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    1995: The Most Dramatic Season In The History Of WRC?

    Ok yeah, 1986 would be another good contender as the most dramatic season. But the drama, intrigue and excitement that was packed into a season with only eight events in it is quite remarkable.

    First and foremost the season is remembered for two things, McRae's only title (he deserved more) and Toyota's turbo cheat. For 1995 a smaller turbo restrictor was demanded by the regulations and this seemed to wildly affect the teams' relative engine performance to each other. In 1994 Toyota had by far the best engine in WRC and the last spec of ST185 Celicas from 1994 are really the absolute pinnacle of Group A rallying to me. It's like a mini-Group B experience to see and hear that car in action. Subaru was better in twistier roads in 1994 already, but they had no answer for Toyota's power. But mysteriously the smaller restrictor implemented for 1995 really hit Toyota very bad compared to the other teams. Mitsubishi seemed to have all of a sudden the best engine in the business and Toyota by far the worst engine, Subaru and Ford somewhere in the middle. In Monte Carlo Kankkunen and Auriol were complaining that they can't get up the hills. Toyota was nowhere in Sweden either and this is when they must have panicked. To cut a long technical story short, Toyota tweaked the restrictor so that when the turbo was installed the restrictor essentially didn't do its job anymore, allowing more air into the turbo, but when the turbo was removed (as it had to be done for inspection) the restrictor appeared to be good and legal. Toyota was estimated to have had a 50bhp advantage thanks to this tweak. I think it's clear Toyota implemented their cheat already in the third event of the season in Portugal, seven months before they were caught in Spain. All of a sudden they had clearly the most powerful engine when just before they were like Group N cars in comparison. This was demonstrated at a super special in Lousada when Kankkunen's Celica and Sainz's Impreza started side by side. Subaru had no chance in that contest. Only thing that kept Kankkunen and Auriol from romping away with victories from Portugal on, was that in tight and twisty stages the big and clumsy Celica was at a huge disadvantage to Mitsubishi and Subaru. Good example of this was the New Zealand rally which has both very twisty, but also faster stages. In the extremely twisty Motu stage Auriol lost 35 seconds alone to McRae. He lost the rally by only 44 seconds.

    But then came Catalunya, relatively wide, smooth and fast tarmac stages to finally unleash the Celica. And the result was the absolutely unique occasion of Juha Kankkunen completely dominating a tarmac WRC rally! When has that ever happened otherwise? No one else had any answer to his speed. Had Kankkunen finished the drive in victory and had Toyota's cheating not been caught, only fourth place in RAC would have guaranteed Juha his fifth title, no matter how the others would have driven. But then the accident happened, which was caused by Kankkunen mishearing Grist's note "very long bad left" as "very long flat left". Every time I see the onboard video of Kankkunen's accident, I wonder if it offers a clue to what happened to Henri Toivonen in Corsica in 1986. Because Toivonen had a similar English note system to Kankkunen, including both "flat" and "bad" corner speeds and I have thought it's a big possibility he lost his life because of a similar mishearing. Both Kankkunen's and Toivonen's accidents happened in similar left handers in which entering them you couldn't see how badly it tightens in the end, the worst possible corner type for a misheard note. Also both accidents happened from a dominant lead towards the end of the second leg, when concentration isn't necessarily at its best anymore. Notes were much more simple in those days and what would nowadays be at least something like "caution, very long 4 left tightens to 3, stay in" could simply be "very long bad left".

