Hakkinen, Mika

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Five years after Mika Pauli Hakkinen was born, on September 28, 1968, his parents hired a go-kart for him to try at a track near their home outside Helsinki. On the very first lap little Mika had a big accident, though fortunately without injury to himself. Yet his first racing memory was not of his own fear but the look of it on his father’s face. Unphased by his shaky start, Mika pestered his parents – Harri (a short wave radio operator and part time taxi driver) and Aila (a secretary) – until they bought him a kart of his own. As Mika became an increasingly quick karter the whole family – including his sister Nina – went racing for fun, forming their own little team and driving to races in a minibus. Though Mika preferred action to studying (briefly combining both by training as an acrobat at a circus school), he finished elementary school and enrolled in a metal working course. This was soon abandoned in favour of pursuing a career in a more obvious metier: by 1986 he was a five-time karting champion and had become a protege of fellow Finn, Keke Rosberg, the 1982 World Champion. They met, appropriately, in a sauna and Rosberg became his manager, arranging sponsorship that helped propel Mika “flat out” (a favourite expression of both Finns) through the junior categories of single-seater racing.

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