Updated: The Celica that turned the tablesby Graham Keilloh on 10th February 2019
The car that at last righted Didier Auriol’s foul luck to let him take his only WRC title took nearly £200,000 at auction
This particular 1994 Toyota Celica ST185 Turbo 4WD that went to auction has much going for it.
Updated: The car was sold for €207,000 (£181,104) inc. premium at Bonhams' Grand Palais auction in Paris on February 7.
It is a car from one of world rallying’s most exciting and competitive eras, Group A, and was vital in clinching a World Rally Championship for one of its most high-profile and skilled drivers, turning his longtime wretched luck in the process.
This TC572-11/93 chassis was the one Didier Auriol drove to an enthralling late-1994 season Rallye Sanremo victory, which went a long way to sending that year’s drivers’ title his way; providing Auriol with his only World Rally Championship.
Auriol with longtime co-driver Bernard Occelli, had a reputation as one for whom the cards somehow would never quite fall. The previous four seasons had been so near and yet so far, with a second place and three thirds in the final drivers' standings.
By 1994 Auriol was in his second season with Toyota, and he couldn't really have been in a better place as the Celica had a formidable record, taking three of the previous four drivers’ championships.
Auriol, in his debut year, won only in Monte Carlo, yet a year on he stepped up by winning in Corsica and Argentina and getting locked in a championship battle with Subaru's Carlos Sainz and his co-driver Luis Moya.
The mixed-surface Rallye Sanremo was the penultimate rally of the season, and Auriol’s effort started badly as he spun on the opening stage. It then got little better as after nine stages he was more than two minutes shy overall of Sainz who had led from the off.
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Auriol though did not leave it at that and determinedly chiselled at the gap.
The chase looked forlorn, but was then aided when Sainz was slowed by a misfire. The deficit was 38 seconds when the problem was righted, but it allowed the recovering Auriol into striking range and he got ahead on the penultimate stage and won by 21 seconds. It was Auriol’s third victory in the Rallye Sanremo; he only won his home Tour de Corse rally more often than that.
The triumph gave Auriol an unexpectedly large 11-point cushion heading into the title-deciding RAC Rally, where he clinched his only world title. He only needed a fourth-place finish even if Sainz won, and, even though Auriol gave a tepid showing, Sainz's off on the final day in Britain ensured Auriol the crown.
The Sanremo-winning car was sold at the end of the season to Grifone in Italy and in 1995 competed in national events in an Esso livery.
The current vendor acquired the car the following year and returned it to its original Castrol livery as part of a complete overhaul to restore it to its original works spec, in which it has been maintained since.