Super six... Alpine's WRC successes

14th December 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

With the new Alpine A110 appearing at the Festival of Speed in the summer and GRR very recently sampling its retro-modern delights in France, it’s worth remembering that this niche French firm won the inaugural Manufacturers’ World Rally Championship, back in 1973.


The slippery A110, the styling from which the new car takes most of its cues, was the car to beat 44 years ago, when the series we know and love today was born out of the International Championship of Makes.

The French machine took victory in six of the 13 rallies, putting up a superb fight against BMW, Datsun, Fiat, Ford, Saab and Toyota – with Ford’s RS1600 Mk1 the only other car to win more than once.

This is how Alpine conquered motorsport’s toughest discipline in its inaugural World Championship year. 

1. Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo – Jean-Claude Andruet/‘Biche

The very first WRC event, in January 1973, proved to be a whitewash for the 1,800cc Group 4 A110s. Sandro Munari’s Lancia Fulvia HF might have taken first blood, with the Escort of Hannu Mikkola assuming control for two stages early on, but it was the #18 Alpine of Jean-Claude Andruet that dominated thereafter. He briefly lost the lead to the sister car of Ove Andersson but got back in front for the final two stages for a 26-second win over the Swede. Jean-Pierre Nicolas made it an A110 1-2-3, only Mikkola preventing an Alpine top-five rout.  

2. TAP Rally – Jean-Luc Thérier/Jacques Jaubert

Local hero Stig Blomqvist’s Saab 96 won the all-snow Swedish Rally in round two but the Alpines fought back on the asphalt/gravel roads of Portugal in round three. Frenchman Bernard Darniche, who’d finished his local event, the Monte Carlo, in a lowly 10 place, was back on form to take a convincing lead in the #3 Alpine. He stayed out front until the 25th of the 32 stages, the car’s differential giving up the ghost and handing the initiative to Jean-Luc Thérier, with whom he’d been trading fastest stage times throughout. J-LT hung on to win by nearly seven minutes from Jean-Pierre Nicolas for an A110 one-two.  

3. Rallye du Maroc – Bernard Darniche/Alain Mahé (F)

The sturdy Datsun 240Z of Kenyan superstar Shekhar Mehta triumphed in the East African Safari, before the series moved to North Africa for round five in Morocco. The gruelling event was made up of 11 stages – the shortest being 20km, the longest 250km! Bernard Darniche was keen to make up for his disappointment in Portugal, taking an early lead and holding on to it for his first WRC victory. Team-mate Jean-Luc Thérier took several stage wins but fell to seventh at the finish, two places behind Jean-Pierre Nicolas in the third A110. Second, third and fourth places were filled by a trio of Citroën DS23s. 

4. Acropolis Rally – Jean-Luc Thérier/Christian Delferrier

Jean-Luc Thérier became the first man to win twice in 1973, thanks to victory on the rough gravel stages of the Acropolis Rally, the sixth round of the Championship. He dominated the Greek event, taking fastest time on 13 of the first 15 stages and maintaining the lead for all 47 tests. His winning margin was a whisker over seven minutes. Jean-Pierre Nicolas finished third in the sister A110, with the Fiat 124 Spider of Rauno Aaltonen the meat in the Alpine sandwich.

5. San Remo Rally – Jean-Luc Thérier/Jacques Jaubert

The French-blue Alpines suffered a victory drought over the next three events, with Fiat’s Achim Warmbold winning in Poland, Timo Mäkinen’s Ford taking the 1000 Lakes and Warmbold triumphing again in Austria, this time in a BMW 2002. The A110s returned to winning ways in Italy for round 10, with Thérier becoming the season’s only three-time winner thanks to victory in San Remo. He unleashed the same level of superiority that had given him Acropolis victory back in May, leading throughout the 37-stage rally to win by six minutes. Fiat again prevented an Alpine one-two, this time courtesy of Maurizio Verini, the Italian holding off Jean-Pierre Nicolas. 

6. Tour de Corse – Jean-Pierre Nicolas/Michel Vial

Two more defeats followed for Alpine – in America, won by Canadian Walter Boyce’s Toyota, and on the RAC Rally, won by Timo Mäkinen’s Escort. The season finale took place on the sun-kissed mountain roads of Corsica and it was Jean-Pierre Nicolas’s turn to win for Alpine. The Frenchman took control on stage two and held on for the next 20 to rack up his maiden WRC win. The world’s best rally car signed off in style with a 1-2-3, thanks to Jean-Francois Piot and Jean-Luc Thérier, who helped cap a World Championship-winning year for Alpine.

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