Next week's Rallye Monte-Carlo (14-19 January) has been the setting for some thrilling WRC encounters over the years. Here are three of our favourites:
1986: Toivonen magic
Henri Toivonen will forever remain one of the WRC’s greatest icons, despite the fact he only won three events in his all too short career. Monte Carlo 1986 was the last of his three wins – it was also the final time the outrageous Group B machines blasted through the event’s mountain roads before being banned.
After a lengthy road section from a ceremonial start in Paris – by the Eiffel Tower no less! – Toivonen immediately hit the front and stayed there even after a collision with an on-coming motorist damaging his Lancia Delta S4’s chassis. A wrong tyre call and a puncture cost Toivonen his lead to Timo Salonen’s Peugeot 205 T16 but an inspired fightback enabled him to regain first position at the end of six gruelling days.
1995: Black cat, black out!
Carlos Sainz led in his Subaru Impreza entering the final knockings but Francois Delecour’s Escort was keeping him honest. As they took to the notorious Col de Turini at night it so nearly all went wrong for Sainz – a normally lucky but on this occasion unlucky black cat crossed his path and almost immediately his car’s headlights failed putting him and co-driver Luis Moya into pitch blackness on the alpine pass.
A quick re-boot of the system and the headlights worked again but Moya, seatbelts loosened, had to spend the rest of the stage operating the light switch which was at fault, this in turn meaning he had to read the pace notes one-handed! Sainz held on for the win as a shock absorber failure blunted Delecour’s charge. Miraculously all three Toyota’s hit troubles right at the end – Armin Schwarz and Dider Auriol retired and Juha Kankkunen only just survived a hefty rear-end thwack to scrabble home in third.
2002: Coulda, shoulda, woulda
A mouth-watering line-up of team-car-driver combinations went into the season-opener but one name many had perhaps overlooked was young French upstart Sebastien Loeb [pictured] in Citroen’s Xsara. In short he was an overnight sensation as he got the measure of Makinen, Sainz, McRae, Gronholm, Burns et al to take the lead. And he held on to win… on the road, at least.
A two-minute time penalty after Citroen had been spotted making an illegal tyre change on his car dropped him to second behind Makinen who inherited his fourth straight Monte win. Oh, and the 2002 Monte is also the one where Roman Cresta had that ‘Italian Job’ moment in his Skoda Octavia… It’s perhaps the only time a driver has been grateful for hitting a telegraph pole.