    By the way I don't think it's quite as clear cut as it has been made to look, that the drivers themselves were completely clueless to what was happening behind the scenes at Toyota, like the official story given to public goes. There are a few things that raise suspicion. Auriol's co-driver Bernard Occelli had a mysterious falling out with the Toyota team, not with Auriol, right before Corsica. Denis Giraudet stepped in and Auriol remarkably went on to win the rally with a new co-driver. I have heard from French sources that Occelli's falling out was caused by his disapproval of Toyota's cheating, which he no longer wanted to be a part of. Related to this I have seen clips from 1995 where co-drivers of the Toyota team are fiddling underneath the bonnet in the turbo area between the stages. No repair operations, but routine looking fiddling on something. Both of these things could be completely unrelated to the turbo cheating, but put together they have raised suspicion in me. Did the co-drivers at Toyota have some kind of function in ensuring the success of the cheat? It has also been speculated there must have been a whistleblower involved when finally uncovering the cheat, as otherwise no one would have ever been able to discover it. FIA president at the time Max Mosley called the cheat 'the most ingenious thing" he has seen in motorsport. Also it must have raised at least some suspicion in the drivers that an engine that was like a Group N engine in Sweden, was all of a sudden the most powerful engine in the business, there was only a couple of weeks between Sweden and Portugal. Kankkunen was directly asked this question in Portugal, but he was joking that the extra power is perhaps provided by him.

    1995 could have also easily been the year of Sainz's third title, but he had a mountain bike accident in the Summer which caused him to miss New Zealand, one of his strongest events. With only eight events in the calendar, already missing one event in a tight Championship battle is not good news at all, not the same luxury that Loeb had in 2006. Sainz was on fire in Monte Carlo and Portugal in particular, he had an intense battle with Kankkunen in Portugal when a branch cut a brake pipe on the final stage, but he still somehow managed to win the rally. To be honest McRae outshone Sainz in the second half though after Sainz came back from his injury. This brings us to the Catalunya affair which included the Subaru team (all things put together 1995 Catalunya has to be a contender for the most dramatic WRC event in history). McRae was amazingly matching Carlos in his home ground and in his first Rally Catalunya. However, after Kankkunen's crash Subaru wanted to cool the race down, for Carlos to win at home, for the drivers to go dead level in the Championship to the final event and for Subaru to secure a good Manufacturer Championship lead, all quite understandable in retrospect. McRae seemed to accept the order at first, but then on the last day he decided not to respect it after all. Sainz was seemingly cruising on the last day whilst McRae was driving like a man possessed. Subaru team members tried to stop him on the last stage but to no avail, they would have gotten run over had they not moved away from the road. Subaru forcibly stopped him from entering the last time control on time. They probably made clear to him that he wouldn't be taking part in the RAC or continue driving for Subaru at all in the future for that matter, if he went on to win the rally. In comparison, Ogier & Citroen in 2011 is relatively mild and friendly compared to this incident. In the RAC McRae drove an epic rally though, probably the best World Championship clinching drive of all time. Interestingly enough, earlier in the year Mitsubishi had an almost identical team order affair in Sweden with Eriksson and Mäkinen. Mitsubishi decided before the last leg that Eriksson would win his home rally, Mäkinen did not respect the team order until the final metres of the last stage. Mäkinen's frustration is understandable as he was going to take the Championship lead after Sweden and must have felt at the time that he had a good shot at the title. His season turned out to be a bit of a disaster though from then on with something going wrong in every event. Also Mitsubishi decided to skip Portugal altogether for some reason which didn't help either.

    It's worth mentioning as well that 1995 Corsica would have been Bruno Thiry's only WRC win had the service regulations not been changed for 1995. Drivers had to do a lot more work on the car themselves between the stages in 1995 than before, with team service restricted. This rule change was very controversial and heavily criticised at the time. Thiry was leading Corsica comfortably on the last day when a front wheel bearing broke on the road section. Thiry said it would have been only a ten minute job for the mechanics but it was impossible for him and Prevot to fix it in time and they were out of the rally. Unlike today, in 1995 this kind of last minute retirement that could have easily been prevented by mechanics was scandalous for the sport.

    1995 is also the first year in WRC history when every event was won by a Japanese manufacturer, the second and last time was in 1998. We might have to wait for some time still to see that happen again. 1995 was an interesting year in WRC to say the least.

