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WRC: The Less Known Winners

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I have never done an article on the WRC, but that is not to say I have no time for it. Indeed, I have been following rallying for as long as I’ve been following Formula 1. As long ago as 1993, at the age of 2 and a half, I asked my mother to tape the nightly editions of Top Gear Rally Report covering the 1993 RAC Rally, an event won by that year’s champion Juha Kankkunen in the dominant Toyota Celica. As a British rallying fan, I followed the highs of the mid-late 90s, the great battles between Makinen, Sainz, Auriol, Burns and my hero Colin McRae, and then the lows of the mid 2000s, the manufacturer withdrawals, the domination of Loeb and of course the deaths of Burns and McRae, something which today I still cannot get over.

But rallying history is often neglected. You don’t see as much focus on it as F1 history. In comparison, rallying history is like a little pocket book stored away under the bed collecting dust. I’ve got loads of F1 encyclopaedias – every man and his dog writes one. In contrast, I have one rallying encyclopaedia (which isn’t bad) – I’d buy others if they existed. OK, so the WRC isn’t quite up to the F1 (although at one point it was pretty close), but you’d still expect a bit more on it. It has a larger national following here than most other forms of motorsport.

So I have decided to make my own contribution with some blog entries documenting the history of the World Rally Championship. A relatively modern creation having begun in 1973, it nonetheless has some fascinating stories. It arguably experienced a development more rapid than F1, being at a similar level to what F1 was at in the 1950s before taking flight after the four wheel drive revolution in the early 1980s. The death of Group B at the end of the 1986 season was a knock that was soon shaken off, with the revamped Group A leading the sport onto some of its greatest years in the mid 1990s. The birth of the World Rally Car in 1997 cemented its position as one of the leading motorsport series in the world, and the manufacturers piled in. At its peak, it rivalled the struggling F1. That is how big it became.

However, it all started to go downhill shortly after. As costs spiralled out of control, the manufacturers, many of whom had only just joined, headed for the exit door. A decrease in the number of available works drives meant few drivers got a chance. The domination of Citroen and Sebastien Loeb from 2004 on coupled with the ends of the careers of the biggest names in the sport, radical calendar alterations, and further manufacturer withdrawals during the global financial crisis (including arguably the most well-known rallying brand, Subaru), has seen the WRC decline over the past 8 years, and it has become somewhat of a joke, especially in the face of the burgeoning Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which now has a selection of classic events including the Monte Carlo, a number of manufacturers, the best drivers outside the WRC, and TV coverage and backing from the mighty Eurosport. But it’s the WRC that still has the history, still has the memories of those glory days, and still has the potential to be great once again.

The less known winners of the WRC – those with less than 4 rally wins

Walter Boyce (CAN) – 1 win
Privateer winner of the 1973 Press-on-Regardless Rally in the USA in a Toyota Corolla he prepared himself. Entered only 6 rallies, all in North America.

Raffaele Pinto (ITA) – 1 win
1960s and 1970s works Fiat/Lancia driver who took his sole win in 1974 in Portugal. Also won a number of other non-WRC events and picked up a couple more WRC podiums later on.

Ove Andersson (SWE) – 1 win
Legendary as Toyota works team boss, he was also a handy driver too. Had plenty of success in the days before the WRC, before concentrating more on his TTE role in later years. Ironically took his only WRC win, the 1975 Safari, in a Peugeot. Was still rallying up until his tragic death during the 2008 Milligan classic rally in South Africa.

Per Eklund (SWE) – 1 win
Veteran Swede and rival of Blomqvist. Spent the 1970s as a Saab works driver, with whom he won the 1976 Swedish Rally, before becoming a well-respected privateer in the 1980s, and also became a star of the rallycross scene. Last competed in the WRC in the 1997 RAC Rally, for which he returned to the marque with which he made his name.

Harry Kallstrom (SWE) – 1 win
Won only the 1976 Acropolis in the WRC but was a regular contender through the 1960s and 1970s, driving for a variety of manufacturers. 1969 European Rally Champion and double RAC Rally winner (1969-70). Died in 2009.

Roger Clark (GBR) – 1 win
A British rallying legend, Clark won the RAC Rally twice, although only once when it was part of the WRC, thus becoming the first British WRC event winner and the last British winner of the British event for 18 years. Rarely competed outside Britain despite iconic status. Died suddenly in 1998.

