet say?- The death of Henri Toivonen
Henri Toivonen known for his fearless driving at a young age.He started his rallying career in 1975 at1000 lakes rally and ended his career in 1986 at the rally of Tour De Corse with a tragic death after his lancia s4
slid off the tight left hander,but is it true?Did his s4 actually slid off the road? well this is what the internet
he 1986 Tour de Corse, a world rally on narrow and very twisty mountain roads around the island of Corsica, began on Thursday, 1 May. Toivonen had a sore throat and was suffering from the flu, but he insisted on driving after having lost his championship lead during the last three rallies due to retiring the car in Sweden, the Lancia team withdrawing from the tragic Portugal event and Toivonen not even competing in the Kenyan Safari Rally. According to several sources, he was also taking medicine to treat fever. Despite his ill health, he was taking stage win after stage win and leading the rally by a large margin. After the first leg, Toivonen commented:
“This rally is insane, even though everything is going well at the moment. If there is trouble, for sure, I am completely finished.”
Toivonen was complaining about the car being too fast and powerful for a rally like the Tour de Corse. He found it very hard to keep the 600 hp Lancia balanced on the road and admitted it was very exhausting. A number of other rally drivers driving other Group B cars in the rally shared his concerns, and in a short interview before he steered his Lancia into the 18th stage, Toivonen made a comment which would remain his last words in public:
“Today, we have driven more than the whole distance of the 1000 Lakes Rally (Finnish Rally). After 4 hours of driving- it’s hard to keep up with the speed. So, with a modern car like this, it’s just impossible to race here. It’s physically exhausting and the brains can’t keep up with it anymore. “
During the second leg, on Friday, 2 May, at the seventh kilometre of the 18th stage, Corte–Taverna, Toivonen’s Lancia went off the side of the road at a tight left corner with no guardrail. The car plunged down a ravine and crashed on its roof. The aluminium fuel tank underneath the driver’s seat was ruptured by the trees and exploded. The fuel tank was not protected by a skid plate, an item used mainly on gravel rallies, which was not fitted for the all-asphalt Tour de Corse. The explosion happened within seconds of the crash, and Toivonen and his co-driver, Sergio Cresto would not have time to get out if they were still alive. The fire caused by the explosion was so intense that the Delta S4, built of fast-burning kevlar-reinforced plastic composite, was unidentifiable as a car afterwards. Both Toivonen and Cresto died in their seats. Toivonen left behind wife Erja (married in 1982) and two young children, son Markus and daughter Arla, while Cresto was single with no children.
Toivonen’s crash remains a mystery because it had no close witnesses. Although it was caught on tape by a spectator further down the stage, it proved to be impossible to determine the cause of the crash from the footage. No race marshalls were close to the scene to notice the black smoke and no-one at the race finish knew about the crash. Toivonen’s team only started to fear something might have happened after he failed to arrive from the stage on schedule. The next rally crew through the stage then mentioned they had seen some black smoke. By the time the emergency vehicles arrived on the crash scene, they could only put down the flames, which had been fanned by breezes. Lancia engineers and technicians could not determine the cause of the crash because the remains of the car were so charred.
Walter Röhrl later confirmed that Toivonen was taking medicine for his flu. In a later interview with Motorsport News, fellow driver Malcolm Wilson claimed that since the neck injuries sustained in his 1985 Costa Smeralda crash, Toivonen had suffered from random blackouts but did not tell his team because he did not want to lose his place at Lancia. At least one person who attended the aftermath of the crash reported that there were no skid marks on the tarmac, fuelling speculation that Toivonen could have suddenly lost consciousness at the wheel, but the cause of the crash is still unknown
Within hours of Toivonen’s crash, Jean-Marie Balestre and the FISA decided to ban Group B cars from competing in the 1987 season. The planned Group S was also cancelled and manufacturers were stuck with cars they could not race. Audi and Ford withdrew from Group B racing immediately, but other teams competed until the end of the season. The Tour de Corse continued the next day and Bruno Saby won with his Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 E2. Prior to Santos’ and Toivonen’s crashes, many commentators and drivers had warned of accidents resulting from drivers simply being unable to control their powerful cars. FISA was criticised for recognising the problem too late. A FISA investigation later proved that drivers’ reactions were too slow to keep up with the speed of the Group B cars, and drivers’ eyes could not adjust their focus between the fast corners, resulting in tunnel vision.However, due to the high speed of the cars, rallying was more popular among spectators than ever. FISA had to face criticism also for overreacting to Toivonen’s accident. John Davenport, author and former rally co-driver, stated in 2004 that “Group B could have been tamed. They were only unsafe in so much as the fuel system, which caused Toivonen’s death, and the crowd control needed changing – it wasn’t the actual cars.” Group B cars have been described as “too fast to race.”