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  3. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by AnttiK7 View Post
    Mitsubishi had an almost identical team order affair in Sweden with Eriksson and Mäkinen. Mitsubishi decided before the last leg that Eriksson would win his home rally, Mäkinen did not respect the team order until the final metres of the last stage. Mäkinen's frustration is understandable as he was going to take the Championship lead after Sweden and must have felt at the time that he had a good shot at the title.
    I remember this incident, it really put me off from following WRC. That's why 1995 has kind of a blank space in my memory of WRC seasons. With Toyota being banned at the end of the year, it became only worse. Also, having the event rotation system from 1994 was already bad to start with and no WRC Rally Finland in 1995 was a big disappointment as well. It took the introduction of WRC cars with a promise of Toyota returning in 1997 for my interest to make a comeback. The same happened to me before 2017, I had stopped following WRC a long time ago but with VW quitting and the new regulations being introduced I wanted to start following again.

    Also, wasn't Kankkunen in the points lead before Catalunya without winning any rallies?
    Last edited by AnttiL; 3rd February 2018 at 21:49.

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    1995 was also the last time we had an old style 'all over country' RAC Rally in the WRC....

    But the footage of Subaru team members standing in the middle of the road on Rally Catalunya is never to be forgotten; absolutely insane. I think Corsica is probably the saddest moment of that season; Thiry dominated that event, but the new servicing rules probably cost him a win. He never did win a WRC event.....
    WRC: On the long way to Recovery............
    Is there a better sound than that of Porsche engined Flat-6 ???

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    Quote Originally Posted by AnttiL View Post
    Also, wasn't Kankkunen in the points lead before Catalunya without winning any rallies?
    Yes indeed, the points standings before Catalunya (second to last event) were:

    Kankkunen 62
    McRae 55
    Auriol 51
    Sainz 50
    Eriksson 48

    20 points for victory in those days. So at this point five drivers still had a shot at the title, although as Eriksson wasn't taking part in Catalunya (Mitsubishi appointed Aghini for tarmac events), he would have required the other four to fail to still have a chance in the RAC. Kankkunen had no wins, but up until Catalunya he had scored in every event, the only driver to have done so, plus four of those points results were podiums. Kankkunen did his first big mistake of the season in Catalunya and he was visually quite devastated when he returned to the service after his crash, understandably, as at the time he must have thought he had thrown an easy fifth title away. But that was before the curtain fell for Toyota and in the end the crash didn't matter at all. Although I do wonder if Kankkunen's domination of a tarmac event was the last straw that broke the camel's back for someone and that made them decide to come out to FIA with what they know. Unmentioned so far, Catalunya also had the added drama of Mäkinen ending his rally in a crash into an ambulance that was parked on the side of the road.

    Also it is worth mentioning how good season Eriksson had while just doing half of the rallies. After the Toyota disqualifications he finished third in the Championship, having only done four rallies against the eight of the Subaru boys. I don't think he would have won the title with a full program either, especially given the fact that he was never very good on tarmac, but he would have been a lot closer and in with a shot come RAC. It was probably Eriksson's best season ever.

    Another thing that 1995 had going for it was that it was the first year in WRC when all top drivers carrying onboard cameras in every rally became the norm, until then drivers had onboard cameras here and there, but without any consistency or structure to it. This allowed capturing a lot more drama that up until then had stayed mostly hidden from TV viewers. For example in 1995 Monte Carlo it allowed the public to see Sainz's headlights switching off randomly in the middle of a stage during the last night of Monte and the ensuing panic in the car. Or final stage of Portugal when Sainz hit the branch that cut a brake pipe and the struggle to finish the stage from there. But for example just a year earlier in 1994 Monte Carlo, another dramatic and controversial moment that could have been great and useful to see from onboard cameras went completely uncaptured. Delecour and Kankkunen were fighting for the lead when on the Saint Jean en Royans stage (?) Delecour took a huge shortcut across a field, gaining at least 20-30 seconds with it. By the time Kankkunen arrived at the same place, Ford team members had driven their service van to block the access for the shortcut. Kankkunen wasn't at all happy about it, but I don't think shortcuts like that were consistently punished in those days. Ironically, Delecour got disqualified in the RAC the same year for taking an accidental shortcut. Also Kankkunen himself took a big shortcut across a field in Catalunya 1991 which was captured by cameras and this created some controversy among the Spanish fans at least, as it was the year of the Kankkunen vs. Sainz Championship duel.

