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.

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
Load comments
The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022 Prime

The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022

Eight-time World Rally Championship king Sebastien Ogier has abdicated (well, gone part-time) in 2022, meaning for just the second time in the past decade we will have a different champion this year. We pick out the drivers gunning to take his place and take over the mantle as the WRC's new ruler

WRC
Jan 20, 2022
The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival Prime

The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival

Part-time opportunities with Citroen and Hyundai have offered brief glimpses of what Craig Breen can do in a World Rally Championship car. Now signed up by M-Sport to lead it into the WRC's new hybrid era, Breen has been given the chance he's pursued for so long and is determined to make the most of it

WRC
Jan 18, 2022
Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best Prime

Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best

The World Rally Championship has brought down the curtain on the aggressive, aero-laden generation of cars first introduced in 2017 that have been likened to the 1980s Group B icons. As the championship prepares to begin a new era of Rally1 hybrid cars, its stars explain just why the outgoing machines were so special

WRC
Dec 24, 2021
Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021

On the eve of a new hybrid era for the World Rally Championship, the 2021 season was a blockbuster fought out between Toyota's two top dogs, with a familiar figure eventually emerging on top after a final showdown at Monza. We pick out the 10 best performers from the top class and its supporting cast

WRC
Dec 21, 2021
Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour Prime

Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour

He’s shuffling into semi-rally-retirement, but Toyota star Sebastien Ogier was at the peak of his powers in the final season for the high downforce era-World Rally Championship cars. Despite Toyota's domination, there was still much to enjoy as the old master emerged atop a fierce title fight against teammate Elfyn Evans.

WRC
Dec 19, 2021
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Prime

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, we pick out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion Prime

The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion

At the turn of the millennium, WRC was full to the brim with rallying's great and good - and 20 years ago on this day, Richard Burns became England's first world rally champion. Although Burns' natural talent drove him to the top, his steely determination and mental strength was the key attribute behind his title-winning form

WRC
Nov 25, 2021