RAC Rally glory for Ari the Lion King
Peugeot on a roll as Vatanen triumphs over Quattros in the British forests
A Peugeot victory on the tough RAC Rally confirmed that even Audi's new Sport Quattro wasn't enough to maintain domination of the rally world. Peugeot's 205T16 homologation special scored a sensational victory despite a series of dramas including an on-the-roof moment. "When I was hanging upside down in the seat belts halfway through Morgannwg Forest, I must say I was not so sure about winning this rally," said Ari Vatanen drily as he celebrated the 4WD Peugeot's hard-fought win in Chester.
His barrel roll took place in thick fog, but the car landed on soft ground, and after spectators heaved the car onto its wheels, "We just got going again," as co-driver Terry Harryman calmly put it. The 5min lost allowed Hannu Mikkola to take the lead in his Quattro A2. But it developed a transmission oil leak and the resultant slipping clutch robbed Mikkola of his chance of a fifth win on the event. He took it philosophically, saying, "It was a nice gesture to an old man; I went harder after Ari decided to let me lead — but the car let me down."
Mikkola did regain a brief lead when Vatanen's Peugeot broke a drive coupling, reducing it to front-wheel drive only, but soon the see-saw of fate tipped back towards the younger Finn. The Audi's turbo played up, reducing its bhp to below 300, while Ari went into maximum attack. "Ari drives at one speed, nine-tenths — except when he is going bananas," said Harryman afterwards. Setting fastest time on all six of the remaining stages, it was obvious which mode Vatanen was in.
Per Eklund/Dave Whittock had to very work hard in the 2WD Celica, with Michèle Mouton/Fabrizia Pons' Sport Quattro snapping and popping at their heels. In the slippery conditions the extra power of the short-wheelbase Audi went to waste in wheelspin, and the female crew settled for fourth, 21sec behind.
Juha Kankkunen disposed of the other leading Celica in dramatic style. Co-driver Fred Gallagher claimed it was the biggest accident he'd ever had: "The car has been put in four big plastic bags and left for Mid-Glamorgan county council to take away." Kankkunen was taken to Neath hospital, but later released.