1980 Swedish Rally
What car were you driving?
The same Opel Ascona 400 that I had used to finish fourth on the Monte Carlo. That had been the debut for this new Group Four car and we had been delighted with the way it had gone. The car was taken by trailer — this was the old days! — all the way to Sweden, just stopping at Rüsselsheim for some spare parts. We did some testing and set-up with the Swedish Opel guys and then on the event service was a joint effort with the Eurohandler team.
Did you have any problems with it?
Yes, before the event. The problem was the Group Four wheelarches which were too big. We used narrow studded tyres in Sweden, not the wide racers from Monte. If you touched the snow banks with the bottom of the wing extensions it pulled you into the snow. We prepared them so that when we hit the banks they would become much smaller — automatically.
How did things go from the start?
It was a bit of a disaster. The service car that was to bring the tyres for the first test on the trotting track outside Stockholm missed its place so we were on completely the wrong tyres for that surface. We were so slow that I think we were almost the last car in the rally. But things got better and we did our first fastest time on the last stage before the halt in Karlstad. But there was still some catching up to do. There had been a lot of fresh snow and the proper forest stages were in very good condition.
Who was leading at this point?
Stig Blomqvist in the Saab 99 Turbo. But then on the stage after the frozen lake I came round a corner and there was the Saab wheel lying on the side of the road so I knew Stig had some problem, maybe a puncture. Now I was in the lead but I knew that Stig would not give up so it would not be so easy for him to catch me. On that long stage up to Gräsmark, where Stig and Saab did a lot of testing, I tried like hell. I told Bruno (Berglund, Kulläng’s co-driver) that I would go 110 per cent. I didn’t beat him: Stig was quicker, but only by one second. Psychologically I won that one!
What happened next?
Back at the rest in Karlstad I was still leading and I think Stig had had passed Björn Waldegård in the works Fiat 131 to be second. Saab was trying everything to help him be quicker. They had Ola Stromberg going through the stages ahead of the rally to report on conditions. All that just made me more determined. Right through that Saturday night there was a big fight between us. We were both doing fastest times and never more than a few seconds apart. So when we got back to Karlstad in the morning before the last four stages I still had a lead of about one minute.
Were there any late dramas?
Only a little worry from me personally. The longest of these four stages was the one where the crankshaft pulley had broken on my Kadett GT/E when I was leading the Swedish a year earlier. I hoped that fate was not going to deprive me again. It was the longest stage of the rally, almost 50 kilometres, but we flew through there and took 20 seconds away from Blomqvist. We were safe and the win was ours. — JDFD