Toyota Team Europe had put a considerable amount of thought into Spain’s 1991 arrival in the WRC.
A win for the Japanese marque’s local hero Carlos Sainz would do nicely. A win would mean a successful drivers’ title defence for the megastar from Madrid.
A second Celica GT4 was sent from Cologne for Armin Schwarz, but the German’s role was that of a wingman to the team leader. From the off, Schwarz was on the pace and took the lead from François Delecour’s Ford Sierra RS Cosworth on the second asphalt stage.
Sainz was never more than a handful of seconds away and was expected to make his move once the route shifted to the loose gravel roads further inland from the Costa Brava. It didn’t happen.
His Celica fell silent in stage eight when an electrical problem shoved a stick firmly in TTE’s spokes. Spain’s champion was out. The atmosphere around Toyota’s Lloret de Mar service park was funereal. The team continued to lead, but despondency reigned.
All Schwarz (pictured here on another 1991 WRC event) could do was continue at pace and block Sainz’s primary title rival, Juha Kankkunen, from taking 10 points. And that was what he did.
Not that it was a calm and collected drive to the finish – there was a quick roll and a gearbox failure to deal with first. The accident damage was purely cosmetic and, once Schwarz and co-driver Arne Hertz shoved the Celica out of parc fermé and into service on the final morning, the transmission was changed.
And done in record time as the mechanics took out their frustrations on the task in hand and lowered their transmission-swapping benchmark to an impressive 7min 53sec.
From then on, Schwarz held his nerve and collected a minute-and-a-half win over Kankkunen to take his first and only success at the sport’s highest level.
Kankkunen clung to second by five seconds from Delecour, despite a spin and stall in the final stage. Such had been Toyota’s desperation to cost the Finn places on the leaderboard, they even offered Ford a share of their more suitable, softer tyres for Delecour’s Sierra.
It was all to no avail: a fortnight later Kankkunen was crowned champion at Britain’s RAC Rally.