1976 WRC Season Commentary

1976 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

1976 we have the exact same events as 1975, only the Rallye Portugal has been moved forward from round6 to round3. Best 7 results score.

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In sporting terms, 1976 is very much a Sandro Munari and Lancia Stratos walk through. But some more interesting things are happening:

In the Moroccan Rallye the Fiat 131 has a tough debut, with only Alen finishing in 12th place. Strange they choose Morocco as a debut event, the event has been criticised for being too long and hard, too much marathon rally for WRC inclusion - and once again turned into a 1-2 victory and full points for Peugeot, who never competed for WRC points. Maybe this marathon style made it the perfect debut for learning and testing the strength and reliability of the new Fiat 131. It is one of the most important debuts in the 70s because this car was politically scheduled to spell a premature end to the Lancia Stratos. Further in the late 1970s the main battles will be between this Fiat 131 and the Ford Escort RS1800, which debuted on the Welsh Rally a year earlier.

We have to catch up a bit on the driver/team combinations (although driver contracts were not a big deal in the 1970s, see i.e. Ove Andersson trying to score makes points for Renault in Monte Carlo 1973, then for arch rival Lancia on the very next event, or i.e. how Peugeot's marathon specialist Timo Mäkinen wins 3 RAC's in succession for Ford and in 1977, still in the same Peugeot program, accepts one-off drives to help Fiat's title bit against Ford!...). Since their title win in 1973 Renault seemed to wind down their rally involvement. This led to two famous French Renault rally drivers moving to the Italian arch rivals. Already from 1975 we see Bernard Darniche swapping between Lancia and Fiat. Jean-Claude Andruet did the French Championship 1975 for Alfa Romeo. In 1976 Andruet is seen in Renault-Alpines again, but those of private Aseptogyl team. From 1977 Andruet forms a partnership with Fiat that lasts until the Lancia Rally 037 in 1983! Renault in turn strengthens their partnership with two very different French drivers: Jean Ragnotti & Guy Fréquelin.

Another Renault driver moves to Peugeot, which should turn out a big deal. So far Peugeot has been untypical for a French make: For their African 504 program they have relied on an all Nordic line up with Timo Mäkinen, Hannu Mikkola, Ove Andersson & Simo Lampinen. Only when Andersson started his own Toyota business, Peugeot replaced him for a Frenchman from 1976: Jean-Pierre Nicolas. This partnership turned so intense, Nicolas won Morocco 1976 in a Peugeot 504, got to drive the (Peugeot-)Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, was test and development driver of the groupB Peugeot 205 T16, became a team manager and eventually even the director of Peugeot Sport!
 

1976 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Lancia Lancia, 1976 - Lancia Abarth : 1st on 112 points.
 

 

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Opel Opel, 1976 - Opel Euro Händler : 2nd on 57 points.
 

 

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Ford Ford, 1976 - Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 3rd on 47 points.
 

 

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Saab Saab, 1976 - Saab : 4th on 43 points.
 

 

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Nissan Nissan, 1976 - Nismo Datsun : 5th on 39 points.
 

 

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Toyota Toyota, 1976 - TTE : 6th on 35 points.
 

 

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Renault Renault, 1976 - Régie Renault : 7th on 33 points.
 

 

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Fiat Fiat, 1976 - Fiat Abarth : 8th on 32 points.
 

 

No

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Peugeot Peugeot, 1976 - Peugeot Sport : 9th on 31 points.
 

 

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Mitsubishi Mitsubishi, 1976 - Singh/Cowan : 10th on 20 points.
 

 

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Porsche Porsche, 1976 - Porsche AG : 11th on 14 points.
 

 

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Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo, 1976 - Alfa Romeo Jolly Club : 12th on 12 points.
 

 

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Citroën Citroën, 1976 - Citroën Sport : 13th on 10 points.
 

 

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Volvo Volvo, 1976 - Volvo : 15th on 4 points.
 

 

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