WRC - Inaugural champion Bjorn Waldegaard dies aged 71

The first World Rally Champion Bjorn Waldegaard has died aged 71 after suffering with cancer.

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WRC - Inaugural champion Bjorn Waldegaard dies aged 71
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The first World Rally Champion, Bjorn Waldegaard (Imago)

Waldegaard passed away following a rapid decline in his health. He had been due to take part at Rallyday in Wiltshire next month, but had cancelled that trip to make way for treatment.

He did, however, attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier in the summer, where he drove a Toyota Twincam Turbo.

The Swede won the inaugural drivers' World Rally Championship title in 1979, co-driven by Hans Thorszelius on all rounds except for the 1000 Lakes Rally, where Claes Billstam guided them to third place.

Driving a works Ford Escort on European WRC rounds and a Mercedes 450 SLC on the Safari and Ivory Coast, Waldegaard took the championship by a single point from Hannu Mikkola.

Waldegaard won the Acropolis and Quebec Rally in 1979.

Beyond his world title, Waldegaard was probably best known for his ability to win in Africa and his love of competition there.

He tackled 25 WRC rounds in Africa and won seven of them (four Safaris and three Ivory Coast).

While Waldegaard stopped competing at world level in 1992, his love of competition kept him in and around rallies for the rest of his life.

And he remained competitive, winning the 2011 East African Safari Classic in a Porsche 911 aged 68.

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