To the delight of Welsh rally fans, the 1981 Rallysprint TV special was to be filmed in Esgair Dafydd forest in Powys, and some of the world’s top drivers would be competing.
One of them was Henri Toivonen, and he agreed to take Autocar’s John Miles on a practice run in his Rally GB-winning Talbot Sunbeam Lotus.
Miles may have once raced for Lotus in Formula 1, but the 24-year-old Finn’s car control on the stone-strewn, greasy, misty, downhill track still amazed him: “My brain was desperately trying to keep pace. It was glimpses, nothing continuous. First of how few RPM he uses going off the line, gently breaking traction then feeding the throttle in, taking second well before the engine has run out of RPM, braking, slewing left, the Michelins finding extraordinary grip.
“The movements of the gear-lever are short and sharp. He doesn’t left-foot brake much but relies on a good bit of rear brake bias to set the tail sliding as he brakes and turns the car in. Like Hannu Mikkola, he rarely crosses his hands on the wheel, only when taking the lock off fast. Braking and turning in are dead precise, utterly confident.
“There seems to be nothing that this man cannot do with a car.”