Juha Kankkunen, four-time winner of the World Rally Championship, has never given an "outsider" access to his private car collection — until today.
We're here at the personal invitation of Kankkunen and his car restorer-in-chief, Kari Mäkelä. He starts the tour by leading us through a modest office before continuing into a larger back room at his farm in Finland. There we come face to face with a quintet of Group B rally cars and a pair of Lancia Integrales dressed in Martini livery. Nice.
There's also a row of vintage Fords that includes everything from a Model A to a Lotus Cortina to a road-going RS200. To the left is a Formula Ford racer bearing the name "Mika Hakkinen," a Group A Toyota Celica Turbo and a Mitsubishi Evo III.
Straight ahead there's one of those tacky plastic signs that reads "Ferrari parking only." It would be funny if there weren't two rows of Italy's finest laid out beneath it. The V8s are on the right, the V12s on the left. A 288 GTO sits beside an F40, which is engaged in a permanent face-off with a 512i BB.
It's nuts and we're just getting started.
"It started as a crazy idea in 1992," says Kankkunen. "I wanted something physical that my family could enjoy from my career. Carlos [Sainz] has a car and Didier [Ariol] has a couple, but I wanted to go further." Here on the Finnish farm on which he grew up, Kankkunen has built a testament to a life spent at and often beyond the limit.
What makes the collection so special is its integrity. This is not the hobby of a playboy billionaire; these are mementos from a lifetime of achievement. From the early '80s to the mid-'90s, Kankkunen could justifiably claim to be the fastest driver on the planet.
The Peugeot 205 T16 Evo 2, for example, is the very car in which he won the Swedish Rally in 1986. "In '86 I went from a rear-wheel-drive Toyota to a four-wheel-drive Peugeot," says Kankkunen. "It required a totally different style of driving but it only took me three months to adjust and I won the second rally I entered. When you're a kid you can learn anything quickly."
Kankkunen won his first World Championship with Peugeot in 1986, but the infamous Group B cars were banned a year later following the death of his close friend Henri Toivonen. Sitting in the 205 today, it feels ridiculously flimsy for a car that generated 550 horsepower from its 1,775cc engine.
"The cars were dangerous if you gave them to a normal driver," reckons Kankkunen, "but the professional drivers could handle them. We knew what was happening. The step to the Group A cars that followed was too big. It was like going from Formula 1 to Formula Ford."
A New Era and a Free Ferrari
In contrast to the Group B monsters, the Integrales look almost apologetic, despite their evocative Martini livery. Kankkunen was presented with one of the cars after he won the RAC Rally and with it the World Championship in 1991. That year he won five rallies. "That period was a great time," he says. "With Lancia we won everything."
At the end of '91, Fiat godfather Gianni Agnelli took Kankkunen aside and made him a unique offer. "He said I could have any Ferrari I wanted. I'm sure he expected me to choose an F40, but that was too much of a racecar for the streets of Monaco where I lived, so I asked for a 512 TR."
That car now sits opposite the 288 GTO in the Kankkunen collection, but the proprietor admits it wasn't his finest bit of business. A 512 today is worth around $90K and an F40 around $300K. No matter; Kankkunen bought his own F40 from a Swedish collector in "a bid to right the wrong."
A move to Toyota in 1993 brought more success, another world championship and a Group A Celica Turbo for the collection. This car was rebuilt by the factory at the end of the 1993 season and, like the '91 Integrale, is totally original. There's even a Network Q rally sticker from the U.K., complete with the phone number of rally HQ. It's hard to believe that it's almost 20 years old, although the presence of a five-speed, H-pattern gearbox is a sure sign of how technology has moved on.
Hitching a Ride
While the Lancia and Toyota were gifts from a grateful employer, many of the other cars here have been sourced from elsewhere and then painstakingly rebuilt by Mäkelä. The boss of Mäkelä Auto Tuning has devoted countless hours to sourcing the cars and, where necessary, restoring them to their former glory.
The Group B Celica Turbo, for example, was discovered in the Middle East as a rotting corpse. Mäkelä's team brought it to Finland and rebuilt or restored every part until it was a fitting testament to Kankkunen's first "works" drive. The craftsmanship and the attention to detail are nothing short of extraordinary.
Today the Celica is one of the few cars in the collection that's used regularly. We fire it up and Kankkunen takes me on a few laps of his driveway. The asphalt "circuit" is just a few hundred yards long, but it's a tremendous playground. I cling to the flimsy roll bar as the man who won 23 world rallies slides an old Group B car past the front door of his private museum.
Forty years have passed since Kankkunen drove his first car, a VW Beetle, around this very farm. Back then he discovered that his passion was matched by his talent, and the archetypal Finn hasn't forgotten how to fly. "You never really lose the speed," he says. "It's all about motivation. Are you still willing to risk everything? If you're not fighting, there's no point being."
A Model Success
Kankkunen was never short of fight. In the museum, there are trophies so numerous they spread across two giant walls. Iconic trophies from the Paris-Dakar sit alongside local ice racing trinkets from the 1970s. Every one has a story; every one is a testament to a battle fought and won.
There is so much here to explore. Even when we've done talking real cars, there are more than 900 scale models to discuss, including an example of every Ferrari ever built. He's also building a model collection of every car he drove, with a Ford Focus WRC being the latest addition. All are immaculately arranged in glass cases.
Looking to the Future
Today Kankkunen's business interests stretch to salmon farming and even the production of hydroelectric energy. There's a relationship with Bentley that led to a new world speed record for driving on ice at 199.86 mph, while the Juha Kankkunen Driving Academy occupies his time in the winter months.
"You have to do something," he says. "You have to keep busy." The relentless drive that made him a champion has to find a positive outlet and Kankkunen admits the transition from international superstar to "normal" citizen has not been easy.
A stroll around his private museum might not match the adrenaline rush of going flat out up the Col du Turini, but it's not a bad memento of an extraordinary career. Most private collections are an expensively acquired indulgence, but not this one. This one was earned on the world stage and to witness it firsthand is a real privilege.