1989 WRC Season Commentary

1989 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

This year for the first time in a while, the event calendar saw a few important changes. One main swap was when after 3 years, 2 of which as a manufacturer WRC round, manufacturers, drivers, public and local authorities still couldn't find much enthusiasm for the USA round. USA was replaced by Australia which was to become a huge hit in future years. Also Bandama has been moved back to its traditional later date.

The Bandama Rallye itself turns more and more into a joke, this year it was won outright by over 3 hours by a group N Renault R5!

Another change of date effected the Rally Sweden. Not enough snow was a problem of previous editions (yes, already back then!). Therefore the event had been moved forward to the very first weekend of the year! That slimmed teams and drivers winter break even more, with the first event recce basically being over New Year. That may explain again why this move was only a one off.

Driver WRC only rounds for 1989 are Sweden, New Zealand and Bandama, best 7 results counted.

.

In terms of competition not much seemed to change for 1989, still nobody was to take a challenge to Lancia. Having said that, the new Mitsubishi had a most unusual up and down season. The regular driver Ari Vatanen had all kinds of problems everywhere from the moment the new Galant VR4 was debuted in GB 1988, in MC Ari was even listed as being 87th! Then Mitsubishi started to offer a 2nd car on a one off base to drivers that haven't won on WRC level before with surprise effect. Jimmy McRae was 4th in Acropolis, Mikael Ericsson won Finland and Pentti Airikkala won GB.

To underline the curiousity, when Mitsubishi's permanent #1 driver Vatanen had problems after problems, Pentti Airikkala in turn was without a real WRC drive forever. His last proper season was 1981 as team mate to Vatanen in the David Sutton Rothmans Escorts. One off drives for Nissan 1982 and a 1000 Lakes start in a works Lancia Rally 037 1983 aside, RAC 1989 was basically a WRC comeback after 8 years and that is how Pentti collected his first and only WRC win, aged 44!

There was some funny controversy around Mikael Ericsson, originally dragged in as a replacement to Henri Toivonen, he had been sacked by Lancia for poor performances. Mikael replied to that in the most appropriate way, winning his designed last event for Lancia, Argentina and then carrying on to win the very next rally, Finland in a Mitsubishi!

Another hysterical situation happened when after Rally Finland, following arguments with the team, Christian Geistdorfer, Hannu Mikkola's co-driver, left Mazda on the spot. Mazda wanted to sue Christian to stick to his contract, but couldn't when it turned out the Mazda team boss forgot to sign Christian's contract in the first place!

Fair play by Ford! Their RWD Sierra Cosworth lost more and more touch to the 4WD opposition. Even Stig Blomqvist now left the team without really having a replacement offer. Ford realised that in 1988 in Didier Auriol and Carlos Sainz they had discovered 2 future stars. Instead of trying everything to cling to their future stars, Ford management decided to do what was best for their drivers and indeed was actively involved in Didier Auriol's move to Lancia and Carlos Sainz's move to Toyota!
 

1989 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Lancia Lancia, 1989 - Martini Racing Lancia Abarth : 1st on 140 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Toyota Toyota, 1989 - TTE : 2nd on 101 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Mazda Mazda, 1989 - MRT Mazda Rally Team Europe : 3rd on 67 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Mitsubishi Mitsubishi, 1989 - Mitsubishi Ralli Art Europe : 4th on 58 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Audi Audi, 1989 - Audi Sport : 5th on 43 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Renault Renault, 1989 - Simon Racing - Diac Renault : 6th on 40 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
BMW BMW, 1989 - Bastos Motul BMW / BMW Fina : 7th on 37 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Nissan Nissan, 1989 - Nismo : 8th on 18 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Volkswagen Volkswagen, 1989 - Volkswagen Motorsport : 9th on 14 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Opel Opel, 1989 - GM Euro Dealers : 10th on 9 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Subaru Subaru, 1989 - STI Nurijuki Koseki : 11th on 7 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
Ford Ford, 1989 - Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 12th on 6 points.
 

 

No

Team Driver

Commentary