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Leo Kinnunen

5th August 1943
Tampere, Pirkanmaa
26th July 2017 (Aged 73)
Lieto, Turku
Most recent race (in database):

Finland was no hotbed of motor racing talent when Leo Kinnunen emerged at the end of the 1960s. He started in ice racing on his homeland’s many frozen lakes and dominated during 1965 with a Fiat Abarth.

Early career and sports car success

Kinnunen raced in Formula 3 towards the end of the decade but it was his form with a Porsche 908 during 1969 that proved crucial to his international career. He won at Mantorp Park and Anderstorp to clinch the Nordic Challenge Cup and that success led to a test with John Wyer’s Gulf-Porsche sports car team and a contract for 1970.

Pedro Rodríguez’s regular co-driver that year, he won the Daytona 24 Hours (with Brian Redman also driving) on his debut with the team’s Porsche 917K. Three further victories followed before Kinnunen switched to the Interserie championship in 1971 with an AAW Team Porsche 917 Spyder.

Formula 1 with AAW Surtees

He won that title for three years in a row and also made his Formula 1 debut in 1974. He entered a Colt cigarettes-sponsored AAW Surtees TS16-Ford in six Grands Prix but could only qualify once – retiring from the Swedish GP.

Somewhat chastened by the experience, Kinnunen returned to sports cars and drove private Porsches for the next couple of seasons. He shared Egon Evertz’s Porsche 934 during 1976 and finished second in the Watkins Glen Six Hours with Toine Hezemans also driving.

That proved to be Kinnunen’s last full campaign and he later ran a company that specialised in marketing industrial innovations.