Remembering Monte Carlo 1991 - Delecour’s delight and despair

Lockdowns aren’t fun but it does give us motorsport fans the opportunity to dip into our archives and relive classic moments.

Listen to this article

Last week at Motorsport.com, we delved into the best 1991 had to offer and dusted off several motorsport gems - from arguably Ayrton Senna’s greatest Formula 1 title, to the worst F1 cars of the year, and the all conquering TWR Jaguar XJR-14.

Through Motorsport.tv, we have the luxury of an extensive archive of action to alleviate boredom and brighten up tough lockdown moments. So as the World Rally Championship kicks off this weekend with the time honoured Monte Carlo Rally, we’ve continued the 1991 theme and selected some highlights from this Monte thriller.

Rewind 30 years ago and the WRC featured one of the best factory line ups in recent years, with Toyota, Lancia, Mitsubishi, Ford and Mazda in a hotly-contested fight on the famous Alpine stages.

And this edition of the Monte saw the emergence of a new force in the World Championship - step forward Frenchman Francois Delecour. 

Delecour had impressed at Monte Carlo the previous year driving for the factory Peugeot squad, finishing as the top two wheel-drive runner and ninth overall.

Now picked up by the works Ford squad, Delecour burst onto the scene in 1991 driving the relatively new and unproven four-wheel drive Q8-backed Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth that had only made its debut the previous year.

The rally began with reigning WRC champion Carlos Sainz beginning his title defence in the best way possible by powering into a comfortable lead in his Toyota Team Europe Celica.

Spaniard Sainz seemed imperious on the tricky stages that were unseasonably bereft of heavy snow, but filled with spectators creeping dangerously close to the cars as they swept through.

By the end of the opening day, Sainz held a 54 second lead over the factory Martini Lancia Delta of Miki Biasion and Bruno Saby in the Jolly Club run Lancia, the latter had been feeling unwell all day. 

Didier Auriol in the other Jolly Club Lancia looked out of contention after a misfire dashed his chances.

Meanwhile, the unfancied Delecour had been setting impressive stage times but was flying under the radar nicely in fourth just 61 seconds from the lead.  

It was on the second day that Delecour made his charge giving chase to Sainz as Biasion faltered early on the only snow covered stages of the rally.

The stages were familiar territory for the Frenchman as he successfully navigated uncontrolled crowds that lined the routes, shaving seconds from Sainz’s lead.

As the Lancia charge dampened, the rally looked set to be a duel between Sainz and Delecour on the final day, with the latter genuinely in with a chance of pulling off an unlikely debut victory for him and the Ford.

Delecour refused to relent on the final day overhauling Sainz’s nine second lead, moving into his own commanding advantage ahead of the final stage.

In fact, he realistically only needed to complete the final 14-mile night stage at a reasonable pace. 

However, drama struck. His Sierra ran off the road severely damaging the rear suspension while also picking up punctures in the process.

Delecour’s car came rolling to a halt at the end of the stage some five minutes adrift, ending what would have been a dream win on home soil.

The Frenchman was surrounded by crowds as he exited the car in tears and rested his head on the roof of the car, realising what had just happened. The dream was over.

Sainz had snatched an unlikely victory finishing four minutes and 59 seconds ahead of Biasion’s Lancia, with Delecour left to console himself with third. 

Join Motorsport.tv to access over 800 episodes of Duke Classics including the full 1991 Monte Carlo Rally review.

shares
comments
Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier leads Toyota 1-2-3 after Tanak's DNF
Previous article

Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier leads Toyota 1-2-3 after Tanak's DNF

Next article

Hyundai “cannot be proud” of Rally Monte Carlo efforts

Hyundai “cannot be proud” of Rally Monte Carlo efforts
Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Prime

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Some 39 years on from his Monte Carlo Rally debut, World Rally Championship legend Francois Delecour continues to pick up silverware. Proving that age is purely a number, the 60-year-old's desire to compete against the WRC’s latest young talents could be the start of a new chapter in the Frenchman’s storied career

WRC
19 h
How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master Prime

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

He may only be contesting a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship these days, but Sebastien Ogier underlined that he's lost none of his speed in the 2023 season opener. Storming to yet another victory on the Monte Carlo Rally, the eight-time world champion rewrote the history books again as Toyota served notice of its intentions with a crushing 1-2

WRC
Jan 23, 2023
How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling Prime

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Audi should have been invincible in the snowy conditions that typically greeted the World Rally Championship paddock in Monte Carlo. But unexpectedly warm weather for the 1983 season opener, combined with some left-field thinking from the Lancia crew turned the tables. Forty years on, team boss Cesare Fiorio reflects on a smash and grab.

WRC
Jan 21, 2023
Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Prime

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

M-Sport had a disastrous 2022 with its Rally1 Ford Pumas following Sebastien Loeb’s first-time-out win on the Monte. But now things are looking up with 2019 world champion Ott Tanak leading its attack, and the Cumbrian operation has optimism that it can challenge for a first title since Sebastien Ogier's departure at the end of 2018

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown Prime

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

As Kalle Rovanpera begins his World Rally Championship title defence in Monte Carlo, the Finn knows he has a target on his back. But who is best placed to knock the Toyota ace off his perch?

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Prime

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Question: what could be harder than becoming the youngest-ever World Rally champion? Answer: becoming the youngest-ever two-time World Rally champion. That's quite the challenge facing Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in 2022, particularly against rejuvenated opposition in the second year of the WRC's hybrid regulations.

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing Prime

From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing

OPINION: New Hyundai rally team boss Cyril Abiteboul admits he’s got a lot to learn, but his F1 experience and evident strengths could mean he turns out to be an inspired choice.

WRC
Jan 17, 2023
The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed Prime

The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed

Toyota was unstoppable in the 2021 World Rally Championship, with an excellent 75% strike rate from 12 rallies. But in a scary proposition for its rivals, the Japanese marque had built a car for the final year of the previous regulations set which it believes was much faster and could feasibly have crushed the opposition completely. Here the story of its mothballed world-beater.

WRC
Jan 1, 2023