Alen, the “Uncrowned King”

Markku Alen

Born in Helsinki, Finland in 1951. Alen’s WRC debut was at the 1973 1000 Lakes Rally in a Volvo 142. He finished second overall. Ford scouted Alen for the WRC after seeing his driving skills. He ended up third in a Ford Escort. From 1974, Alen was contracted with Fiat and took part in the WRC. In 1982 he moved to Lancia, driving a Lancia 037 Rally and Delta S4. In 1986, Alen competed for the drivers’ championship title with Juha Kankkunen, but ended up second in the series after the Sanremo results were cancelled. During Group A, he raced in a Lancia Delta HF 4WD and Delta Integrale from 1987 to 1989 in the WRC. In 1990, he changed his team to Subaru. In 1992, he changed again to Toyota. Alan retired from competing the full WRC season that year. His last ever WRC race was in 2001 at Finland in a Ford Focus WRC finishing sixteenth overall. Although Alen has a total of 19 wins in his WRC career, he never won the world championship title, thus earing himself the nickname the “Uncrowned King.” However, he did win the FIA Cup for Drivers in 1978, which was the precursor to the WRC.

Alen with Lancia in 1984, around the time he drove a 037 Rally.

Alen had early interest in motorsport thanks to his father who was a Finnish champion in ice racing. His rally debut was in 1969 when he drove a Renault R8 Gordini in a Finnish regional race. A dealer importing Sunbeam Imp offered him a machine after watching his driving skills, leading him to race for the rest of the season in Finland. From the midseason of 1970 he drove an Opel, and from 1971 a Volvo 142. In the 1973 1000 Lakes Rally, he finished second in a Volvo 142, and Ford scouted him into driving an Escort. In the RAC, Alen finished in third place, meeting Ford’s expectations. This resulted in Alen getting scouted from both Ford and Fiat for the 1974 season.

Alen decided to compete with the Fiat team from 1974. Fiat back then had just entered the 124 Abarth Rally into the WRC. He drove a Ford Escort on events Fiat did not enter that year.

Alen teamed up with his co-driver, Ilka Kivimaki because Kivimaki’s elder brother was Alen’s friend. Alen had the tendency to accelerate too much during races due to nervousness, but Kivimaki was able to control this by telling him to calm down while reading pacenotes.

In 1975, he raced in a Fiat 124 Abarth for a few Finland rallies. During the 1975 1000 Lakes Rally he raced in a Nissan Violet. In 1976, he drove a Fiat 131 Abarth Rally in the WRC. Back then, Lancia (part of the Fiat group) had introduced the Stratos into the championship. However, it was only towards the end of the 1978 season that Alen got to drive the new machine.

The Fiat 131 Abarth during the 1977 RAC Rally. The 131 Abarth always retired due to troubles during the RAC.

In 1982, Alen raced in a Lancia 037 Rally, and in 1985 a Delta S4. Fiat and Lancia worked hard to obtain the WRC manufacturers’ title.

There was a big chance in the 1986 WRC for Alen to win the championship title. Peugeot and Lancia were battling for the manufacturers’ title, and the top drivers were Kankkunen and Salonen for Peugeot and Alen leading the championship. Alen won the race in Sanremo after the Peugeot team got excluded out due to a technicality issue. However, Peugeot appealed to the FIA. While the inspection took place, Alen placed second in the RAC, won the United States round and was crowned the championship title. However, the FIA accepted Peugeot’s claims and cancelled the results of the rally, which stripped away Alen’s championship title.

Although Alen continuously raced with Lancia, his 1988 win in the 1000 Lakes Rally ended up being his last WRC win.

During Group B, Alen competed in a Lancia 037 Rally finishing fourth overall. In the next round, Corsica, he finished first.

The machine was a Delta S4. Alen did not finish in this round, but placed second in the next round, New Zealand.

In 1990, Alen changed teams to Prodrive-run Subaru. Alen’s team transfer shocked many people, because Alen was called “the man who married Fiat” for racing 15 continuous years with the manufacturer.

Alen longed for “more power” from the Subaru Legacy. After facing many DNFs in the 1990 season, the Legacy redeemed itself by ranking in top in numerous rounds in the 1991 season.

After Lancia, he moved to the Subaru team. Alen visited Japan many times for development and testing purposes.

He changed his team to TTE (Toyota Team Europe) in 1992 when he received the offer. TTE back then was trying to beat Lancia in the championship. For Toyota, developing the new Celica GT-FOUR ST185 was one of their top priorities, and Alen took a big part in helping them. In 1992, Carlos Sainz won the drivers’ championship, but the manufacturers’ title was still won by Lancia.

Alen raced with Toyota and Subaru during couple rounds of the 1993 season but withdrew from a full season race.

Markku Alen WRC Record of victory

Times Year Event Co-driver Car
1 1975 Rallye de Portugal Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 124 Abarth Rallye
2 1976 1000 Lakes Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 131 Abarth
3 1977 Rallye de Portugal Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 131 Abarth
4 1978 Rallye de Portugal Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 131 Abarth
5 1978 1000 Lakes Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 131 Abarth
6 1978 Rallye Sanremo Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Stratos HF
7 1979 1000 Lakes Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 131 Abarth
8 1980 1000 Lakes Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 131 Abarth
9 1981 Rallye de Portugal Ilkka Kivimäki Fiat 131 Abarth
10 1983 Tour de Corse Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia 037 Rally
11 1983 Rallye Sanremo Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia 037 Rally
12 1984 Tour de Corse Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia 037 Rally
13 1986 Olympus Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Delta S4
14 1987 Rallye de Portugal Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Delta HF 4WD
15 1987 Acropolis Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Delta HF 4WD
16 1987 1000 Lakes Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Delta HF 4WD
17 1988 Swedish Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Delta HF 4WD
18 1988 1000 Lakes Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Delta Integrale
19 1988 RAC Rally Ilkka Kivimäki Lancia Delta Integrale

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