Heikki Mikkola, the “Flyin’ Finn” was one of the most popular and feared motocross racers of the 1970s. During his illustrious career, Mikkola collected four World Grand Prix Motocross Championship titles.
Heikki Mikkola was born in 1945 in Mikkeli, Finland. Athletic and sports-minded at an early age, he and friend Martti Pesonen (who went on to become a Finnish road racing champion) modified bicycles for jumping in the woods. At 14, Mikkola moved up to a moped and then bought a Ducati, which he kept secret from father, Toivo, and mother, Helvi. The Ducati was returned to the dealer when his father found out, since Mikkola did not have a drivers license.
Mikkola began racing in the summer of 1964, entering races in Finland and earning two third-place finishes aboard a Greeves. In 1965, he entered 18 races, winning 11. It was in this season that he retired the Greeves and began racing a Husqvarna.
In 1966, Heikki won the Finnish Junior Enduro Championship while racing with a broken wrist. That year he also entered the Finnish round of the World Grand Prix championship and led several laps before succumbing to the pain in his wrist.
In 1967, Heikki earned points in the Grand Prix of Finland, racing a 250cc Husqvarna. In 1968, he won the Grand Prix of Sweden, and married Kaija Hannele Pohjola. That same year, the Swedish Husqvarna factory took note of Mikkola and offered parts support.
The 1969 Grand Prix season was a tough one for Mikkola. Plagued by injury, he entered nine rounds and ended up ranked 14th. But he was determined to return the next year healthy and with a more professional approach to his equipment.
1n 1970, he raced in the Grand Prix Championship, winning the Finnish, Swiss and Australian rounds, and completed the series in fourth, just one point behind third-ranked racer Roger DeCoster.
In 1971, Mikkola signed a three-year factory team agreement with Husqvarna. That season he once again finished fourth in the Grand Prix rankings. In 1972, he petitioned the Husqvarna factory for a personal mechanic and to be moved to the 500cc class. Husqvarna agreed, and he finished third in points.
In 1973, Mikkola returned to the 250cc Grand Prix class, where he finished third in the rankings. He also competed in the 1973 Inter-AMA Motocross series, winning the championship title.
Husqvarna asked Mikkola to return to the Grand Prix 500cc class in 1974, and he eagerly accepted. After a season-long battle with Roger DeCoster, Mikkola won the World Grand Prix 500cc Championship.
Despite an offer from Honda to race in the United States in 1975, Mikkola re-signed with Husqvarna. DeCoster took the Grand Prix Championship with 12 wins that year, and Mikkola finished second with five wins.
In 1976, the Husqvarna factory asked Mikkola to return to the 250cc class to promote and increase public demand for the motorcycle. Mikkola agreed and won the 1976 World Grand Prix 250cc Championship and became the first rider to win both the 250cc and 500cc titles.
In 1977, Mikkola signed with Yamaha and was immediately impressed by the attention given to his input and in the development of his race bike. He won the 1977 500cc World Grand Prix title, and returned to defend his championship the following year. Mikkola won the 1978 U.S. Grand Prix in front of millions of Americans watching on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and went on to win the 1978 500cc World Grand Prix Championship title.
Mikkola struggled with multiple injuries during the 1979 World Grand Prix Championship. At season’s end he was ranked fifth and decided to retire from active racing. He served as Yamaha’s team manager for Americans Danny LaPorte and Neil Hudson for one season. Afterwards, he purchased a vegetable farm in the south of Finland. Today, he and his family operate the farm and a market outside of Helsinki.
Heikki Mikkola can be considered the most successful Finnish motorcycle racer to date. During his 10-year career he won numerous national championships, 32 World Grand Prix races and four World Grand Prix titles.