----------------------------------------------------------------------------- By Petri Karonen (C) 1995. 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 Swedish International Rally
Just as the controversy over the new service rules had weakened, the rallying world saw another dispute as the winner of the Swedish Rally was decided by team orders. Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Andrew Cowan had to face economical realities and he resorted to methods that were more common in the WRC back in the 1980's.
The rally itself promised to be better than for a long time as the lineup included all the top teams and their drivers. The Swedish Rally is the only WRC round run entirely on snow, so Swedish drivers with a lot of snow experience were hot stuff for the teams; Toyota hired Thomas Radstrom, Subaru Mats Jonsson, and Mitsubishi brought here their driver in the Asia-Pacific series, Kenneth Eriksson.
Already on the first special stages it was clear who were the fastest men in this rally. Mitsubishi drivers Tommi Makinen and Kenneth Eriksson swapped the lead between each other during the first day, Friday, the difference never being more than a few seconds. Subarus were also fast starters and at the end of the day Colin McRae was third and Carlos Sainz, after a small off, 5th. Juha Kankkunen of Toyota lost some time in the snow bank on the same stage as Sainz. Kankkunen and Didier Auriol also complained about loss of power as they did in Monte Carlo. Their team-mate in this rally, Thomas Radstrom, didn't seem to have such problems; he was fourth.
On the next day the Mitsubishis extended their lead as others had problems. Monte Carlo winner Carlos Sainz and Ford's Francois Delecour both retired because of engine failure. In the Toyota camp Radstrom continued to be the fastest man, and he passed Colin McRae into the 3rd position, 1:29 behind the leader. Auriol was 5th and Kankkunen climbed to 6th, passing Mats Jonsson and the veteran Stig Blomqvist.
The stages on Saturday morning were driven on roads very familiar to Kenneth Eriksson and he managed to pull a 20 second lead over Makinen, but later Makinen picked up the pace and at the end of the second day their difference was a mere one second. There were seven stages for the last day and Andrew Cowan, Mitsubishi's team manager, had decided to secure the double win for the team by giving the win for the leader at the end of the Saturday leg. This meant that if Makinen chose to follow the orders, Eriksson was to be the winner. On the seven stages on Sunday Makinen seemed to continue at full speed, and before the last stage he had taken the lead by 43 seconds. But, at the finish of the last stage Makinen stopped for 55 seconds before driving to the time control and so Kenneth Eriksson became the winner of the Swedish Rally.
Thomas Radstrom continued his strong performance right to the end and finished 3rd. The Swedish Rally became a complete disaster for the Subaru Team as both their remaining drivers Mats Jonsson and Colin McRae hit engine problems and had to retire on Sunday morning. Juha Kankkunen passed Didier Auriol on the last stages, so Juha finished 4th and Didier 5th, both still disappointed with the performance of their Toyotas. Ford's Bruno Thiry in his first snow rally finished respectably in 6th position.
The team orders left a somewhat bad taste of the otherwise excellent rally. Tommi Makinen and the whole nation of Finland weren't quite understandably pleased of the outcome. For the Mitsubishi Team this win was so valuable that it could not be risked in the fight between their own drivers, however unsportsmanlike team orders are. After this win it now seems that the Mitsubishi Team will get more funding from Japan and thus be able to compete in Rally Portugal in March. Anyway, many people were left wondering that if Mitsubishi wanted to maximize their result, why didn't they order Tommi Makinen to win, as he is Mitsubishi's only driver who is seriously competing in the drivers' championship this year.
Results of the Swedish International Rally: 1. Kenneth Eriksson / Staffan Parmander Mitsubishi 4:51:27 2. Tommi Makinen / Seppo Harjanne Mitsubishi -0:12 3. Thomas Radstrom / Lars Backman Toyota -1:07 4. Juha Kankkunen / Nicky Grist Toyota -2:18 5. Didier Auriol / Bernard Occelli Toyota -2:20 6. Bruno Thiry / Stephane Prevost Ford -5:31 7. Stig Blomqvist / Benny Melander Ford -6:49 8. Tomas Jansson / Ingemar Algerstedt Toyota -8:02 9. Armin Schwarz / Klaus Wicha Toyota -9:45 10. Kenneth Backlund / Tord Andersson Mitsubishi -12:44 ...
World Championship standing, drivers: 1. Tommi Makinen 25 points 2. Juha Kankkunen 22 3. Carlos Sainz 20 Kenneth Eriksson 20 5. Francois Delecour 15 6. Bruno Thiry 14 7. Thomas Radstrom 12 8. Didier Auriol 8 ...
Manufacturers, group A: 1. Mitsubishi 100 points 2. Ford 75 3. Toyota 71 4. Subaru 46
Next event: Rally Portugal, Mar. 8-10.
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