1977 WRC Season Commentary

1977 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

In the competition (teams and cars) not too many changes.

All new however the scoring modus. Maybe a first sign that a drivers championship is on the way is the Driver's Cup. It is however an unofficial award (very much as since 1979 co-driver World titles are more a sign of respect rather than an official title). There are no points on records. The unoffical cup goes to Sandro Munari in 1977 and to Markku Alen in 1978.

At the same time the scoring modus for manufacturers changes. The straight forward system of previous years is dropped for a system that awards class positions (10-9-8-etc for top10 overall plus 8-7-6-etc for top8 in each class, so the winner gets 18points, 2nd overall 16 or 17, depending if he is in the same class or not, and i.e. for 6th place you could get anything between 8 and 13points...). But you get these points only as long as your first car reaches the top10. So i.e. already in Monte Carlo Opel finishes 10th and get for their class win 9points - Skoda finishes 12th and get for their class win absolutely nothing at all. Sounds unfair, tho the current system (time of writing this, 2005-2006) is no better, when your WRCar can score points in 40th place for a nomination system and lack of competition... This change not only makes things more complicated, it is also hard to understand why to bring it on in the first place. Because at the very same time it is announced that from 1978 4valves/cylinder engines are banned from group4 unless it is in the production cars. This means the gap between group4 and group2 is far slimmer than it was in previous years. Just for another example for all this: When Peugeot Talbot Sport won their first makes title in 1981, they had an advantage. Because their Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was group2, yet it was pretty much on similar pace as group4 Fords, Fiats and Nissans. So for lower positions the Sunbeam got more points than its main competition. Mercedes played the same trick as Talbot at around the same time, though with less success. But back to 1977:

In the calendar we drop the marathon event Morocco and replace it by 2 events: New Zealand and Quebec. In fact the Rally NZ is like a marathon itself, in those years starting in Auckland, crossing the entire Northern Island and finishing in Christchurch, to the Centre-East of the South Island (= 69 stages over 2066km!), what exciting layout! The Rally around the Canadian metropole Quebec is a shorter event, but should be exciting with mixed asphalt and forest stages that in late Autum could be snowy - you could find any possible type of surface on this one rally. However the Moroccan Rally has been criticised that it was too long for inclusion in an entire WRC calendar. Indeed its 1975 edition has been the longest WRC event ever with a distance of about 6 modern WRC events - it's longest stage in 1975 alone was 776kms, in itself a record! The Rally NZ is more of a traditional event, very smooth and with faster, shorter stages, but 69 of them. At 2066km vs 1962km NZ 1977 actually beats Morocco 1975 in competitive mileage - or better stage mileage! So Rally NZ 77 is indeed the longest conventional stage rally ever. But this record is difficult, as some marathon events didn't use a classic stage layout and such we count at least 15 editions of Safari and Bandama rallies in WRC with a timed distance of over 5000km.

These changes mean the calendar is now extended to 11 rallies, the maximum number of scores is extended to 8.

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Indeed the season turns into an exciting fight with Fiat beating Ford by only 4points!

Ford actually start the season slowly but suddenly are big in the championship with a famous Safari victory. Their team consists of lead driver Björn Waldegaard, their British Cortina legend Roger Clark and youngster Ari Vatanen. Interestingly Hannu Mikkola only joins to form this most famous driver line up in 1978. After having won World Cup Rally 1970 and Safari 1972 in Ford Escorts, Mikkola is a multi-year regular in Peugeot's marathon team.

Interesting becomes the drivers question as the season moves on. Fiat never expected having to fight Ford that hard for their makes title. In Canada 1977 Fiat turns up with a mindblowing drivers team, they stole a frustrated Walter Röhrl from Opel, borrowed Timo Mäkinen(!) and Simo Lampinen from Peugeot and invited Timo Salonen to join Markku Alen. All of these "guest" drivers were also starting at least one more event for Fiat in 1977. Fiat already celebrated a sensation: Sympathic, young Italian Fulvio Bacchelli won a long and fast gravel rally New Zealand in such superb "drive of your life" style that one can only wonder why this guy never could make a big career. What a fantastic rally, what a fantastic battle, after over 2000km of stages Fulvio Bacchelli (Fiat) beats Ari Vatanen (Ford) by only 1m34s!
 

1977 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Fiat Fiat, 1977 - Olio Fiat Abarth : 1st on 136 points.
 

 

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Ford Ford, 1977 - Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 2nd on 132 points.
 

 

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Toyota Toyota, 1977 - TTE : 3rd on 68 points.
 

 

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Opel Opel, 1977 - Opel Euro Händler : 4th on 65 points.
 

 

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Lancia Lancia, 1977 - Alitalia Lancia Abarth : 5th on 60 points.
 

 

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Nissan Nissan, 1977 - Nismo Datsun : 6th on 40 points.
 

 

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Porsche Porsche, 1977 - Porsche AG : 7th on 35 points.
 

 

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Saab Saab, 1977 - Saab : 8th on 30 points.
 

 

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Mitsubishi Mitsubishi, 1977 - Singh/Cowan : 9th on 28 points.
 

 

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Renault Renault, 1977 - Régie Renault : 10th on 28 points.
 

 

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Simca & Hillman Simca & Hillman, 1977 - Chrysler Europe : 11th on 24 points.
 

 

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Peugeot Peugeot, 1977 - Peugeot Sport : 12th on 21 points.
 

 

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Triumph Triumph, 1977 - British Leyland Cars : 13th on 16 points.
 

 

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Seat Seat, 1977 - Seat : 14th on 14 points.
 

 

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Citroën Citroën, 1977 - Citroën Sport : 15th on 13 points.
 

 

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Skoda Skoda, 1977 - Skoda Fabric : 18th on 7 points.
 

 

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