Despite that news, a now two-man title fight raged on into the RAC Rally. Mikkola needed a strong result and delivered just that with a second consecutive win on Britain’s biggest rally. For Waldegård there was a brand new RS1800, but a troubled event with what would be one of the last official Escort Mk2s to come out of Ford kept him in ninth place.
Fiat had long-since surrendered any hope of success, which was part of the reason it allowed Alén his own way in Britain. Markku felt the Stratos was more suited to the wet autumnal woods and Lancia dusted down a HF for the Finn. He led early on, but once Mikkola was up and running, his countryman simply couldn’t contain the Ford.
Some consolation for Waldegård was that he would lead Mikkola by six points (12 points once dropped scores were taken into account) as the pair moved to the season-closing Bandama Rally on the Ivory Coast. Back to Africa meant back to the Mercedes to decide the direction of the first ever drivers’ title.
Mikkola had to go for it and did just that, overcoming a strong challenge from fellow 450 driver Andrew Cowan to take the win. Waldegård by comparison drove a careful event, calculating that second would be enough – just – to take the title.
He ended the season as he’d started in: second. But this time, the Swede was smiles all around as he clinched the maiden drivers’ title by a single point.
Since that inaugural season, 16 more drivers have won the title, the last 15 of them going to France via Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier.
But few seasons delivered the twists and turns of 40 years ago.