Fulvio Bacchelli (ITA) – 1 win
French-born Italian Fiat works driver who took his only win in the mighty 1977 Rally New Zealand. Also won a handful of European championship events. Lost his works drive when Fiat and Lancia’s racing departments merged at the end of 1977 and rarely competed after.

Kyosti Hamalainen (FIN) – 1 win
13-time Finnish Rally Champion and winner of the 1977 1000 Lakes, but, like fellow Ford driver Clark, rarely competed outside his home country – he only did 3 WRC events outside Scandanavia, all of which were the RAC.

Tony Fassina (ITA) – 1 win
3 times Italian champion, European champion in 1982 and 1984 Targa Florio winner, but only ever did 5 WRC events, including the 1979 Sanremo which he won in a Jolly Club Lancia Stratos.

Anders Kullang (SWE) – 1 win
A former Swedish champion mostly associated with Opel, with whom he won his home event in 1980, although not just a one-trick pony – he finished 5th in the championship that year.

Guy Frequelin (FRA) – 1 win
Like Andersson, now more famous as the highly successful team boss of Citroen. Winner of the 1982 Rally Argentina (where he was co-driven by Jean Todt, another future team boss) and runner-up in the championship that year while driving for Talbot.

Joachim Moutinho (POR) – 1 win
Won the tragic 1986 Rallye de Portugal in a Renault 5 after the works teams withdrew, and also double national champion.

Bernard Beguin (FRA) – 1 win
Tarmac ace who stuck to the Monte and Corsica. Won the 1987 Tour de Corse in a BMW M3, taking Prodrive’s first WRC win (well before Subaru!).

Franz Wittmann (AUT) – 1 win
Former Audi and VW works driver who picked up a Lancia Delta for the 1987 Rally New Zealand and won. Also notable for being the first driver to win an international rally in the legendary Audi Quattro in 1981.

Sepp Haider (AUT) – 1 win
Works Opel driver and German champion who was another to take his maiden win on the tough Rally New Zealand, this time in 1988, taking the Kadett’s only WRC win.

Jorge Recalde (ARG) – 1 win
Argentinean rally legend who won his home event in 1988 for Lancia, with whom he is most associated. Died after suffering a heart attack during a national rally in 2001.

Alain Ambrosino (FRA) – 1 win
Born in Morocco and spent most of his career rallying in the continent of his birth, becoming African champion 3 times and winning the 1988 Bandama in a Nissan 200SX at the 20th time of asking.

Alain Oreille (FRA) – 1 win
Long-time Renault driver who took a surprise win in the 1989 Bandama in a Group N 5, helping him to the first of 2 FIA Group N Cup wins. British fans may remember his season in the BRC in 1995, when he finished 4th in the championship.

Pentti Airikkala (FIN) – 1 win
British-based Finn who won the RAC in 1989 in a works Mitsubishi. Also won the BRC 10 years before driving for Vauxhall. Later ran a rally driving school before dying in 2009.

Patrick Tauziac (FRA) – 1 win
Born in Vietnam, carried the French flag, and spent most of his life in the Ivory Coast. Won the (Lancia and Toyota-less) 1990 Bandama for Mitsubishi, becoming the first Asian-born WRC event winner.

Armin Schwarz (GER) – 1 win
The most well-known rallying German in recent years but with only the 1992 Catalunya to his name. Drove for 5 works teams, including 2 stints at Toyota and Skoda, taking his only WRC win and the non-championship 1996 RAC with the former.

Andrea Aghini (ITA) – 1 win
Tarmac specialist who was a regular contender on asphalt in the 1990s. Won the 1992 Sanremo for Lancia and went on to do tarmac events for the works Toyota and Mitsubishi teams. Also won the 1992 Race of Champions.

Franco Cunico (ITA) – 1 win
Like Aghini, an Italian tarmac ace of the 1990s who sprung to prominance on the world stage by winning a chaotic 1993 Sanremo. Remains the last true non-works winner of a WRC event (if you don’t count the Kronos Citroen and Citroen Junior wins)

Ian Duncan (KEN) – 1 win
Toyota’s local Kenyan who was a regular contender for Safari honours in the 1990s, winning outright for the works team in 1994.

Piero Liatti (ITA) – 1 win
Another of the Italian tarmac specialists, but netted a full-time Subaru works drive in 1996 and went on to win the Monte Carlo the following year, the first win of the World Rally Car generation. After leaving Subaru after 1998, he drove for SEAT and Hyundai.

