Rally review: Argentina Rally, September 1987

Lancia fully in control

So many of the World Rally Championship’s formerly active teams have called a halt to their rallying in the past eighteen months, some as a result of unacceptable changes of FISA’s rules and subsequent differing interpretations, some simply due to a marked lack of success, that Lancia’s unopposed gallop to the top of the Championship table this year has hardly been surprising.

The Italian team really has not had a challenger at all, and the old sparkle of close, intense competition has been markedly and sadly absent from a number of recent rallies. Not only has Lancia been able to pile up points in the Makes Championship; it has been able to keep other teams’ scores down by getting two, sometimes three of its cars into the leading places. Furthermore, the team’s management has been able to manipulate results by deciding which of its drivers should win.

That, no matter what might be said in mitigation, has had a patently harmful elect on the sport, although if Lancia’s opposition had not become sufficiently disenchanted to leave the fray, the situation would almost certainly not have arisen.

Each of the Lancia’s three drivers has been contracted to appear in seven events this year, on the face of it providing each with a fair crack at becoming World Champion.

The Argentina Rally was one of Massimo Biasion’s outings, and his win there moved the Italian from third to first place in the series. But Juha Kankkunen is just two points behind, Markku Alen another eighteen, and these two are certainly among the favourites in their homeland’s Rally of the Thousand Lakes at the end of August.

The World Championship for Makes has now been settled in Lancia’s favour by a massive 72-point lead over Audi, although in fairness it should be said that the German team has not been actively campaigning the series. as a whole this year.

The Drivers’ Championship is another matter, and it remains to be seen whether the situation will still be open when the Lombard RAC Rally takes place as the final round in November. Biasion only has one of his contracted seven events left, the Sanremo Rally in October, but we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an “extra” appearance for him in the RAC Rally.

Another Lancia came second in Argentina — a works Delta provided for Argentinian driver Jorge Recalde — whilst behind them came a pair of 16-valve Volkswagen Golfs driven by Erwin Weber and Kenneth Eriksson.

Recalde’s second place puts him on the list of First Seeds from now on, and his championship points, added to those which he gained in Portugal, the Acropolis and the Olympus, elevate him to eighth place in the series.

Eriksson’s performance was quite remarkable, for a broken half-shaft on the very first stage out of Buenos Aires produced a substantial penalty which put him down to last place. It is to his immense credit that he recovered to finish fourth even after later losing a wheel and breaking his gearbox! The Swedish driver is now fourth in the championship, behind the three Lancia men, the result of tenacious and consistently good performance throughout the year.

The rally started at Buenos Aires on Tuesday, August 4, and finished at Cordoba on the Saturday afternoon. Its 1380-mile route was divided into four legs, the first beginning with a long overnight trek to Cordoba where it was subsequently based. The remaining three legs took place by day, and all 27 special stages, totalling 385 miles, were held in the daytime. GP

Thirty Total years

Many competitors, past and present, from Europe and other continents, will recall with nostalgic affection that great old event which vanished from the calendar some years ago, the Total Rally.

Sometimes beset by puzzling navigation methods, and certainly with a roadbook which was unique in both style and philosophy, the Total was nevertheless one of the most enjoyable rallies of the year, and he would be crusty indeed who would not enthuse at the memory of the formidable forests of Sabie and Loews Creek, the vast Usutu of Swaziland and the wild sprints along the thronged streets of Lourenco Marques.

Total’s generous backing, the support of South African Airways and the eagerness of local manufacturers and distributors to have the services of overseas drivers and co-drivers gave the event a strong cosmopolitan ingredient, and the hospitality extended to the visitors was something which they will never forget. Sadly, the rally was discontinued some years ago when Total ended its sponsorship for commercial reasons and, although other backers have since come forward, none has given the former Total Rally quite the same international flavour and atmosphere.

However, friendly links have been maintained between the company and the Pretoria Motor Club, and on September 4-5 the club is running the Total Memorial Rally to celebrate thirty years of Total’s close involvement with South African motor sport.

The first event to be backed by Total was the Pretoria-Lourenco Marques Rally of 1957, after which came a variety of others, including the Blind Navigators Rally, in which PMC drivers each took a blind navigator who was given route instructions prepared in braille, and that great event in Botswana the Kalahari Desert Race.

We well recall the celebrations of a couple of farmers who, to their own surprise, won the Kalahari Race some years ago in a Ford F100 truck. One said to his partner: “Now that we’ve won, we must take it more seriously next year and not stop at all the pubs. We must carry the beer with us in the truck!”

The route of the Anniversary Rally will be largely that of one of the old Total Rallies, and its Clerk of the Course is John Bell, who laid out many of the routes of past years. GP