New Zealand and Argentina
Because manufacturers’ rally teams are concentrated in Europe, the non-European qualifiers of the World Rally Championship consume a sizeable chunk of their annual budgets, and each team deliberates carefully before embarking on a championship assault which will take its large and costly entourage to such distant lands as Kenya, New Zealand and Argentina.
There is now no opportunity for a team to concentrate hard on European events, hoping that it will amass enough points close to home to carry it through the series without venturing beyond Europe. FISA has a rule compelling manufacturers to register in advance their intent to contest the championship, and during the year they must enter at least eight of the eleven events, of which at least one must be outside Europe.
The Safari has such a worldwide reputation that it carries an attraction in itself, without the entry-attracting prop of the championship, and a win on this event generates its own publicity regardless of any series of which it forms part. The other two non-European events are not as well known, and it therefore follows that European teams tackling one of these do so either in search of championship points or to aid local importers and dealers to boost the sales of their cars.
Peugeot, Lancia and Volkswagen, the three teams now at the head of the World Championship table, each sent its team to both the New Zealand and Argentina rallies, and all three scored points in both events.
Printing schedules prevented our providing a complete review of the AWA Clarion New Zealand Rally last month, and the same now affects our treatment of the Argentina Rally which took place in August. However, the results are included, and up-to-date positions in the World Rally Championship, for drivers and for manufacturers.
In New Zealand, Juha Kankkunen from Finland collected another win that strengthened his position at the head of the points table, although his rival for the crown, fellow countryman Markku Alén, finished second and collected only five less points than Kankkunen.
In Argentina Kankkunen scored no points at all, whilst Alén gained another second place, so between the two events Kankkunen gained 20 and Alén 30, which brings the two rivals much closer. Indeed, if Alén wins the next round and Kankkunen scores nothing, Alén will be leading the series, albeit by just one point. Eight events have been held, and there are three more to go in the manufacturers’ series, five in the drivers’ series.
The situation among the manufacturers has become just as close — Peugeot is just 16 points ahead of Lancia, but the French team already has seven scores to its credit, and that is the maximum number which can be taken into account at the end of the year. From now on, Peugeot will have to drop its lowest score (currently 10) each time it earns a higher score.
Lancia, on the other hand, only has six scores, so it can keep all the points scored on the next round. A win in the Rally of the Thousand Lakes would net twenty points for Lancia, but Peugeot would only gain ten points from the same result.
Volkswagen continues to dominate the Group A section of the series, and it is quite remarkable that these Golf GTI’s should have elevated the make to third place in the overall manufacturers’ championship. In Argentina Kenneth Eriksson from Sweden finished fifth overall, behind three Lancias and a Peugeot, whilst his Austrian team-mate Franz Wittmann finished seventh. Between them was another Group A car, an Audi Coupe quattro driven by Austrian Rudi Stohl, an adventuring privateer who loves the sport so much that he spends almost all his time between rallies seeking the backing to enable him to go to the next one.
The three remaining rounds of the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers are Finland’s Rally of the Thousand Lakes in early September, Italy’s Sanremo Rally in October, and Britain’s Lombard RAC Rally in late November, this year starting and finishing in Bath and making night stops at Harrogate, Edinburgh and Liverpool. In the series for drivers five events remain, the three mentioned above, plus the Ivory Coast Rally at the end of September and the Olympus Rally in the USA in early December.—G.P
Results (top five), Argentina Rally, August 5-10
1. M.Biasion (I)/T.Siviero (I) — (Lancia Delta S4, GpB) — 6hr 36min 26sec
2. M. Alén (SF)/I. Kivimäki (SF) — (Lancia Delta S4, GpB) — 6hr 36min 30sec
3. S. Blomqvist (S)/B.Berglund (S) — (Peugeot 205 T16, GpB) — 6hr 40min 42sec
4. J.Recalde (RA)/J.DelBuono (RA) — (Lancia Delta S4, GpB) — 6hr 41min 33sec
5. K.Eriksson (S)/P.Diekmann (D) — (Volkswagen Golf GTI, GpA) — 7hr 22min 17sec
Word Rally Championship Positions
Drivers (top five after 8 rounds):
Juha Kankkunen (SF) — 76; Marku Alén (SF) — 57; Massimo Biasion (I) — 47; Bruno Saby (F) — 38; Kenneth Eriksson (S) — 25.
Manufacturers (after 8 rounds):
Peugeot — 121; Lancia — 105; Volkswagen — 65