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Pentti Airikkala has died

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#1 Tim Murray

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 08:23

I'm very saddened to learn of Pentti's death. I became a fan of his mainly as a result of his great drive on the 1976 (?) RAC Rally, and then his performances in the works Chevettes. RIP Pentti.

Edited by Tim Murray, 01 October 2009 - 08:33.


#2 Stephen W

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 08:25

Very sad news indeed. He was a great extrovert and will be sadly missed.


#3 David Force

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 08:33

Sad news of the passing of a great character.

I remember having dinner with Pentti and failing miserably to keep up with his intake of fluids, mainly because he ordered pints two at a time and drank with both hands ! And it didn't seem to have the slightest influence on his stories of the old days or his intelligent grasp of modern rallying and F1.

They really don't make 'em like that anymore.


#4 Twin Window

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 09:35


Yes indeed, a real character. I'm truly shocked and saddened by this news.

#5 roblegin

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 09:39

Oh thats very sad. Great memories of Pentti giving it plenty in the DTV Chevettes in the 1970's. A very underrated driver.

#6 Hamish Robson

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 09:39

Very sad. Was fortunate enough to meet Pentti a few times when he drove for Ford in the early nineties. a lovely man and taken far too early.

#7 Paul Hurdsfield

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 09:48

Pentti was a fantastic spectacular rally driver, and all round good guy, always had time for the fans, he will be sadly missed

#8 Giraffe

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 10:06

Posted Image
By giraffe138
Posted Image
By giraffe138

Pentti pictured arriving in Nottingham's Market Square almost exactly 20 years ago to win the 1989 Lombard RAC Rally, and celebrating with co-driver Ronan McNamee.

#9 JSF

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 10:33

I had the pleasure of spending a week with Pentti in Cyprus for the 2003 WRC event. He was there for a holiday and to watch the rally, my friends rally tour company was asked to be his driver and i was out there helping out so we spent the week driving him to the stages and having fun in the evenings. What a great guy he was, the stories he could tell were hilarious about his days as a works driver, some of the things that went on were real eye openers too. He talked about writing a book on his life in rallying but i don't know if he managed to put pen to paper, it would make a fascinating read based on the things he talked about.

I've got a series of great photos of Pentti during that event, when we would meet up with Carlos and Colin at the stage starts you could see the respect and admiration everyone had for him.

Later in the year we went to the Finish Rally and Pentti made us very welcome there, he introduced us to Mikko's management and we went for a nice meal with them and met up at the stages for a laugh. It was great to then see him take to the wheel again at the Rally GB for one last time later that year. I last saw him at the motorsport show last year and he was wearing his usual big grin, he was a larger than life character and is a great loss to the Rally community.

RIP Pentti, one of the greats both as a driver and as a personality.

#10 LotusElise

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 10:56

Pentti was a regular poster to another forum I used to frequent. He was one of the most popular posters at the time.
His late-career RAC Rally victory was one of the last great giant-killings in modern motorsport. He will be missed.

#11 proviz

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 11:38

Wonder how many people knew Pentti had suffered a brain haemorrhage on the night of the first day of 1983 Lombard RAC Rally. He didn't have a drive for that event and we'd met him spectating early on the Sunday in Longleat. Then it all went quiet for a long time until he turned up to drive a works Nissan in the 1000 Lakes in the summer. In a post-rally chat he revealed that after driving home to Cookham Dean on that November Sunday he'd collapsed and, according to the doctor, had been lucky to survive.
Pentti said he wanted to keep quiet about the whole thing, because people might look at him differently if they knew. Not surprising, considering he had no plans to give up rallying yet.

#12 Gregor Marshall

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 11:47

Very sad news indeed, Pentti was a lovely chap (and a bloody good driver!!) and I knew he hadn't been very well recently but still a shock.


There is a big DTV reunion in November - he will be sadly missed.

#13 Ronnie792

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 09:22

Very sad news... sideways and always smiling! RIP Pentii..

#14 rx-guru

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 09:45

Watching you rallying was always a great pleasure!

Godspeed, Pentti! :cry:

#15 Phil Rainford

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 10:42

Sad news indeed ... the man was a legend

I was lucky to work with him on a number of occasions and can confirm that he lived life to the full!!

I will never forget one year at the Pirelli Rally we arranged for him to take out customers on an old airport in one of the cars that had been modified in order for him to teach his " left foot braking " technique

Half way through the morning the car cried enough and we found a hire car for him to continue his passenger rides.

However I will never forget the look on the passengers faces in the back of car the first time he tried a handbrake turn…..Pentti hadn't noticed that the hire car was a Citroen Xantia and of course the handbrake locked the front wheels…..while the front of the car dug in the guests in the back of the car were lifted about five feet into the air :)


#16 RTH

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 10:45

Oh dear sad news indeed, surely he could not have been more than in his early 60s? Do we know cause of death ?

A likeable colourful character, that memorable drive in the Galant on the RAC as very much the underdog.
rallying lacks cheerful , big personalities at present. He will be missed.

Edited by RTH, 02 October 2009 - 10:46.

