Mon 09 Jan 2023

A story of triumph, heartbreak, and passion: Delecour returns

As if the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo (19 - 22 January) couldn’t get any more exciting… François Delecour’s coming.

When the news broke of the Frenchman’s decision to return to the Alps with a Škoda Fabia Rally2, it was impossible not to be caught up in the general fervour of the moment.

This will be his 22nd start on a world-famous event he first drove in 1984. With a season and a half’s rally experience under his belt, Delecour made his first ever WRC start in Monaco driving a Group A Talbot Samba Rallye. He finished fourth in class. 

Six years on and he made the top 10 of the Monte, placing a Peugeot 309 GTi ninth in 1990. That was good, but nothing compared with what was to come 12 months on. 

Understandably, the 1991 Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event that still brings a tear to the eye of the now 60-year-old. 

Having impressed with a handful of pacey outings in a Peugeot, Delecour was the slightly surprising selection for a factory Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4. Joining Malcolm Wilson and Alex Fiorio for the Blue Oval, there was more than the odd Boreham mechanic trying to figure out how to pronounce their new star’s name.

Not for long. Third fastest on the event’s first stage proper, Delecour leapt up the leaderboard to fourth overall. When he opened day two with a maiden stage win – in Burzet – he was up to second. And now residing very much in dreamland. The dream got better as he moved past Toyota’s defending world champion Carlos Sainz and into the lead with three stages remaining.

He took more time out of the Spaniard to build a 41-second advantage with just a six o’clock in the morning run across Turini to go.

The dream turned to a nightmare as he tumbled to third with broken rear suspension.

Delecour’s speed on that 1991 Monte was astonishing. Yes, he knew the roads well, but this was his first foray into four-wheel drive. His first time at the sharpest of sharp ends. And he’d delivered.

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Suddenly, everybody knew the name Delecour. 

Fourth in 1992 and second in 1993, he finally secured a long-awaited and much deserved victory aboard an Escort Cosworth on a 1994 event that was more soggy than snowy.

Since then, Delecour has done the event in a variety of World Rally Cars, as well as S2000 and R5 machinery. He’s even roared through the mountains in a Porsche 911 GT3. 

Regardless of what Delecour drives the Alps in, he’s always spectacular and always enormous fun to watch – both in and out of the car. Fortunately for him, he’s in a Toksport Škoda with an excellent chance to star on an event he adores once more.

Main image: Automobile Club de Monaco

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