----------------------------------------------------------------------------- By Petri Karonen (C) 1994. May not be reproduced without author's permission. Permission is automatically granted for non-commercial use provided that the author is notified of the reproduction. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- WRC Network Q RAC Rally
Once again the World Rally Championship was to be decided in the RAC Rally, and what a rally it turned out to be!. Didier Auriol came to the final round of the WRC with an 11 point championship lead over Carlos Sainz, but this was already the third time for the Frenchman he had such a good starting situation. From bitter experience Didier knew that everything can be lost here and RAC isn't one of his favourite events.
For Boreham's Ford Motorsport team this was their farewell rally and they started it with a strong lineup. Miki Biasion and Francois Delecour were joined by Bruno Thiry and Stig Blomqvist. Ari Vatanen was back (just made it, as a late entry) with Schmidt Motorsport. Toyota fielded three drivers, Auriol and Japanese talent Yoshio Fujimoto (co-driven by Arne Herz) with the old version of the Celica and Juha Kankkunen with the new one. Subaru's three Imprezas were driven by Sainz, McRae and Richard Burns.
The first day, Sunday, was driven on the short, paved 'Mickey Mouse' spectator stages which were made extremely slippery by the continual rain. Carlos Sainz was fastest on the first two special stages but then he drove into a water crossing too fast and the water damaged the cooling fan and the power steering. After the stage on a road section he had more trouble, as his engine choked and supposedly he was pushed by Colin McRae's car to the service. There was a threat of Sainz' disqualification but incidently there wasn't enough proof for the campionship to be decided this way.
On the same SS 3 Didier Auriol took a turn a little too eagarly and he hit a harmless-looking stone which almost took him out of the race. With a broken suspension Didier managed to limp to the service and he lost only four and a half minutes. First of the top names to retire was Francois Delecour who had technical problems. At the end of the day Sainz had picked up the pace and he was four seconds behind the leader Colin McRae. Third was Juha Kankkunen.
As the rally next morning moved to muddy country roads in Northern England there were more disasters for Didier Auriol. He started a good chase but on one of the morning stages he made an error and rolled the car. There was little damage but he lost a lot of time and later he had turbo troubles, probably caused by the accident. He dropped over twenty minutes behind the leader and his situation seemed quite hopeless.
Colin McRae continued in the front, extending his lead all through the second day. He was really on the roll and it seemed that this was going to be his race if he could stay on the road, which hasn't always been one of his strong points. Juha Kankkunen took the second position but lost it again to Carlos Sainz with a spin on the second to last stage of the day.
Fourth, in his first RAC Rally, was Bruno Thiry who was really enjoing himself. Behind Thiry there was a battle between Ari Vatanen, Malcolm Wilson, and Stig Blomqvist. Vatanen took the 5th place as Wilson hit a stone. But later Vatanen blew his turbo and fell to 7th, behind Wilson and Blomqvist.
The third day of the rally was driven on the (in)famous Welsh gravel roads. There wasn't much change in the top during the day. McRae continued his superb driving and further extended the lead into 1.45 minutes. He took five fastest stage times, Kankkunen two and Sainz one. Didier Auriol didn't do any more mistakes and he was rising constantly in positions.
At the start of the last day, 7 stages left, Didier was ninth. It was clear that he was going to overtake the leader of F2 category Tommi Makinen who was 8th, but Ari Vatanen at 7th was 12 minutes in front of Auriol so he was out of reach. This meant that if someone was to retire from the top 7, Subaru would have to use team orders to let Sainz win and that was something the British fans of Colin McRae didn't want.
The retirement that would have led into this situation came in the form of Malcolm Wilson. The British fans drew their conclusions, so they planted some logs on the road just before Sainz was coming through. Luckily enough this unexcuseable behaviour didn't cost Sainz but a few seconds. But on the next stage the result of the rally, and the championship, was decided. Sainz came a little too wide to a sweeping right hander, dropped the rear into the ditch, spun softly and ended up deep in the muddy ditch. There was no damage to the car but Carlos just couldn't get it back to the road until way too much time had passed. A lot of spectators came to help but I'm not sure at all which way they pushed the car. Anyway, Carlos said afterwards that the off was caused by an error in his pacenotes and he didn't blame the spectators for anything.
So the 26 years old Scotsman Colin McRae went on to take his greatest victory so far, a victory that he truly deserved. And the same can be said for Didier Auriol. Twice before he has been so close but now the luck was in the end on his side and he became the first French World Rally Champion ever. He said that it is going to take a while until he understands that he really has won the championship.
Second in the rally was Juha Kankkunen who was very happy with the result. He proved that the new Celica is going to be a winner next year. Third was another sensation, Bruno Thiry in his first RAC Rally. He is certainly a name for the future. The 4th and 5th place men were from the other end of the spectrum; veterans Stig Blomqvist and Ari Vatanen finished in very respectable positions.
All through the rally there was a hard battle in the F2 category between Tommi Makinen (Nissan) and Gwyndaf Evans (Ford). Makinen led most of the time but at the end he had some troubles and Evans won the category and came 7th overall.
It has been a great season; the top teams and drivers have been really equal. This situation seems to be continuing next year. The field will undoubtably be led by Toyota and Subaru but one can't rule out the private Ford teams with full factory support and Mitsubishi who are going to increase their effort in the WRC considerably.
Network Q RAC Rally, results: 1. Colin McRae / Derek Ringer Subaru Impreza 555 5:17.25 2. Juha Kankkunen / Nicky Grist Toyota Celica GT-Four -3.33 3. Bruno Thiry / Stephane Prevot Ford Escort Cosworth -10.12 4. Stig Blomqvist / Benny Melander Ford Escort Cosworth -12.48 5. Ari Vatanen / Fabrizia Pons Ford Escort Coworth -17.00 6. Didier Auriol / Bernard Occelli Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD -30.32 7. Gwyndaf Evans / Howard Davis Jr. Ford Escort RS 2000 (F2) -34.59 8. Jan Habig / Douglas Judd Ford Escort Cosworth (N) -35.51 9. Tommi Makinen / Seppo Harjanne Nissan Sunny GT-R (F2) -36.00 10. Gregoire de Mevius / Willy Lux Vauxhall Astra (F2) -36.29
Final WRC points standing, drivers: 1. Didier Auriol 116 2. Carlos Sainz 99 3. Juha Kankkunen 93 4. Colin McRae 49 5. Bruno Thiry 44 6. Massimo Biasion 42 7. Armin Schwarz 31 ...
Manufacturers: 1. Toyota 151 2. Subaru 140 3. Ford 116
The 1995 season starts in January 21-27 in Monte Carlo. -- =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= = Petri Karonen Email: firstname.lastname@example.org = = World Rally Championship Infosystem: http://www.jyu.fi/~pakar/ = =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=