”Are you going to do the Flowers”? So one competitor used to ask another in years past to enquire whether someone planned to compete in the Rally of the Flowers, so named after the thriving horticultural industry in the hills overlooking Sanremo, Italy, where the rally was always based. Latterly the event has taken the name of San Remo, but this year the “Rallye dei Fiori” title reappeared for a national one-day sub-section.
In those days it was a very concentrated event, with all special stages on the dirt roads which meandered all over the mountain passes and all within a few hours’ drive from Sanremo itself. Then came the spread of spoil-sport tarmac, and the organisers had to go much further afield to seek dirt roads; the 1995 version of the event still included long, boring motorway sections in order to get the field from one group of stages to another. The rally started and finished at Sanremo and this year even both night stops were there, although there were regrouping halts as far away as Arezzo and Gubbio.
The event was one of those which had been “demoted” for 1995 from full World Championship status to qualify just for the 2-litre, two-wheel-drive series. As such, it gathered precious few entries of note, although there were enough 4WD cars in the field to fill the first eight places at the end.
It was the final qualifier of the series, both remaining rounds of the championship being for the full 4WD series only. Opel emerged the highest scorer of points at the end of the series, but could not be declared champion because no declared entries were made in any rally outside Europe. Peugeot therefore became champion 2WD make with 257 points to Opel’s 286.
Peugeot had two 306s for Italians Andra Aghini and Paolo Andreucci and another for French driver Bernard Beguin. Renault had four cars nominated, a Clio Maxi for Renato Travaglia and a trio of Clio Williams. Opel’s hopes were pinned on Belgian Freddy Loix in an Astra, and similar cars were driven by about a dozen privateers. Skoda, as usual, sent two Felicias for Pavel Sibera and Emil Triner.
Up at the front of the field were several 4WD cars, notable being the Escort Cosworths of Patrick Snijers and Franco Cunico, the Subaru Imprezas of Massimo Biasion and Piero Liatti and the Legacy of Gustavo Trelles. There was not a single British crew.
Loix dominated the 2WD category in the first leg, ahead of Travaglia, but in the overall classification Cunico led after his Ford team-mate Piero Longhi, who had been the early leader, first lost fourth gear then went off the road.
On the second day things took a remarkable turn as new leaders emerged in both the categories. Travaglia’s Clio Maxi stopped in the last stage, thus handing the lead to Deila, whilst Cunico, the overnight overall leader, went off the road for some four minutes’ when being pressed very hard by a closing Liatti.
The last day, using stages which had been used the day before, saw few changes among those contesting the overall classification, although Snijers stopped early in the day when his gearbox failed. The best 2WD driver was Freddy Loix in his Astra, ahead of Andreucci in his Peugeot. Overnight leader Deila lost the place for Renault when a tyre punctured; they lost some six minutes.
The rally was a mere shadow of its old self, but 70 starters is not really bad at all. However, the long road sections remain unpopular, as does the mid-event switch from dirt to tarmac.
Sanremo Rally (Italy) — 8-11 October, 1995
1: Piero Liatti / A Alessandrini – Subaru Impreza, GpA
2: Andrea Dallavilla / Danilo Fappani – Toyota Celica GT-Four, GpA
3: Franco Cunico / S Evangelisti – Ford Escort RS Cosworth, GpA
4: Massimo Biasion / Tiziano Siverio – Subaru Impreza, GpA
5: Giuseppe Grossi / Antonio Boni – Toyota Celica GT-Four, GpA