1985 WRC Season Commentary

1985 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

The 1985 event calendar stays the same as the previous 2 years. However this time there is only one event to count for the driver WRC only, Bandama, otherwise the driver and manufacturer WRC is identical. Also best 8 results count rather than best 7 in previous seasons.

.

Expectedly Peugeot dominates the season and decide the manufacturer & driver WRC in their favour as early as Finland!

If the Peugeot 205 T16 show on its debut events 1984 didn't scare the opposition, at least the season opener showed who was favourite 1985. Walter Röhrl may have won Rallye Monte Carlo in his 4 previous attempts with 4 different cars. But this time even an error by Terry Harryman, resulting in a massive 8min time penalty, couldn't stop Vatanen and Peugeot winning the rally ahead of Röhrl's Audi Quattro!

The only major driver change was Peugeot needing a #2 driver for going into their first full season. The choice was a surprising one. Timo Salonen has not had the best career so far. His friends said he wasted his talent in Nissans, while his critics referred to slow stage times combined with many accidents. The move was the more surprising as Walter Röhrl knocked on Jean Todt's door and was turned down! Peugeot Talbot Sport boss Jean Todt lined out that he had never any doubt about Salonen's talent, while Salonen also fitted better than Röhrl into the Peugeot family by his character. Most surprising however was Jean Todt's genius theory that exactly Salonen's poor record so far was a marketing asset: If Röhrl won in the car, for the public that would have been the driver, if Salonen won it would be the car!

The next surprise then was how Peugeot treated the #2 tag - not strict at all! Ari Vatanen gave the 205 T16 the most amazing debut we have seen ever, winning 5 rallies in the car's first 7 starts! Surely Ari was #1 favourite full stop! Timo Salonen's talent was already proven to scared mechanics on his first 205 T16 test drives: They found themselves sitting alongside Timo going flat out, opposite lock sideways and wheels in the air, while at the very same time searching for his cigarettes, lighting his cigarette, only then fastening the safety belts and explaining what he wanted changed in the set up all at the same time! Sure enough first two rounds 1985 Vatanen won with Salonen 3rd. When in round3 Vatanen crashed, Salonen was on duty to make it 6 Peugeot wins in 8 starts! Later on in Rally NZ the rally world was astonished that Salonen beat Vatanen fair and square on the stages and the team was not willing to rob their #2 driver's win for the title favourite by team orders. When then sadly Ari Vatanen had a major crash in Argentina, Salonen was long in the position to pick up the pieces and added his drivers title to Peugeot's makes title already on the very next event. Timo Salonen also managed to win 4 successive WRC rallies, a record that should be his own until super-Loeb 20years later!

The season is overshadowed by 2 serious accidents. Lancia's Attilio Bettega loses his life in Corsica while Peugeot's Ari Vatanen is seriously injured in Argentina and has to take a break of 1½ years.

There are several new group B cars debuting during 1985, and with Peugeot loosing their lead driver they even get a chance to shine. Audi presents the all winged Audi Quattro S1 and in San Remo, where Peugeot's Timo Salonen has very little experience, the new Audi wins in the hands of Walter Röhrl.

The 4x4 Lancia Delta S4 is heavily delayed, to the annoyance of the Lancia drivers, the first 4x4 Lancia misses its scheduled debuts in Finland and San Remo. It is eventually launched in GB, where we see as well the debut of the MG Metro 6R4. Both Lancia and MG have many problems on their debut, but the event dominating Peugeots and Audis retire all and the surprise result is perfect.

As well the public saw a first glimpse of the group B Ford RS200 when Stig Blomqvist took the car (B55 CHK) as #0 course opening car to the RAC. The way this most interesting course opening car deal came along was a funny twist. Audi learned that Stig Blomqvist signed for Ford for 1986 and with all 1985 titles clear they decided they wouldn't let Blomqvist start the RAC as to avoid more practice for his new employer (a common game those years, but as if Stig didn't know that rally). But in contrast to Audi's intentions they even did Stig and Ford a favour. The car may not have been homologated yet, but with the course opening car idea this scenario only opened the chance to test the new car even more and give Stig first experience with his new car.

