Before WRC was established Aaltonen competed in the European Rally Championship. He won the championship in 1965, with Tony Ambrose as his co-driver. He also won the Finnish Rally Championship in 1961 and 1965. In 1966, he partnered Bob Holden in Australia to win the premier touring car race, the Gallaher 500, in a Mini Cooper S at Mount Panorama in New South Wales.
Aaltonen finished second on six occasions in the Safari Rally, which is considered one of the most difficult courses in rallying. In 1985, he was leading the rally by two hours when his engine broke down before the last few special stages. His other merits include winning the 1000 Lakes Rally in 1961, the RAC Rally in 1965, the Monte Carlo Rally in 1967, the Southern Cross Rally in 1977, and a Coupe des Alpes at the Alpine Rally in 1963 and 1964.
Despite now being remembered as one of the Flying Finns of rallying, Aaltonen started his career on speed boats and later moved on to motorcycles competing in road racing, speedway and motocross. Before he became the first Finnish European Rally Champion, he was the first Finn to win a Grand Prix motorcycle racing competition.
Technique of rotating a car by 360 degrees, while maintaining trajectory, was named after him.
Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results
|1964||Donald Healey Motor Company||Clive Baker||Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite||P 1.5||256||DNF||DNF|
Complete Bathurst 500/1000 results
|1966||BMC Australia||Bob Holden||Morris Cooper S||C||130||1st||1st|
|1991||Bob Holden Motors|| Bob Holden
Complete British Saloon Car Championship results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap.)
|1970||Ford Köln||Ford Capri 2300 GT||D||BRH||SNE||THR||SIL||CRY||SIL||SIL
Aaltonen at the 1965 1000 Lakes Rally
Aaltonen behind Timo Mäkinen at the 1000 Lakes
An ex-Aaltonen BMW 2002tii
- Pfundner, Martin (2005). Alpine Trials & Rallies: 1910 to 1973. Veloce Publishing Ltd. pp. 90–91.
- "Driving Legends". theitalianjob.com. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- "New Inductees to Rally Hall of Fame". Neste Oil Rally Finland. 9 February 2011. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
- de Jong, Frank. "British Saloon Car Championship". History of Touring Car Racing 1952-1993. Retrieved 12 October 2022.