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Mon 30 Jan 2023

Eager Delecour intent on Rally1 drive

World Rally Championship legend François Delecour is determined to get behind the wheel of a Rally1-specification car following his Masters’ Cup victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Delecour, 60, finished runner-up in the 1993 WRC season and has amassed four top-level victories over the course of his career. He last campaigned a significant WRC programme in 2002 - his final season as a full-time factory driver with Mitsubishi - but has remained active behind the wheel of various cars ever since.

The passionate Frenchman started his 24th Rallye Monte-Carlo earlier this month aboard a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, winning the Masters’ Cup whilst also finishing a respectable 10th overall in WRC2.  

Delecour revealed he very nearly contested the Monaco-based fixture in one of M-Sport Ford’s Puma Rally1 cars, but his hopes of a top-flight return were put on the backburner simply because the British squad did not have enough vehicles available.

He’s feeling confident next year will be the year he gets to tick that item off his bucket list.

“Next year we will push hard to make Monte-Carlo with a Rally1,” Delecour confidently told WRC.com. “This year it was nearly done, but at the last moment Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport owner] told me: ‘François, I have no cars, I am very sorry’.

“It would be so interesting to compare and see if I [still] have the speed. I had my supporters and my friends behind me, and we had the budget to do it.”

Before we see Delecour in an M-Sport Puma at next year’s Monte-Carlo, though, we may also be seeing more of him in this year’s WRC2 championship.

“Maybe we will do four or five more events [in WRC2], somewhere like Croatia and Portugal - but not in Finland, that’s completely crazy,” he quipped.

“I think it’s possible, but my problem right now is that I am changing cars all the time. I am going in a Porsche, then an Alpine, now this. Sometimes you arrive to a corner, and you don’t really know where the handbrake is, believe me!

“These guys are all the time in the same car, same class. The pace in WRC2 is incredible, it was so fast. I didn’t expect the speed to be so high at the front – but these guys are pushing really, really hard. With more time, maybe I can be on the same pace on some stages but not over the whole rally, that’s for sure.”

Seat time may be holding Delecour back, but his age and fitness certainly aren’t. The week prior to Monte-Carlo he cycled 60 kilometres to and from his pre-event test.

“That’s just nothing, nothing at all,” he smiled. “I usually ride around 400 kilometres per week, or 15,000 kilometres per year. After Monte-Carlo I am not tired - I can do another 100 kilometres right now, easy.”