Swede Blomqvist is almost certainly the oldest driver to make a factory comeback when he returned to competition at the wheel of a Skoda Octavia WRC in 2002, aged 55. Astonishingly, he finished 15th overall, mostly beating drivers who were still at school when he won his drivers’ title in 1984. Undaunted he went onto finish 17th with the Skoda on the Acropolis Rally in the same year, by which point he was very close to his 56th birthday...
The Frenchman, who ended his competitive career driving for Mitsubishi in 2002 made a spectacular comeback on Rallye Monte-Carlo this year. The 49-year-old drove a Ford Fiesta RS WRC just for fun - but finished in a highly creditable sixth overall. Making his return at the same time was co-driver Dominique Savignoni - but this time, it was definitely goodbye. Savignoni marked his retirement by swapping seats to drive the final stage, with Delecour reading the pace notes.
Gronholm always wondered if he had retired too early, at the end of 2007. It was clear that he missed the cut and thrust of competition as by 2009 he was back in rally car, driving a privately-run Subaru Impreza WRC on the Rally of Portugal. Gronholm had been in talks to drive for Subaru throughout the 2008 season, but he did not get to sample the Japanese car until one year later, as a one-off. Gronholm was running in an excellent fourth overall before crashing out on Saturday’s opening stage. In 2010 he also contested Rally Sweden - his favourite event - with a privateer Ford Focus WRC, finishing 21st after encountering electrical problems.
The flying Finn, pictured, is still the only driver in the history of the WRC to win the drivers’ championship with three different manufacturers, underlining the fact that he’s something quite special. So the fact that he finished eighth on Neste Oil Rally Finland in 2010, after just 75 kilometres of testing and an eight-year absence from WRC competition should not come as a massive surprise. Kankkunen is something of a Finland specialist: on one stage, near his house, co-driver Juha Repo was silent for long periods of time as Kankkunen didn’t actually need the pace notes. Aged 51, it was clear to see that the cigar-smoking Finn had lost none of his speed.
Colin McRae drove for Citroen throughout 2003, but three years later he got the call from the French manufacturer to replace Sebastien Loeb on the 2006 Rally of Turkey, after the multiple world champion broke his arm in a mountain bike accident. McRae’s run in Turkey was ultimately thwarted by a mechanical problem, but he was still the fans’ favourite. One year earlier, McRae had come tantalisingly close to a sensational second place on Rally Australia for Skoda - another amazing comeback - only to retire almost within sight of the finish due to a problem in service while changing the clutch.