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    Another thing worth mentioning is that while Toyota's ban effectively ended up sidelining Kankkunen and Auriol from battling for the 1996-1997 World Championships, it also messed up Carlos Sainz. He wasn't happy at Subaru and had signed a three year contract to join Toyota from 1996, but Toyota's ban forced him to join Ford instead, delaying the reunion with Toyota until 1998. Kankkunen had a contract with Toyota for 1996 also, but I'm not sure about Auriol. Kankkunen-Sainz-Auriol would have been quite a dream team to go up against Mäkinen and McRae. In retrospect, Sainz had a great 1996 with a clear car disadvantage compared to Mäkinen and McRae.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AnttiK7 View Post
    Kankkunen had a contract with Toyota for 1996 also, but I'm not sure about Auriol.
    At least Auriol did only one-offs during 1996 and the first half of 1997. Kankkunen followed the same route before being recruited to Ford during 1997 to replace the error-prone Schwarz.

    I also remember Mänttä 200-Ajo, a regular pre Rally Finland test event, from 1997, where Grönholm debuted Corolla WRC. I was spectating in the same corner with Kankkunen, who was probably a little bittersweet of seeing the result of his development work in action.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AnttiL View Post
    At least Auriol did only one-offs during 1996 and the first half of 1997. Kankkunen followed the same route before being recruited to Ford during 1997 to replace the error-prone Schwarz.

    I also remember Mänttä 200-Ajo, a regular pre Rally Finland test event, from 1997, where Grönholm debuted Corolla WRC. I was spectating in the same corner with Kankkunen, who was probably a little bittersweet of seeing the result of his development work in action.
    Talking about Corolla WRC, funnily enough, I think they had clearly the best engine of their era. The most reliable as well as the most powerful engine, as well as the best car in general probably. Ok, now we all remember the epic blow up of Sainz in 1998 and what it meant for Toyota's and Sainz's World Championship, but that was actually the only engine failure Sainz had in the two years he spent with Corolla WRC. Meanwhile, for example McRae's engines were failing left, right and centre in the late 90s, both with Subaru and Ford, probably costing him both the 1997 and 1998 titles. Also Mäkinen didn't have a great reliability record at that time, if not as bad as McRae. I think Toyota's main problem was that both Sainz and Auriol were past their peak in terms of pure speed by the late 90s, although both still had great consistency. I'd say both Mäkinen or McRae would have walked the 1998 and 1999 titles in a Toyota. Still, Toyota managed to win the Manufacturer's Championship in 1999. Perhaps if Toyota had went with Grönholm & Sainz for 1998, which was the original plan to my understanding, by 1999 Grönholm would have been ready to win a title already. I think TTE wanted Grönholm, but big bosses in Japan wanted Auriol to pair Sainz because at the time he was a bigger name, as well as the last driver to win a World Championship with Toyota. Though it has to be said that Sainz-Grönholm would have probably caused a lot of friction when Sainz would have found out how fast Grönholm is. Grönholm already managed to cause problems for Sainz in a private Corolla. Grönholm talked about this subject in some interview and to my understanding for 1998 Rally Finland Grönholm in a private Corolla would have got a factory engine in the same spec than Sainz and Auriol had for the event. Grönholm was testing this engine in a test session in which Sainz was also taking part. When King Carlos saw how fast Grönholm was with the same engine he decided he would have none of that and demanded that Grönholm can't have the same engine for the rally. So Grönholm could forget about having the factory engine and that was that. At this time it was very much Carlos' team, he had been signed with big money into a long contract and if Carlos said something, Toyota listened. So now in retrospect, perhaps having Auriol as Sainz's team mate saved Toyota from some fireworks.



    I found an interesting interview from the early 2000s where Nicky Grist talks to Special Stage magazine about the turbo cheat in 1995:

    You were part of Toyota Team Europe when the squad was excluded from the World Championship in the 1995 season. Did that catch you by surprise? What was your reaction to that?