#17 Giraffe

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 10:56

64 years of age;cancer.


#18 Doug Nye

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 12:37

Very sad news. Thoughts with his people now - yet another hero gone...but great memories will live on.


#19 JacnGille

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 12:43

Very sad news. Thoughts with his people now - yet another hero gone...but great memories will live on.


Truer words have never been uttered. :cry:


#20 Nanni Dietrich

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 12:52

Oh, god!

#21 Giraffe

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 13:54

Posted Image
By giraffe138

Celebrating that November evening in Nottingham in 1989, Pentti had stolen the Lombank RAC Rally with I think two stages to go from this legendary Spanish driver.......

Posted Image
By giraffe138

.....Carlos Sainz. Tellingly, it was the very last RAC / Rally of Great Britain to be run without pace notes; a truly great drive from a truly great driver.

#22 MegaManson

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 13:58

Never heard of him till now but he sounded quite a character


#23 wolf sun

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 20:37

That is very, very sad. RIP Pentti, true legend.

#24 Les Dalton

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 20:48

Posted Image

Very saddend to hear of Pentti's passing, he was certainly larger than life, and always made time to have a beer with the Army crews.
After the 1979 Scottish International in Avimore which Pentti had just won, a couple of us were having a few jars with Pentti, Roger (Clark) and Mick Jones, Rogers mechanic, and it was my round I asked them all what they wanted, and Pentti said he wanted a Gwince, I said a what??? he repeated, a Gwince and I said I have never heard of it, so he went to the bar with me and pointed to a pump and said that one, Gwince, it actually turned out to be a Guiness that he wanted!!!.
The picture on the front of the 1981 RAC rally programme shows Pentti with Risto Virtanan as many of us remember him, flat out in his chevette on the previous years RAC, which unfortunately, he did not finish.
Regards from France,
Les Dalton.

#25 Rob Lees

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 20:53

A great shame - I was in Dalby forest on that 1989 RAC watching the battle unfold between Pentti and Carlos, when the radio operator at our junction climbed from his car and shouted that Sainz had broken his propshaft and was limping through the stage. As realisation dawned on the huddled knot of speccies, there was a real buzz of excitement and genuine warmth for Pentti, who was poised to finally get the win he'd always promised but never delivered.

I'll try and dig a couple of pics out over the weekend and post them here.

#26 Amaroo Park

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 02:43

Really sad news, Pentti was a hero of mine as a young bloke.

#27 sterling49

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 07:25

I have just seen this thread and am completely stunned. I last saw Pentti at Stonely a few years ago, when he was reunited with his old Chevette. I saw him many times, driving Escorts and Chevettes, a flamboyant driver, who was also spectacular to watch , popular with spectators, and very approachable. Hard to believe that yet another great has passed :cry:

#28 Team Result

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Posted 04 October 2009 - 08:48

Truly saddened to hear of the passing of this legend. As someone has already mentioned, Pentti continued to give back much to the sport. Until his ill health prevented him doing so, he was a regular contrinutor on another forum, patiently explaining the world of rally to newcomers and giving seasoned fans a rare insight to the goings on inside works teams.
Anyone unfamiliar with Pentti's ability should google the following: Pentti 1979 RNZ western springs Not many World Champions get passed around the outside, certainly not in a rally and none to my knowledge by someone riding the 'wall of death' !!

#29 Amaroo Park

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Posted 04 October 2009 - 10:26

The drive of Pentti's in the 89 RAC was brilliant. At the time mmitsubishi weren't the force they would be come later and the old VR4 was not what could be described as a great rally car.

#30 cheapracer

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 03:56

Well respected in New Zealand too.

From Australia I grew up following that bunch Mikkola, Vattinen etc. in reports and later video's purchased from Duke Video and the moment of Pentti I rememebr best (aside from his crashes!) was when his Co driver vomited in stage and at service interview Pentti remarked "Unusual he has never had problem before but ve go on, a bit smelly, but ve go on!" :lol:

#31 alfredaustria

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 15:27

Very sad loss. I met Pentti at the Race-Retro at Stoneleigh 2006 and took these two photos, which I want to share with you.


Copyright Alfred Raidl

#32 ceebdub

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 18:05

I met him once at a sports car restoration company I managed. Nice guy.
I remember a headline in Autosport or Motoring News ' Pentti Gave it Plenty' . an apt epitaph.

#33 Alan Cox

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 12:38

News of Pentti's funeral. Info from Colin Wilson.


For the family of Pentti Airikkala and his many friends who
might wish pay their respects, the funeral will take place at
14:30 on Monday 19 October at the Chiltern Crematorium,
Whielden Lane, Amersham, Buckinghamshire HP7 0ND
(tel 01494 724263).

Flowers should be sent to: E Sargeant & Son, 61 St.
Leonards Road, Windsor, SL4 3BX before 11am on 19

Donations should be sent to Swan Life Line (a charity
which Pentti supported), or online at

#34 cpbell

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 14:11

RIP - I remember him from the old BBC Rally Report as a kid in the late eighties - William Wolard and Toy Mason relating the story of an epic days' rallying. :)