Around and about, December 1989

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Surprising news in Sanremo was that Kankkunen and Pirronen would be leaving Toyota to rejoin Lancia for 1990. After their first year with Lancia in 1987, the two Finns were so disillusioned with the team that they wasted no time leaving at the end of the year to go back to Toyota, with whom they had started so successfully in 1985 before joining first Peugeot and then the Italian team. Their very first event for Lancia, as reigning World Champions, was the Monte Carlo Rally, and Kankkunen’s comment after being told to throw away certain victory by slowing down to let Biasion win, was “What a welcome to a new team for a World Champion”! Now a little older, wiser, and perhaps more accustomed to the devious intrigue and surface showmanship of World Championship rallying, he has perhaps accepted the business side of the sport, unfortunate though it may be.

Joining the Toyota team will be Mikael Ericsson and Claes Billstam, the pair who became hot property after winning both the Argentina and the 1000 Lakes Rallies this year. Also moving is Markku Alen and Ilkka Kivimaki, breaking a long run of rallying Italian cars, both Fiat and Lancia. They will be joining Subaru, a team which, like its Japanese rivals, will be operating from Europe, based at Prodrive in England, the outfit currently preparing (and hiring) BMWs. Equally surprising was the unsubstantiated story that Walter Rohrl would be returning to rallying and joining Mitsubishi. We do know, however, that the Bavarian driver has tired of racing in the USA and is keen to quit the circuits and return to rallying. His dedication and fanaticism have made him unpopular with other drivers, but the fact remains that he is an extremely polished driver, even in terrain (such as Africa) which he openly dislikes. He has come a long way since startling everyone by his spirited driving of a private Capri in Germany’s Olympia Rally of 1972 and, despite his long lay-off, he certainly has the calibre to take another world title. GP.

A last minute withdrawal by a major sponsor has meant that David Sutton Motorsport has been forced to withdraw its entry for the Lombard RAC Rally. Stig Blomqvist and co-driver Benny Melander, who were due to drive Sutton’s Ford Cosworth, will be missing their first RAC since 1985. There will be only one official works Ford entry, that of the Q8 sponsored car of Franco Cunico/Max Sghedoni. Other privately entered Ford drivers include Jimmy and Colin McRae, Russell Brookes, Mark Lovell and Gwyndaf Evans.

The Duke of Richmond and Gordon

The Duke of Richmond and Gordon, renowned for his active role in motor racing, died on November 2 at the the age of 85. Freddie Richmond, as his many friends knew him, was a celebrated racing driver, gaining a Premier award in the JCC High Speed Trial as the Earl of March in 1929 and winning the Brooklands 500 Miles race with Sammy Davis as a member of the Austin team in 1930. In 1931 he formed his own team of MG Midgets with whom he won the Brooklands Double Twelve race. He later became involved in the organisational side of motorsport and also developed interests in the motor trade, his name being associated with a number of March special-bodied sportscars. Freddie eventually settled on the 1200 acre Goodwood estate, near Chichester which he rehabilitated for use as a motor racing circuit after the war. It did not take long for it to become the venue for important Formula One and sportscar races including the prestigious Tourist Trophy. Safety reasons, however, prompted him to call a halt to hosting race meetings in 1966. The Duke was also the longest serving Vice-President of the Royal Automobile Club and founder member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, his writing career extending back to the 1930s. SS

Derek Warwick has had his first test of a Lamborghini-engined Lotus. During a foggy session at Snetteron Warwick was able to complete only a few laps in a modified 101, but in that short time was able to express his satisfaction with the smoothness of the Italian unit. The car was fitted with the longitudinal gearbox, but the 102 is being designed to accept a new transverse box.

While Michele Alboreto is the confirmed number one driver at Arrows, the number two position remains open. Bertrand Gachot and Gregor Foitek are the two fancied front runners, but Chief Executive Officer Jackie Oliver is unwilling to reach an early decision.

Oliver’s time at present is taken up with high finance following the news that the Japanese company Footwork is buying into the team. It has been confirmed that Oliver’s position will remain unchanged as will that of Alan Rees, who remains responsible for the management of the team as well as financial director. Since Ross Brawn has left for pastures new, John Wickham’s role is likely to be that of project manager.

Following the end of season drama revolving around Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian has gone back home to consider his future.

In a sordid tit for tat, Ferrari has refused permission for Gerhard Berger to join McLaren in response to the Woking team’s petulance in forbidding Alain Prost joining the Scuderia until his contract expires at the end of the year.

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