    NG: It did a little. On the event itself... People never believe me, but this is the absolute truth. All of a sudden we were very competitive on tarmac. I'd sat with Juha for quite some time, and on tarmac he always lacked a little bit of confidence. I had to get him to change his driving style just a little bit, and he started to pick up on times, and it started to get better. Then we turned up at Catalunya, and we set off on this rally, and things seemed to go well, very well. We ended up actually leading the rally, which everyone was surprised at, even ourselves. Of course we could feel a difference in the engine, and we asked the engine guys, "What's new with the engine? It is fantastic!" They said, "Oh, it's a new evolution." It really did feel good. But you would never actually know what was going on in the engine department, it was out of bounds to the majority of the team. The chief engineer at that time was Dieter Bulling. At the end of the first leg, they serviced the car on the sea front at Lloret-de-Mar, where they changed a lot of parts, including the turbo. What I didn't know was that the FIA scrutineers had actually taken the turbo away to inspect it again; they had already been inspected before the start of the rally to check the size of the restrictor and so on. The next morning Dieter Bulling looked extremely worried. Talk about chain smoking, I think the next cigarette was lit before the other was finished. I said, "Are you OK?" He said, "Yes, I'm fine. I'm fine." But later that day we crashed out, and at the end of that leg, Didier Auriol was excluded, and then of course everything came out. It was a bit of a shock, I have to say. At that time it was a major issue for the FIA, and Toyota Team Europe paid the price as well, losing all their Manufacturer points (as well as our own), and were also banned from competing the following year.
    There's at least one factual error in his words, Auriol was disqualified at the end of the rally, not before. Although I have read that during the second leg and before Kankkunen crashed, the decision had already been made to disqualify all Toyotas, but for whatever reason it wasn't put into action/made public until after the rally. Apart from that it's all up in the air if Grist is being economical with the truth or if he is being completely truthful. Anyway, the huge overnight improvement definitely happened for Portugal already, not for Catalunya. Back in Monte Carlo Toyota was really screwed with their engine. The most telling stage was SS6 Lalouvesc - Col du Marchand. The stage was 30km long and the first half of the stage was downhill and the second half uphill. Kankkunen said that halfway through all three Toyotas were within a couple of seconds of Delecour in a Ford who won the stage. But by the end of the stage and after the uphill section, all Toyotas were more than 30 seconds slower. So in the uphill section all the Toyotas were over two seconds/km slower than Delecour's Ford, a lifetime in rallying. But somehow magically, Toyota already turned up in Portugal with the most powerful engine. It's as if Honda had suddenly made a similar gain in Formula 1 in 2015 after the first couple of races.

    I think the basic design of Toyota's engine for the 1995 turbo restrictor rules was simply wrong and that was the basis for all the problems and panicking that was to follow. For example, Subaru completely redesigned their 1994 engine for 1995 for it to be better suitable for the smaller turbo restrictor. I think the rule change just somehow completely caught Toyota out and they didn't find out that their engine is altogether wrong for 1995, until seeing the direct comparison against the other cars in Monte. Probably by February someone had come up with a clever idea for an easy and quick performance fix. And the rest is history.
    Last edited by AnttiK7; 4th February 2018 at 21:18.

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    1995 was certainly one of the most dramatic seasons in what was - at least for me - the best era of WRC, so I am inclined to agree with the opening statement!
    "If in doubt... flat out!"

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    1992 was also interesting with Auriol winning so many rallies but still finishing 3rd in the points, to this date I don't understand how that happened

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    [QUOTE=AnttiK7;1171263]Talking about Corolla WRC, funnily enough, I think they had clearly the best engine of their era. The most reliable as well as the most powerful engine, as well as the best car in general probably.

    Yes this is very true at least for the WRC Corolla, during that time some top drivers who had driven with the latest spec Corolla WRC engine went on to drive other manufactorers cars after Toyota quit, for instance Peugeot 206 WRC never caught up with the Corolla engine only the 307WRC had better pure engine power, the main problem performance vise for the Corolla was short wheel travel on gravel which would have been the next development for TTE.
    One of the drivers driving Peugeot 206 said to us at the time "with the Corolla engine in this car we would be untouchable"

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