1979 WRC Season Commentary

1979 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

This is the first time we have a drivers WRC. Of course for the people that pay it all their own makes championship is more important. But this drivers WRC started off with a mega exciting battle, quite likely this first drivers WRC was the closest one forever as well, see below.

Strangely, while the manufacturers championship points stick to the slightly difficult overall (max10) plus class/group (max8) points system, the new drivers title adopts the all famous 20-15-12-10-etc system that was used for the makes from the beginning until 1977.

For this season we welcome back New Zealand, which extends the number of rounds to 12. This pretty much stays the traditional calendar. In fact NZ is dropped again in 1981 and again for only 1 season. 1981 is a bit unusual, as it hosts 2 South American events. But in 1982 Argentina is dropped for Falkland war and in 1983 we get rid of a very poor quality Rally do Brasil, so NZ is then back for good.

Despite the extended calendar only best 7 (rather than previously 8) scores are counted this year.

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In the early days it was not compulsory for manufacturers and drivers to enter all rounds. Quite the opposite it was common practice for drivers to take time off for holidays, as i.e. in 1979 Ford's equal #1 drivers Waldegaard missed NZ and Mikkola missed CDN. Both were also invited to drive for Mercedes on the African rallies. Not surprisingly - if you know the guy - Timo Salonen was the driver to insist the longest on his holidays, taking time off during his 1986 Peugeot season as reigning World Champion.

Two interesting debuts were the first turbo win ever when Stig Blomqvist took a Saab 99 Turbo to Swedish victory and the debut of 4x4 in the WRC when a pair of Range Rovers took the start of the Bandama.

Despite not many driver changes at all, the 1979 season saw some new excitement as this time Ford and their Escort RS1800 walks all over the Fiat 131 for the makes title.

And the first year of the driver's WRC shows maybe the most exciting title battle ever. Again the 1979 story is around team mates Björn Waldegaard and Hannu Mikkola. Björn starts off more consistant. After 3 rounds Hannu has won the Rally Portugal, but Björn leads the championship with 2nd places in every rally so far and 45points compared to Hannu's 36. However next Björn has a troubled Safari in the Mercedes and the pair is tied at 51points! Then Waldegaard wins Acropolis and Mikkola wins NZ and the pair is tied again at 71points! Only in Finland and Canada Björn manages to build a big advantage. And that is good so, because Björn has a rotten RAC with many punctures, finishing a disappointing 9th where his team mate conquers all. This only leaves a small advantage for Waldegaard going into the showdown. It is the Bandama Rallye and both contrahents are driving the huge Mercedes 450SLC. Hannu wins the event, Björn comes 2nd, but Björn wins the title by the smallest gap ever: 1point, Björn 112, Hannu 111! Although the 2points for Björn Waldegaard's 9th place on the RAC was a drop score, it shows how close things were. Only 20s slower changing his many punctures on the RAC would have meant a 10th and if not for drop scores a championship tie - and a tie would have gone into Hannu's favour, having won twice as many rallies!
 

1979 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Ford Ford, 1979 - Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 1st on 122 points.
 
Ford was usually in official white & blue colours, but with exceptions as noted below.
 

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Team Driver

Commentary
#00 Finland Hannu Mikkola Eaton Yale sponsorship in Great Britain.
#00 Sweden Björn Waldegaard Rothmans sponsorship in CDN, Eaton Yale (all dark blue) in Great Britain.
#00 Finland Ari Vatanen As a newcomer driver in a #3 car, Rothmans in CDN and Great Britain.
Nissan Nissan, 1979 - Nismo Datsun : 2nd on 108 points.
 
Introduction to follow.
 

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Team Driver

Commentary
Fiat Fiat, 1979 - Alitalia Fiat Abarth : 3rd on 92 points.
 
Introduction to follow.
 

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Team Driver

Commentary
#00 Finland Markku Alen Using a chequered flaf Lancia Stratos in Great Britain.
#00 Germany Walter Röhrl
#00 Italy Attilio Bettega
#00 France Jean-Claude Andruet French importers car with Total sponsorship.
#00 France Michèle Mouton French importers car with Total sponsorship.
Opel Opel, 1979 - Dealer Team Vauxhall : 4th on 66 points.
 

 

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Team Driver

Commentary
Lancia Lancia, 1979 - Chardonnet / Chequered Flag : 5th on 65 points.
 

 

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Team Driver

Commentary
Toyota Toyota, 1979 - TTE : 6th on 58 points.
 
Introduction to follow.
 

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Team Driver

Commentary
Renault Renault, 1979 - Régie Renault : 7th on 41 points.
 
Introduction to follow.
 

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Team Driver

Commentary
Mercedes Mercedes, 1979 - Daimler Benz AG : 8th on 35 points.
 
Mercedes were only competing in a limited program, rough African events.
 

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Team Driver

Commentary
Peugeot Peugeot, 1979 - Team Esso Peugeot : 9th on 34 points.
 
Introduction to follow.
 

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Team Driver

Commentary
Porsche Porsche, 1979 - Fréres Almeras avec Esso : 10th on 32 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Saab Saab, 1979 - Saab : 11th on 18 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Audi Audi, 1979 - SMS Schmidt Motorsport : 13th on 11 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Triumph Triumph, 1979 - BL Cars : 15th on 7 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Skoda Skoda, 1979 - Skoda Fabric : 16th on 6 points.
 

 

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Team Driver

Commentary