1991 WRC Season Commentary

1991 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

The event calendar was to stay in the same order as the year before, however 1991 saw the introduction of a new round, the Rallye Catalunya, which was moved into November as the penultimate round. Therefore, for the first time the WRC season has 14 rounds. However like Sweden, New Zealand and Bandama, the new event didn't count for the manufacturer WRC, so the driver WRC had 4 qualifying rounds more than the manufacturers!

As well still best 7 results count (increased from 8 to 9 for drivers).

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Incredibly, when Toyota won Monte Carlo, it was the 1st time since groupA became the main category in 1987, since 4 years, that a team other than Lancia was leading the World Championship!

Lancia in fact did not beat Toyota until the Safari Rally, which in recent tradition was Toyota's event. Toyota returned the favour in beating Lancia on Corsica! Safari was also the debut of Nissan's new European NME outfit and their Sunny GTI-R. The Sunny seemed to be a rally car with little promise, but on its debut it beat Subaru and Mitsubishi!

For 1991 there were driver movements in 2 major areas. First Ford was in a situation that they lost their lead driver Pentti Airikkala, who decided to end his career, while Ford as well was looking for a replacement for Franco Cunico.

However at least one of their new driver decisions found no public sympathy and understanding, it was Alessandro Fiorio, the son of the Lancia team boss! This decision is even harder to understand since there were 2 promising British youngsters at the time, Mark Lovell and Colin McRae, both with strong connections to Ford, both have been left standing in the cold by Ford to do the Lancia boss a favour.

Their second choice was at least soon promising to become a super star. Indeed Francois Delecour very nearly won his first event with the team which was as well his first ever event in a 4x4 or turbo charged car! Who couldn't feel sympathy for Francois when he collapsed in tears at the finish of the Rallye Monte Carlo. It was Francois' first drive at this level and he dominated the event from the start and only lost out on a secure victory when in the very last stage a rear suspension part broke through no fault of his own!

Ari Vatanen was, through his old Peugeot links, actively involved to get the Ford drive for Francois, Peugeot's former cup winner and the current French Championship driver. This of course was before Ari knew that Mitsubishi was to sack him, ironically leaving Ari without a drive after he shut the door at Ford for himself. His position at Mitsubishi was filled by Timo Salonen, moving from Mazda. At Mazda the open place was at first filled with young Spaniard Jesus Puras, later with Tommi Mäkinen. But whoever the driver, the Mazda just never was a true challenger in performance and at the end of the year Mazda quit rallying and was never seen again in the sport.
 

1991 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Lancia Lancia, 1991 - Martini Racing Lancia Abarth : 1st on 137 points.
 

 

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Toyota Toyota, 1991 - TTE : 2nd on 128 points.
 

 

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Mitsubishi Mitsubishi, 1991 - Mitsubishi Ralli Art Europe : 3rd on 62 points.
 

 

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Ford Ford, 1991 - Q8 Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 4th on 54 points.
 

 

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Mazda Mazda, 1991 - MRT Mazda Rally Team Europe : 5th on 44 points.
 

 

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Subaru Subaru, 1991 - Subaru Rally Team : 6th on 42 points.
 

 

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Nissan Nissan, 1991 - NME : 7th on 16 points.
 

 

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BMW BMW, 1991 - Hartge GmbH : 8th on 6 points.
 

 

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Renault Renault, 1991 - Régie Renault avec Diac : 9th on 4 points.
 

 

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