1992 San Remo Rally
How long had you been driving 4WD?
During the previous year I drove an Integrale for the Jolly Club. Before that I drove only front-wheel-drive cars. I did the San Remo for the first time in a Renault 5 Turbo in 1986, the last year of Group B. From 1989 I drove a Peugeot 405Mi16 in the Italian championship and still did some rallies for Peugeot Italia in that car during 1991.
What was your experience on gravel roads?
Of course many Italian rallies use unsurfaced roads and I had done San Remo five times already. But in 1991 I got the chance to go to Catalunya with the Jolly Club and that was 50/50 asphalt and gravel. I found I could keep up with Juha Kankkunen and François Delecour on those roads I was unfamiliar with.
What was the deal that got you the drive with the Martini Lancia team?
They wanted to have a young Italian driver alongside guys like Didier Auriol, Kankkunen and Philippe Bugalski. They offered me five WRC rallies plus some Italian events like Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. That event was good experience for me because I went there with just Auriol as a team-mate and we finished 1-2. I’d already done Portugal, where I led before finding out where the limit of the car was on gravel! So Sardinia was a good exercise in restoring confidence.
What happened after the start?
Lancia lost Auriol on the first stage. There was some problem with a wheel on the front of his car and he crashed. For me it went very well on those asphalt stages behind San Remo and in Il Ciocco. We had the new Michelin SO2 racers that suited our car and set-up perfectly on the wet roads. We were quickest on the first eight stages but it was Delecour, not Kankkunen, who was chasing us hardest.
Then came the gravel roads?
Yes, and of course Kankkunen started to catch up. The weather was drier in Tuscany, which was good for us as the Lancia understeered a bit when it was slippery. I was pleased that I could hold him on times and it was just a few seconds between us even on the longest stages. He got past Delecour and finally, on the last gravel stage, he took the lead. I only had one bad moment in all, when on the second gravel stage I put two wheels off the road and thought we were going to roll.
What discussion was there within the team now that Auriol, leading the WRC, had failed to score?
Of course there was the idea that I should let Kankkunen win to get him as far ahead of Carlos Sainz as possible. I talked with Claudio Bortoletto (Martini team manager) and Nini Russo (Abarth liaison) and at first they were keen to suggest this strategy. But then I had another talk with them and Kankkunen. He was not happy to play the game even though he was just in the lead. So we went into the last night of asphalt stages with no team orders. After five stages I was back in the lead — in Monte Ceppo I won by 20 seconds. Delecour was trying like hell to catch us but it was not possible. It was a wonderful win for me and for the fantastic crowds of Italian supporters who had cheered us round the route. — JDFD