Another new team worth a mention is 1981 WRChampion navigator, David Richards starting his own preparation business. The company is called David Richards Autosport, but the name is later changed to Prodrive. Prodrive gets involved in running works supported Porsche 911 SCRS on a few occasions, starting actually already during 1984 but still under the David Richards Autosport name back than.

Finally an interesting incident for a car and car registrations database like ours:

Not only Audi's strategy with not letting Blomqvist start on the RAC backfired on them. Audi was already in turmoil towards the end of the 1985 season. Audi was blamed to have swapped cars on the Bandama Rallye, penultimate round 1985.

In fact what a rotten event that Bandama was for Audi, losing both their most legendary and in 1985, before S1 debut, busiest Sport Quattros: Before eliminating IN-NA 23 on the event itself as described below, Mouton had a most mysterious recce accident being lucky to survive without injury when losing the complete front of IN-NC 25 crashing into a speeding train at a railway crossing! I certainly have never seen a Quattro ripped to pieces the way IN-NC 25 was. This recce incident meant flying service Franz Braun had to revert to a car without competition history, IN-YM 86, proving even more that in all the story below the Audi team in fact performed an amazing job!

So going into the event, Audi entered Michèle Mouton in the Sport Quattro IN-NA 23 and an identical car IN-YM 86 with mechanics on bord as flying emergency service. This was not actually a unique trick on African rallies those days. But when Mouton's Quattro fell very sick, at some point the Mouton car very suddenly was healthy again and the flying service car missing, leading opposition and officials to the according questions and blame. Audi withdrew Mouton from the event and such the claim was never proven nor penalised. However rally photographs including reknown Reinhard Klein & Martin Holmes compared their photos of both cars before the incident and of Mouton's car after. Mouton's car showed the "IN-NA 23" plate, the N°2 door number and the crew names correctly, but a number of tiny details as bolts, fuel cap, trolley jack holes just didn't seem right! As one example, like many teams Audi bolted security fixing brackets over the windscreens. On the photos on Mouton's car these brackets had changed position and were in fact in the position they were on mechanic Franz Braun's car at the start of the event! If you have a sick engine to cure, even with bent chassis and suspension, why would you worry about changing the positions of these brackets? Plus if you change their position, the bolts would leave holes in the shell/window frame, even if they changed the windscreen and for some mystery reason did not use the original fixing points, these subsequent holes were missing from the Mouton car! It was never officially confirmed nor penalised, but it became very obvious IN-NA 23 was in fact IN-YM 86 and cars have been swapped mid event.
 

1985 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Peugeot Peugeot, 1985 - Peugeot Talbot Sport : 1st on 142 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Audi Audi, 1985 - HB Audi Team : 2nd on 126 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Lancia Lancia, 1985 - Martini Racing Lancia Abarth : 3rd on 70 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Nissan Nissan, 1985 - Nismo : 4th on 56 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Toyota Toyota, 1985 - TTE : 5th on 44 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Renault Renault, 1985 - Régie Renault : 6th on 38 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Volkswagen Volkswagen, 1985 - Volkswagen Motorsport : 7th on 29 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Opel Opel, 1985 - Opel Euro Händler : 8th on 25 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Porsche Porsche, 1985 - Rothmans Rallying : 9th on 24 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Mazda Mazda, 1985 - MRT Mazda Rally Team Europe : 10th on 22 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Ford Ford, 1985 - Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 11th on 21 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Subaru Subaru, 1985 - STI Nurijuki Koseki : 12th on 20 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
MG Rover MG Rover, 1985 - Austin Rover Group : 13th on 14 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo, 1985 - Gema : 14th on 14 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
BMW BMW, 1985 - BMW France : 15th on 9 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Citroën Citroën, 1985 - Citroën Sport : 16th on 4 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary