My only WRC win -- Armin Schwarz

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1991 Catalunya Rally

Was it part of the original plan that you should be in Catalunya?

No, but after San Remo, where I was able to help Carlos (Sainz) keep ahead in the World Championship, Ove (Andersson, the Toyota team boss) asked me to go to Spain. It was the first time for the WRC in Spain and of course Carlos was to be the big star. My job was to make sure that Juha Kankkunen scored as few points as possible.

What were your expectations for the rally?

I had never seen those roads before. But I knew it was half Tarmac and half gravel so I thought, ‘OK, nothing here for the Finns and nothing for the Tarmac drivers but perhaps something for me’. It was the kind of rally that I like, one where good preparation brings you a result.

How did things start?

Not so bad for me, but at the start of the second day Carlos could not start his engine and was out. I think the problem was that the Celica needed special spark plugs for starting, especially when it was cold. And November on the Costa Brava is quite chilly. For some reason that car had gone into parc fermé  on normal plugs and would not fire up.

Who was the main opposition?

On the Tarmac in the beginning it was François Delecour in the Ford Sierra. We all knew that he could be quick on Tarmac after his drives in Monte and Corsica, but he did not do so many of the other rallies and I was sure when we came to the gravel I could beat him. In any case he had some turbo problem early on that cost him time. So we had a good battle but I was still leading the rally. My main focus was Juha: Carlos was leading him by eight points.

Where was he when you got to halfway and went to the gravel?

Juha was lying sixth, about four minutes behind me. I was quite confident as I knew that our Pirelli tyres were at least as good as the Michelins on the gravel. Of course Juha was quick on the gravel stages and started to catch the Fords, but our times were not so far apart.

And did you have any problems?

Oh yes. At the end of the third leg we changed the gearbox as a precaution, but when I drove into parc fermé  it stuck in sixth gear. TTE changed the gearbox in seven minutes and we got to the first stage on time, but we needed to have some TTE friends at the junctions to stop the traffic. So this was good but then, with two stages to go, we rolled the car. If the water-injection system ran out then you had to change the mapping for the engine. The water ran out and the alarm came on. I tried immediately to turn the switch for the mapping — just as we went into a hairpin bend. The rear end went up a bank and we were on our side, but we only lost a minute. Juha won the championship, but I was delighted to have that win in Spain. — JDFD