1986 WRC Season Commentary

1986 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

There has been an important change in the makes scoring modus. First only official manufacturer/importer supported teams could score points. This is to avoid silly points for 14th place by a complete no-name. This move comes in timely, as it means there are no points awarded for boycotted Portugal. But it also could cause confusion. I.e. Renault is the big loser of this rule. GroupB R5 Turbos won Portugal and came 2nd on Corsica and Renault received zero points. On Corsica they got points for 4th place, when the best Renault was 2nd.

In the same move the overall top10 points are changed from 10-9-8-7-etc to 12-10-8-7-etc. Plus the unchanged group points 8-7-6-etc, this brings the makes points more in line with the drivers points with 20points being the award for the winner. As a bonus there is more of a rewarding gap for the winner.

From a championship points scoring view there is a major scandal in San Remo. The normal procedure when a team is excluded and that team protests the decission is to let the team carry on provisionally "under appeal". The San Remo organisers did not do so. The result: The whole event had to be cancelled, as the team's results could not be re-instated when the FIA's final examination proved the team was in the right! Read more about this and it's importance for the drivers championship further down.

The events calendar is again very similar as to previous years. Only the Bandama Rally had been moved forward by 1 month while the Olympus Rally in the USA is new to the series and is added right to the end of the season as round 13.

Again the Bandama Rallye and as well the new Rally USA are not part of the manufacturer WRC. This effectively makes the RAC the last proper groupB event.

.

1986 could have easily been the most exciting and competitive WRC season ever, but instead it turned into the most disastrous season ever!

It started off well when the new Lancia Delta S4 proved that it could indeed give the Peugeot 205 T16 a run for its money. As well the Ford RS200 was launched and proved immediately competitive, even though it was still at the very beginning of its development. One has to feel sorry for Ford. They started developing a new rally car as soon as they won the 1979 title. But the Ford Escort RS1700T was based on the 1979 Escort RS1800 running gear with a turbo added and that (RWD) project was out of date and cancelled before it ever ran. They then started to design a brand new group B car and the Ford RS200 proves competitive but group B is banned virtually the moment the RS200 is launched. Round 1 Lancia beats Peugeot, in round 2 the Ford RS200 leads its debut event, but in round 3....

Already in round 3 in Portugal 3 spectators are killed and another 30 injured when a local driver loses control of his group B Ford RS200. It is some bitter irony when on the Safari out off all rallies Kenneth Eriksson's group A Volkswagen loses a wheel and the flying wheel with suspension parts kills a spectator who was in a perfectly sensible place. Next on the German Championship Rallye Hessen it is again a Ford RS200 involved when Marc Surer loses control and his navigator Michel Wyder dies in the subsequent fire accident. It comes to the climax when Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto are both killed in their group B Lancia in a crash that happened on one of the most harmless and untypical stretches of road for Corsica, but yet again involved explosions and a massive fire blaze. This all happened within 3 months. By now there was a huge question mark over the whole concept of group B.

Again a fact of irony is that the FIA had already reacted on the warning the 1985 accidents of Attilio Bettega and Ari Vatanen gave. The FIA had already announced that at the end of 1987 group B was replaced by group S, still giving quite some freedom but limiting the cars to 300BHP and disallowing composite body shell materials. Group S was in fact quite similar to today’s WRCar regulations. But with group S not ready yet, the FIA felt they had to react immediately now, but were blamed by many to react too hastily.

Indeed some manufacturers (Ford and Peugeot) felt they lost a lot of money developing into what was a guaranteed stable formula while they could have used part of their group B designs for group S. Peugeot went as far as suing the FIA and indeed won!

Audi on the other hand withdraw from the season altogether for safety reasons after Corsica, while Ford eventually shortened their program as far as only running once during the second half of the season with their new car, on their home event in GB.

All this happened until early May, but as if the FIA wasn't faced with enough farce already, the organisers of the Rally San Remo decided to disqualify the entire Peugeot team from their event. Suspiscioun was that the Italian organisers didn't like the dominance of the Peugeots over the Italian cars, although the official claim was that Peugeot used illegal side skirts. But indeed the cars were impounded by the FIA only for them to proof that this is how the cars were homologated and running since over a year. Peugeot was again the manufacturer WRChampion since Finland, but since the driver WRC was still very open between Lancia's Markku Alen and Peugeot's Juha Kankkunen - Kankkunen was leading San Remo at the point of disqualification - the FIA had no option but to kick the Rally San Remo out of the WRC after it had run! Part of the scandal was that the Italian organisers refused Peugeot the right to run under appeal. It is completely unique in the entire history of rallying that an event is cancelled and removed from the calendar after it had run!

The whole scenario did bear some major irony. Juha Kankkunen was not sure of his title until about 3 weeks after the last event was run! In retrospect some may feel this was harsh on Markku Alen, who won the title by points, Markku such was World Champion for 3weeks. However we should not forget that Juha Kankkunen was leading San Remo ahead of Alen at the point of his team's exclusion, which would have been enough for Juha's title anyway.

At the same time one can't claim bias of the FIA towards French teams, as some fans of other makes sometimes like to do. In contrary, Peugeot had sued the FIA on a different subject and this could have been a pay back opportunity. Plus the season already had so much disaster, the FIA could well have done without the unique farce of cancelling an event after it had run. That in this situation the FIA gave Peugeot right may show how clear the situation was, but also that the FIA's judgement was fair.

After enough irony, we can't let you miss out on that bit of irony: Over a year since his massive crash Ari Vatanen gives his first public appearance. He drives a Peugeot 205 T16 E2 (311 FPF 75) as #0 course opening car in San Remo out of all events and ends his run with yet another massive crash (in which nobody gets hurt)!
 

1986 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Peugeot Peugeot, 1986 - Peugeot Talbot Sport : 1st on 137 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Lancia Lancia, 1986 - Martini Racing Lancia Abarth : 2nd on 122 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Volkswagen Volkswagen, 1986 - Volkswagen Motorsport : 3rd on 65 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Audi Audi, 1986 - HB Audi Team : 4th on 29 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Ford Ford, 1986 - Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 5th on 24 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Toyota Toyota, 1986 - TTE : 6th on 20 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Renault Renault, 1986 - Régie Renault : 7th on 14 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Subaru Subaru, 1986 - STI Nurijuki Koseki : 8th on 13 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
MG Rover MG Rover, 1986 - Austin Rover Group : 9th on 12 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Citroën Citroën, 1986 - Citroën Sport : 10th on 10 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Mazda Mazda, 1986 - MRT Mazda Rally Team Europe : 11th on 9 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Opel Opel, 1986 - Opel Euro Händler : 12th on 5 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary