This week’s Monte Carlo Rally has got us thinking about previous runnings of the Monegasque classic.
In its 105-year history, there have been myriad highlights, but for many, the ultimate Monte came 30 years ago, in 1986. With Group B at its peak, the snow-covered roads of the French Alps witnessed a fierce battle between works teams from Peugeot (205 T16), Lancia (Delta S4), Audi (Quattro S1 E2), Austin Rover (MG Metro 6R4) and Citroen (BX4TC), with drivers like Timo Salonen, Juha Kankkunen, Walter Rohrl, Hannu Mikkola, Markku Alen, Henri Toivonen and Miki Biasion. As this BBC coverage shows, 500bhp, 4WD projectiles being driven on ice- and snow-covered roads by the world’s best drivers make for quite a spectacle…
Despite Murray Walker’s optimistic support, the Metro 6R4 was never in the running, and neither was the lamentable Citroen BX4TC. The rally thus came down to a straight fight between the combined might of Peugeot, Audi and Lancia.
In fact, Henri Toivonen was in another league – his speed, commitment and ability to push his 500bhp Lancia Delta S4 to the limit on snow and ice was on a different level to the others. Even a collision with a spectator’s car on one of the road sections (the spectator was coming the wrong way up a closed road), which turned his Delta S4 into a “banana”, couldn’t halt his progress. He came home four minutes ahead of reigning World Champion Timo Salonen, with 1983 champion Hannu Mikkola a further three minutes back, to seal victory 20 years after his father Pauli had won for Citroen.
Monte Carlo was Toivonen’s second rally win in a row, following his victory on the 1985 season-ending RAC (the Delta S4’s debut on a World Championship event), and instantly made him a hot favourite for the 1986 championship. Tragically, he was never able to fulfil that destiny. His fatal accident on that year’s Tour de Corse, following soon after three spectators had been killed on Rally Portugal, also brought an end to Group B.
The Group B era will be relived in all its glory at the 2016 Festival of Speed, on June 23rd-26th, with examples of every significant car in action.