The Perfect Result

As in New Zealand, the Argentina Rally made very little difference to positions in the World Rally Championship, Biasion merely increased his lead, whilst in the makes section Lancia’s points were simply increased from 137 to the maximum of 140. Lancia was the only works team present, and the only other transAtlantic visitors were a trio of Austrian privateers, one in a Lancia and two in Audis.

There were two works Delta Integrales driven by Massimo Biasion and Argentinian Jorge Recalde, whilst the private Integrale (recently converted from an older Delta) was driven by Franz Wittmann. His fellow-countrymen Georg Fischer and Rudolf Stohl were respectively driving an Audi 200 Quattro and an Audi 90 Quattro, the latter being a brand-new Schmid-prepared car making the first appearance for this model on a World Championship rally.

Various Renaults, Volkswagens and Fiats made up the bulk of the entry, the 91-strong start-list indicating that there is no shortage of enthusiasm for rallying in Argentina.

Although it started at Buenos Aires, the competition was centred at Cordoba, and after two short spectator-stages just after the start a somewhat tiresome 400-mile run took the field to the opening special stages. Total distance was 1338 miles, special stages accounting for 367 miles.

The first stage was constructed at a horse-racing track, and as work was still taking place there on the very day of the start, pace-notes were not exactly complete and accurate. The stage included an artificial jump, and it was here that all three Lancias nearly ended their rally.

The jump was far more severe than had been expected, and all the cars landed heavily, nose-down, each breaking its oil cooling radiator. The two works cars seemed to suffer no engine damage from their short run with an oil leak, but Wittman’s car did not give peak power from that moment onwards.

On the second day Fischer, after rolling his Audi 200, stopped when his engine expired, whilst Stohl also put his one on its roof. He continued, albeit with a badly battered car, a broken windscreen, and handling which was very difficult indeed until a bent strut could be changed.

At the end of the first day Recalde was leading marginally from Biasion, and they stayed very close together until the third leg, when Recalde hit a rock in the middle of the road, breaking a wheel, hub and steering arm, and puncturing a tyre. Biasion hit the same rock, but only broke his sumpguard.

Both continued and had their respective damage repaired. Biasion having moved into the lead. This was not to last long, however, for the leading Lancia’s engine stopped suddenly and mysteriously on a later stage. For a good seven minutes the crew searched for the problem and made urgent radio appeals for suggestions from the Lancia engineers. Eventually a blown fuse was discovered and replaced, after which the engine burst into life again.

That was the end of the contest as far as the Lancias were concerned. Recalde’s advantage over Biasion was considerable, and in the final leg the two drove to keep their positions. Wittmann very nearly failed to make it to the finish to complete the Lancia trio, for when he rounded a corner and encountered five large rocks placed in a line across the road he had no chance to avoid them. He smashed through them, jumped and landed heavily, and then hit a bank.

The damage was almost too much to be repaired, but his service crews managed it, even working in the closed park (against the clock for road penalties) to ensure that the car, which had arrived on three wheels, could depart on all four. Needless to say, the Austrians were furious by such an act of stupid aggression, particularly as Recalde said the rocks had not been there when he passed, ahead of Wittmann.

The result was a perfect one for Lancia. In the first place, Biasion had scored 15 points in the World Championship, whereas no-one anywhere near him in the table had been taking part. Secondly, the win by Argentinian pair Jorge Recalde and Jorge Del Buono earned a huge amount of local publicity, so the team was happy.

Biasion had obviously hoped to score a hat-trick (having won the event in 1986 and 1987), but at least he went home feeling that he is getting closer month by month to receiving the World Champion’s laurels. GP