Track back -- 50/30/20/10 years ago

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1985 — Vatanen’s four-minute warning

Finn storms back from huge checkpoint penalty to win Monte for Peugeot

When you commit just about the most basic error a co-driver can make, you know it’s going to haunt you forever. No surprise then, that when Motor Sport asked Terry Harryman if the 1985 Monte Carlo Rally is an event he is reminded of often, his reply was to the point: “Yep.”

Silence.

Fortunately, the story of Harryman’s gaffe at a time control has a happy ending. He might be weary of talking about it, but not as tired as he might have been: Harryman and his driver Ari Vatanen were slapped with a huge eight-minute penalty, triggering one of the greatest comeback charges in the history of the world rally championship.

The pair had won nine of the previous 10 special stages when they pulled into the overnight parc fermé at Gap. The Peugeot 205 T16 was the first to arrive, by some margin. Had their rivals been delayed on the run into town? No. The awful reality began to sink in.

The running of the day’s final stage had been delayed by four minutes, time that Harryman did not account for at the checkpoint. He thus clocked into parc fermé four minutes early, earning a penalty that looked sure to have ruined a certain victory.

Harryman did not enjoy the break in Gap. “I was distraught,” he says. “That night I began to run a bath, but stopped. I thought to myself, ‘If you get in, you might just drown yourself’.”

But typically Vatanen had not given up. “At first Ari said something like, ‘How could you do this when we had such a great chance to win?'” says Harryman. “Then he just forgot about it and got on with driving.”

There were 394km to the finish and Walter Röhrl’s Audi Sport Quattro had an advantage of exactly 281sec over the Peugeot crew. The chase was on.

“It was the ride of my life,” Harryman reflects. “To take that much time out of Walter Röhrl was incredible. It was all about pure ability and determination.”

Rohrl had always maintained that the 205’s speed advantage would allow Ari to make up the deficit, but few believed him. At first. But now the Finn was closing fast. So fast that the German star was forced into a tyre gamble.

The Col St Raphael stage began with a 7km ascent on snow, followed by 30km of asphalt. The problem the crews faced, as they had throughout the event, was strong sunshine melting the ice and snow: Vatanen chose snow tyres, Röhrl slicks. Audi’s gamble backfired, Vatanen shot past just 2km from the stage start, and had retaken the lead by its finish. Over the last seven stages he opened a 5min gap to become the first Finn to win the Monte Carlo since Rauno Aaltonen in 1967; Harryman was the first Brit to win it since David Stone (co-driver for Ove Andersson) in ’71. You can bet Terry enjoyed his bath that night.

***

Also this month in ’85:

— New Toleman

Toleman launches its Rory Byrne-designed TG185 grand prix challenger. Only Stefan Johansson is named as a driver. The team faces a major sticking point as both Goodyear and Pirelli, Formula One’s only tyre producers, say they cannot supply it.

— Desert Storm

Mitsubishi notches up a convincing 1-2 on the Paris-Dakar Rally. Frenchman Patrick Zaniroli leads Mitsubishi Pajero team-mate Andrew Cowan through the desert. Le Mans legend Henri Pescarolo suffers dreadful luck towards the end of the marathon event when he retires his Land Rover from fourth place just 40km from the finish.

— Lotus Doubts

Plans for Lotus to return to Indycars appear to be falling apart. Work continues on a new chassis designed under Gerard Ducarouge, but there are doubts over the funding for the Winkelmann Team Lotus operation. Signed driver Al Unser Jr quits…

— Jones Returns

Alan Jones confirms his return to F1 at the launch of Carl Haas new Beatrice team. The Hart-powered car will make its debut later in the year. Jones says: “I’d like to think that we could have a serious shot at the world title in ’86.”

***

1995:

Sainz wins Monte

Subaru ace Carlos Sainz fends off a strong challenge from Ford’s François Delecour to win the Monte Carlo Rally. Sainz inherits the lead from teammate Colin McRae on the second stage when the Scot plants his Impreza into a snow bank; McRae loses two minutes trying to back out, then realises he has selected first gear instead of reverse! Delecour damages a shock absorber three stages from the finish and is forced to settle for second place. Controversy dominates the whole rally: its new servicing rules ban mechanics from working on the cars in specified ‘no-go’ zones leaving all the drivers fuming. It forces them and their co-drivers to get their hands dirty.

***

1975:

Argentine and Brazilian GP’s

The BT44-s of Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace and the Hesketh of James Hunt all led the Argentine GP, but both Brabham drivers and the Englishman throw it all away with spins. Their mistakes allow reigning world champion Emerson Fittipaldi through to win. Hunt recovers to finish second ahead of Reutemann. Jean-Pierre Jarier causes the shock of the weekend with a pole position in the new Shadow DN5. But the Frenchman fails even to start when his final drive lets go on the warm-up lap. Jarier looks set to make up for this disappointment two weeks later at the Brazilian GP where he once again takes pole. The Shadow dominates the race, but Jean-Pierre is left heartbroken just eight laps from the flag when the metering unit seizes, starving his Cosworth of fuel. His retirement hands the lead to Pace, who has passed Reutemann as his team-mate’s tyres begin to degrade.

Pace drives an intelligent race to secure his first GP victory; doing so in front of his home crowd makes it all the sweeter.

***

1955:

Fangio

Juan Fangio withstands a fierce heatwave to win the Argentine GP for Mercedes-Benz.

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