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How To Drive: Left-foot braking

2 months ago

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Steve Sutcliffe | Journalist


29 February 2024


It was the late, great Pentti Airikkala who showed me how and why to left-foot brake. He was one of the original Flying Finns of the World Rally Championship and he was brilliant in rear-wheel drive cars, although ironically his biggest claim to fame came in a four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 in which he won Britain’s RAC Rally outright in 1989.

We met beside a rickety old gate outside a field in Oxfordshire. I arrived in a bright red BMW M3, which Pentii took one look at and said: ‘You won’t be needing that today my friend – because today we’ll be driving this piece of shit.’

Pentti swore quite a lot, about almost everything, often with a wry smile. The piece of excrement he was referring to was, in fact, a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, albeit one that wore quite a few battle scars. Alongside an even more careworn Vauxhall Astra, these were the tools of choice with which he taught his beloved art. And it was some art, as I discovered during one of the more enlightening days I’ve spent in this job, including a two-hour pub lunch followed by, shall we say, a more enthusiastic approach to the afternoon’s schooling.

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