Thursday | 13 Aug 2020

One-hit wonder: Piero Liatti

Piero Liatti is only included in this week’s list of WRC one-hit wonders – those drivers who celebrated a single FIA World Rally Championship event victory – because of team orders on the 1997 Rallye Sanremo. More of which later……

The likeable Italian’s sole WRC win came earlier in the same season, when he scored a historic victory on Rallye Monte-Carlo. He and co-driver Fabrizia Pons registered the first ever success for a World Rally Car at the dawn of a new generation in the sport.

And they did it the hard way, with an inspired selection of hand-cut Pirelli wet tyres for a sodden Sisteron stage (complete with a couple of kilometres of slush and snow on the Col de Fontbelle). That fastest time on the final day’s opening test moved the Subaru Impreza WRC97 into the lead.

And this time, Liatti, an apparently perennial understudy, stepped out of the shadows and into the full force of the spotlight, winning the most famous rally in the world.

Video: One-hit wonder - Piero Liatti

Not far from Casino Square, where Italian fans celebrated long into the night, Liatti had come close to breaking his duck just months earlier when he narrowly lost a Sanremo win to Colin McRae.

Typically, Liatti was entirely accepting of the result. “Colin was faster,” he said with a shrug.

Same place a year on and Liatti’s demeanour wasn’t quite so relaxed. He and Pons were just a second behind McRae and Nicky Grist on the eve of the final day. Liatti retook the lead and chose to pull over for five seconds at the end of the last stage.

That wasn’t enough, they’d still won by four seconds, forcing a late check-in and 10sec penalty to hand the victory to the McRae.

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As you might expect, the crowd gathered in Sanremo for the finish weren’t entirely appreciative of McRae’s win.

The Scot dealt with a tricky situation entirely sympathetically, helped no doubt by feeling he’d been in that very situation when Subaru team orders went against him and in the way of Carlos Sainz a couple of years earlier in Catalunya.

After another season with Subaru, which included another second place on his home round, Liatti moved to Seat, Ford and Hyundai where he drove part-programmes focused mainly on asphalt rounds.

Photographs by Prodrive