Toivonen was known as a competitive driver both on loose (gravel, dirt, sand, snow and ice) and tarmac surfaces, and he found it difficult to choose between circuit racing and rallying.After becoming a rally driver, he still competed in some circuit racing events, successfully in two World Sportscar Championship events and also in a few races for Eddie Jordan’s British Formula Three Championship team. Jordan called Toivonen’s performances “incredible” and compared him to Ayrton Senna. After Toivonen’s death, Jordan weighed in his chances in Formula One:
“I don’t know if he would have become a champion in Formula One. It always takes a lot of luck, and now one can doubt if he would have been granted that. But he would have won Grands Prix – of that I’m absolutely sure.”
During his World Rally Championship career, Toivonen competed in 40 world rallies, gathering three wins, nine podium places, 185 stage wins and retiring 22 times. With only wins and retirements in the last five of his rallies, he was at the peak of his career in the Lancia Delta S4, after finally finding a car that was both competitive and suitable for his driving style. However, Toivonen admitted having problems with the car: “I may have won the RAC Rally with Lancia, but I just did not know how to drive it. It seemed to have a mind of its own.” Lancia team boss Cesare Fiorio later claimed that Toivonen was the only driver who could really control the Delta S4. Toivonen often complained about the S4 during TV interviews, often saying the car was difficult to drive- particularly on tarmac- where more power could be put down, therefore making the car faster in such conditions.
In a Henri Toivonen obituary, titled Rebel With a Cause, published in Motor five days after Toivonen’s fatal accident, rally author Martin Holmes named him a “rebel driver”, and proof that young drivers can be successful in rallying, a sport which had previously been dominated by older, more experienced drivers such as fellow Finn Hannu Mikkola, Swede Stig Blomqvist and German Walter Röhrl. However, Toivonen could not achieve the necessary level of consistency to avoid a number of high speed accidents. Prior to the introduction of the Delta S4, he was known for his ability to make up large amounts of time in single stages. This led to a number of stage wins but also to several bad accidents resulting from driving mistakes. Toivonen’s career almost ended in early 1985, when he was nearly paralysed in the Rally Costa Smeralda accident – 1985 would have been his first full WRC season, excluding the extremely arduous endurance events in Africa- the Safari Rally and the Ivory Coast Rally for which he was never entered in his career- in actual fact, Toivonen never did a single rally outside Europe- not even the Safari Rally, which was considered one of the most prestigious rally events up until 2002, when it was taken off the WRC calendar. The World Rally Archive’s Hall of Fame now names him an “icon for the one of the most controversial periods of rallying.”
2007 Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium.
Toivonen was buried in Espoo, where his family moved from Jyväskylä when Toivonen was still very young. In Corsica, a marble slab dedicated to him and Sergio Cresto was placed at the curve where Toivonen drove out. The memorial place always has an unopened bottle of Martini, which is a reference to Toivonen’s Martini-sponsored Lancia factory team. A local resident puts new flowers by the slab every day. In July, the Rally Marca Trevigiana in Italy was titled “Memorial Henri Toivonen” in honour of Toivonen. The rally was stopped after a fatal accident on the fourth stage. In 1988, former rally driver and arguably the most successful female race car driver in history, Michèle Mouton, organised the first Race of Champions to commemorate Toivonen’s death. The Race of Champions was originally restricted to rally drivers, but became even more popular with the introduction of Formula One and NASCAR stars. The Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy is still awarded to the winner of the individual event every year.
Another trophy bearing Toivonen’s name was the Henri Toivonen Grand Attack Trophy, which was awarded by Peugeot’s Rally Challenge, organised by Des O’Dell, “to the driver who most embodied the spirit shown by the young Finn.” In 2006, Toivonen was honoured at the Neste Oil Rally Finland. An exhibition in memory of him was opened on 17 August in the Rally HQ Jyväskylä Paviljonki. The interviewing event was attended by his former team mate Markku Alén, former co-driver Juha Piironen, current Ford factory team boss Malcolm Wilson and his brother Harri Toivonen. Harri Toivonen quit his racing career in 2002, ending the 40-year racing history of the Toivonen family.
Thanks to wikipedia
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