Harri Rovanpera (FIN) – 1 win
One of the later Flying Finns, he got his break with SEAT in 1997. Won the 2001 Swedish Rally on his debut for Peugeot after Makinen crashed out in the last stage. Also won the Race of Champions later that year. Spent 4 years at Peugeot with no further wins, before moving to Mitsubishi and Red Bull Skoda.

Jesus Puras (ESP) – 1 win
The first man to win with the Citroen Xsara WRC, in the 2001 Tour de Corse, but also FIA Group N champion in 1994 – perhaps then not necessarily the tarmac-only driver Citroen thought him to be when they dropped him after 2002.

Francois Duval (BEL) – 1 win
Fast but crash-happy Belgian who drove for Ford and Citroen in the WRC, winning the 2005 Rally Australia for the latter after most of the leading contenders retired. About to return to competitive action at this year’s Rally Deutschland after briefly retiring earlier this year.

Sebastien Ogier (FRA) – 1 win
The latest driver to add his name to the all-time wins list after winning in Portugal this year for the Red Bull-backed Citroen Junior team. Arguably rallying’s most exciting prospect at the moment and may have more wins ahead of him.

Achim Warmbold (GER) – 2 wins
A winner of 2 events in the first year of the WRC with 2 different makes (Fiat and BMW), and also the winner of the 1972 Rally of Portugal and 2 West German Rally Championships. Also ran Mazda’s WRC effort during the 1980s, MRTE, but could not repeat the success of Ove Andersson’s TTE.

Joginder Singh (KEN) – 2 wins
Veteran of the Safari, including wins in 1965, 1974 and 1976, the latter pair notable for being the first 2 wins for Mitsubishi in the WRC.

Bruno Saby (FRA) – 2 wins
Initially a tarmac specialist, and winner of the marred 1986 Tour de Corse for Peugeot and 1988 Monte Carlo for Lancia, but later went on to become one of the world’s leading rally raid drivers, winning the 1993 Dakar.

Ingvar Carlsson (SWE) – 2 wins
The man behind 2 of Mazda’s 3 WRC wins, Sweden and New Zealand in 1989, and a loyal servant to the Japanese manufacturer through the 1980s. Died last year.

Mikael Ericsson (SWE) – 2 wins
A frequent contender in the late 1980s and early 1990s who won back-to-back events in 1989 with different manufacturers – Argentina with Lancia, and the 1000 Lakes with Mitsubishi. Finished 4th in the standings that year despite only doing 3 events.

Kenjiro Shinozuka (JPN) – 2 wins
The only Japanese WRC event winner so far, winning consecutive Bandamas for Mitsubishi in 1991 and 1992, after which the Ivory Coast event was dropped. Also won the 1997 Dakar for the marque.

Mats Jonsson (SWE) – 2 wins
Always a threat on homesoil, but also works driver for Opel in the 1980s. After their withdrawal, he joined Toyota Sweden, and won the 1992 and 1993 Swedish Rallies in the Celica. Still competes today having won many Swedish national titles.

Philippe Bugalski (FRA) – 2 wins
The first man to win in the WRC for Citroen but the last man to win a WRC event outright in a two wheel drive car, having won the 1999 Rally Catalunya and Tour de Corse in the Xsara Kit Car. Also won the non-championship 1996 Corsica event in an F2 Renault Megane.

Jean-Claude Andruet (FRA) – 3 wins
3-time winner with 3 different manufacturers, all on tarmac – the 1973 Monte with Alpine, the very first WRC event; the 1974 TdC with Lancia; and the 1976 Sanremo in a Fiat. Also French and European champion in the 1970s.

Jean Ragnotti (FRA) – 3 wins
Mr Renault in the 1980s and 1990s. 1 Monte (1981) and 2 Tours de Corse (1982 and 1985) were among a string of strong giant-killing performances in little rear wheel drive Renault 5s against the mighty four wheel drive monsters. Continued to compete in the WRC in F2 Clios up until 1995.

Henri Toivonen (FIN) – 3 wins
A rallying legend, despite an all-too-brief career and only a trio of wins that included 2 RACs (1981 for Talbot, and 1985 for Lancia) and a Monte Carlo (1986, again for Lancia). Killed in a horrific fiery crash, along with his co-driver Sergio Cresto, while leading the 1986 Tour de Corse. The greatest lost rallying talent of the 1980s, if not all time.


Written by James Bennett

August 10, 2010 at 20:54

Posted in Rallying

One Response

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  1. Rally is for men , all else is pretty weak comparatively


    April 12, 2011 at 07:04

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