1979 World Rally champion Bjorn Waldegard has passed away following a long battle with cancer.

Waldegard, who won 16 FIA World Rally Championship events during his career, was due to appear at Rallyday in the UK next month, but had cancelled that appearance for health reasons.

He was 70 years old.

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Bjorn began rallying in the 1960s, winning the Swedish Championship in 1967 and 1968.

He won his first international rally in 1969, when he triumphed on Rallye Monte Carlo.

He would go on to compete in over 90 WRC events - the WRC wasn't created until 1973 - and in addition to taking 16 victories, his last in 1990 when he won the Safari rally, he also took 35 podiums, notched up almost 500 points and won 290 stages.

The Swede was the inaugural FIA World Rally Drivers' Champion - that championship wasn't created initially, although a FIA Cup for Drivers was awarded in 1977 and 1978.

His last WRC appearance came in 1992, although he continued to rally and more recently won the 2011 East African Safari Rally in a Porsche 911.

His last big public appearance came at the Goodwood Festival of Speed back in the summer.

"Bjorn was a really admired and strong competitor, loyal and straight-forward. He was a rally legend who has left us so quickly and our sport has lost a big hero," said FIA president, Jean Todt.

Crash.net sends it condolences to his family and friends.