Until the Sébastien Loeb era, France’s most successful rally driver was Didier Auriol, who in 1994 became the first Frenchman
to win the World Rally Championship.
Born in 1958 in Montpellier, he was an ambulance driver before taking up rallying in 1984. He drove for a variety of teams including Austin Rover, Ford, Lancia, Toyota, Subaru, Mitsubishi, SEAT, Peugeot and Skoda. He won the World Championship in a Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD.
As a Frenchman it was probably appropriate that his first WRC win was on the Tour de Corse in 1988 in a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth. It was an event he went on to win six times.
In 1992, driving a Lancia Delta Integrale HF, he won six events during the season, which stood as a record until Loeb bettered it in 2005. However, his hopes of the championship were dashed by poor results in other events and retirement on the last round, the RAC Rally, allowed Carlos Sainz to take the drivers’ crown.
In 1993 he signed with Toyota and the following year, after three wins in a Celica, he was crowned world champion.
But after his world title, things began to go wrong at Toyota. In 1995 after Auriol had yet again won the Tour de Corse, the manufacturer was excluded from the championship and banned for the following year for using an illegal device in the turbocharger.
Auriol has taken part in 152 world rallies, won 20 of them and finished on the podium 53 times.