Mother courage

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Losing this rally cost Michele an historic world title. But, she tells John Davenport, there was a far bigger battle to be fought and won

It was the tenth year of the World Rally Championship and only the fourth season in which the drivers had competed for their own title. And it looked as if something amazing was about to happen — the first female rally champion. But there was to be a sad twist to this tale.

With 10 of the 12 drivers’ rounds completed, and with outright wins in Portugal, Acropolis and Brazil to her name, Michele Mouton lay just 19 points behind Walter Röhrl and 30 ahead of her Audi team-mates, Stig Blomqvist and Hannu Mildcola. Röhr’ had accumulated his total via eight scores compared with the six of Mouton, and WRC rules allowed only the best seven scores to count. Thus the German was already due to drop his worst score (10 points). Nor did the remaining rounds favour him and his two-wheel-drive Opel Ascona 400: Röhrl had never competed in the Ivory Coast and was known to heartily dislike the RAC Rally, the final round. Although Audi and Mouton herself had never been to the Ivory Coast either, the 100 per cent gravel roads and mud definitely favoured four-wheel drive. Both teams threw themselves, slightly unwillingly, into a West African event that had not previously featured in any of their plans. Röhr’ did not even practice; instead he sent his co-driver, Christian Geistdorfer, to do it for him.

Both teams entered chase cars: Audi’s was crewed by Mikkola and team manager/technician, Roland Gumpert, with Stig Blomqvist in another rally car; Opel ran an extra car, too, for Swedes Bjtim Johansson and Bruno Berglund.

“For Audi, the problems really started in the second of the four legs,” says Mouton. “First, Hannu had trouble. He broke the rear differential and tried to go in just front-wheel drive, but then the other differential broke. He and Roland had to be rescued from near the border with Guinea. I, too, had an oil leak in the rear differential, but I had it changed. Walter had lost a lot of time with his rear suspension so that, when we came to the end of that leg, I was leading him by 59 minutes.

“But I was uneasy. My gearbox was not correct. It was stiff and hard to engage, which normally meant trouble. I was so pleased to see Hannu and I asked him what we should do. He said I must have it changed and he and Roland decided it would be changed at the end of the next leg.”

This third leg was a real horror through the infamous Forest of Tai. Nearly all the cars suffered problems: Rtihrl’s starter would not work and his engine had an unhappy knack of cutting out under braking; Michele broke a driveshaft, but was able to have it changed and lost none of her lead. But the scheduled gearbox swap was not so wonderful.

“We changed the gearbox quite quickly, maybe 20 minutes or so. Then I jumped into the car to find that there was no gears, no clutch, nothing. I can still see those two German guys peering under the bonnet saying, ‘It should work, it should work.’ So I shouted, ‘Yes it should, but it doesn’t!’ Eventually they fixed it, but we lost nearly all my lead.”

By the time Michele checked in at the end of the leg, even taking into account Röhrl’s own problems, her lead was down to 18 minutes. And that included eight minutes of a disputed penalty given to the Opel for allegedly checking in early at a control. Ten minutes in an African rally of the severity of the Ivory Coast is a blink of the eye. Already, Michele’s total penalties came to just under seven hours — and she was leading! The sixth-placed Peugeot 505 was on 17 hours of penalty.

The start of the final leg was dramatic. It was four o’clock in the morning and a swirling fog wrapped everything in its chilly embrace. And its clammy fingers had penetrated the Audi’s electronics.

“The car would not start. There was water in the electronic box. We had to push it and, of course, we lost more time. Now we knew we had to hurry not to lose more time, but there was all the fog. There was a sort of parking place and I thought this was an open space where we had to turn. It wasn’t! We rolled the car. It was possible to continue but not everything was working correctly. We stopped later with the Audi service, but there was nothing to do and we had to stop. It was the end.

“But this Ivory Coast Rally was not so important for me. You see, maybe an hour or so before the start, when I was doing an interview with a TV crew, I took a telephone call from France. My father had just died. I wanted to go home immediately and leave the rally, but my mother told me I should do the rally for him. So I said nothing and just drove. But when all this pressure started with the gearbox and the penalties, all the rest for me was gone.

“I tried my best from the beginning, and while it was going well, everything was okay. Afterwards, I was sad to lose the rally and the title, but not so sad as to lose my father. He was everything to me and he was how! came to be in rallying. The championship did not seem so important any more.”

You may also like

Related products