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HEIKKI
MIKKOLA
Profile of a hunter
Right now, in the heavy motocross class the world title firmly belongs to the Finn Heikki Mikkola. Both friend and foe unanimously agree that the title is in possession of the right man. That is not surprising considering that last year in nine out of twelve Grand Prix Mikkola scored most points. Add to this the fact that in just one heat Mikkola was forced to retire due to bad luck (in England because of front brake failure) and the word supremacy would be apt. His total number of world titles now numbers three: two in the heavy class in 1974 and 1977 and one in the 250cc class in1976. So far, Mikkola is the first and until now the only motocross rider who holds world titles in both the 250 and 500cc class. In between seasons Heikki Mikkola remains in his own country, spending most of his time in nature. During the motocross season the Mikkola family lives in Beringen (Belgium) from where the pursuit for the next world title starts. We met the 32-year-old Heikki in Beringen in a dreary apartment, which he has been renting since 1975. The interior is plain with a simple lounge suite and several pieces of training equipment. Because his wife Kaija is still in Finland, in the kitchen the dishes have not been done for many days.
Heikki very much values family life. Son Antti enjoys a ride with dad.
Played several sports

At the end of the fifties Heikki (born July 1945) with his friends raced their mopeds on their own little track. As well, the young Mikkola was much interested in other sports. Among others he practiced ski jumping, cross-country skiing, basketball, lots of athletics and weightlifting.
After completion of technical college he worked as a motor mechanic and for a year, while doing his military service, was engaged in tank maintenance. It wasn’t until 1964 that he borrowed a real motocross bike, a Greeves, with which he raced in competitions. Until ’69 the Finn took part in motocross races, reliability trials and ice racing on 1000-meter tracks with right and left turns.
The first Grand Prix successes happened in ’68 with a second placing in Sweden and a sixth in Finland (the only GP in which he participated). In 1969 the bearded Finn went south to take part in all 250cc GP.
Why did Mikkola take the financial risk to travel to Mid and Southern Europe?
“For years I had played different sports which made me believe that I would be successful in either motocross or ski jumping. However, near my hometown of Hyvinkää (50 km North of Helsinki) there weren’t any high ski runs. The motocross circuits in Finland are much like the Dutch circuits, for which reason I had to travel south to practice on fast circuits. If you are determined to reach your goal, you have to make sacrifices.

Gravely ill, picked up by new manager

With a caravan towed by an old Mercedes, Mikkola (often together with compatriot Kalevi Vehkonen) traveled Europe. The following year (1970) Mikkola decided on a professional
motocross career. That same year something important happened. The day before the Belgian Grand Prix at Paal the Finn became ill with the flu. However, to earn the entry fee he raced two laps and then crawled into his Volkswagen van. On Monday Heikki and Vehkonen traveled to Beringen. Kalevi knew the Meekers family, who invited them in for a cup of coffee. Very sick, Heikki remained in the van and the Belgian family then persuaded him to come in. When they took the Finn’s temperature it had reached forty degrees. From then on Beringen became his second home. One year later Mr. Georges Meekers became Heikki Mikkola’s manager.

The first Grand Prix victory

After the Paal episode, better times followed. In that year Mikkola won his first Grand Prix in his homeland. Two more GP victories followed in Switzerland and Austria.
From the start of his international activities Mikkola raced a Husqvarna. A fourth placing in the world championships in 1971 resulted in the first factory sponsorship (although it is known that the Swedish factory poorly paid its factory riders). After three Grand Prix, Mikkola was leading in the world championships; after that mechanical problems continued to prevent good outcomes.
“In 1971 my physical condition and form was excellent and I am convinced that in that year I could have become world champion. Only because Joël Robert’s bike was much better I finished in fourth place again.”

The first contact with Yamaha

Next to Grand Prix racing, Heikki
Mikkola achieved good results in international 500cc races. Therefore, the factory suggested switching to the world championship in the heavy class.
Despite two GP victories he did not get any further than a third placing in the world championship standing behind DeCoster and Friedrichs. Through Rodney Gould Mikkola was approached by Yamaha. For the following year (1973) the Japanese factory had big plans for motocross.
Because Heikki Mikkola is weary of waiting too long to sign a new contract, he stayed with Husqvarna. “At the end of each season, as quickly as possible I want to have certainty for the following year. I had given Gould one week. If I had not heard anything then I would extend my contract with Husqvarna. After two weeks Yamaha phoned me (too late) that I could race for them.” Once again Husqvarna asked Mikkola to switch.

Didn’t Heikki find this inconvenient?
He simply explains: “If your employer gives you a certain assignment, then you have to perform this task to the best of your ability.” Because Hakan Andersson dominated with his Yamaha, Mikkola was
In his Belgium home there are various pieces of training equipment. However, the exercise bike belongs to Kaija.