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GP Week : Issue 10
T HIS weekend's Rally d'italia Sardegna sees the 50th established event in the esteemed line of premier Italian rallies. It has enjoyed a remarkably peripatetic career, in which the event has moved around the country as an asphalt, a gravel and a mixed-surfaced event. It is one of only four events in the world championship that have been held every year since the series started in 1973. Rally d'italia was for the greater part of its career known as the Sanremo Rally, also the Flowers Rally, but since 2004 the event has settled in the island of Sardinia. It is a rally of traditions, politics, intrigues and sensations. Traditions? Hardly a Rally d'italia goes by without the most monumental controversies. If anything has happened in rallying, it seems first to have happened in Italy! Motorsport in Italy is forever emotive. Nothing passes peacefully or calmly. When they came to organise the 1978 Sanremo event, it was decided to call it the 20th event in the series, jumping from the 15th event held the year before. It seems two rallies before the Second World War (won by a Romanian driver!) and two afterwards had never been taken into account, so the omission had to be rectified. The victory by a Fiat driver from Eastern Europe was the start of a tradition of success by foreign drivers, not the least for Swede Ove Andersson who drove a Renault Alpine painted white in order not to embarrass fellow French team drivers. Earlier, Andersson had won his class on the event within days of the launch of the Ford Escort twin cam. Politics? Try 1976 when the Lancia managers averred that they did not want to favour 44 .t, \ - '.;... '--................. .. .... - " '\ : -::: , I - -"'\... ., - . . -- --;. \ . t '\ . - - '...... ,,' _ ...... .... \z- .... . .;. .? . t:-' . ._- :,.;...... " ""i ';:-" ) . . - - - i' :- ........ ....... . .. 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Ral(y winner Sebastien Loeb (FRA) with co-driver Daniel Elena (FRA) Gtroen Xsara WRC arrives In Montalto to b FIA World_Rally Championship, Rdll, Sanremo Rally, Italy, Leg 3,.5 October 2.003. one of their two drivers, a Swede (Bjorn Waldegard) and the other an Italian (Sandro Munari) at the expense of the other. However, Waldegard was leading before the final stage, so they commanded him to delay his start on the final stage to give Munari an equal chance of victory. Waldegard was so incensed that he overcame the handicap and won the rally, but never drove for the team again. And what about politics of another sort - like in 1980 when the Fiat factory was on strike, so the team seconded their contracted drivers to private Fiat teams and still won the event!v Intrigue? Few fully know exactly why the Scrutineers on the 1986 event decided to exclude the Peugeot team. But they struck in mid-event, so the French cars had no chance to complete the route anyawy. Lancia accordingly won, but the FIA cancelled their championship points - and 11 days after the final rally of the season, the World Drivers' Championship changed hands. This was unprecedented - but exclusions have been a regular occurrence on this event. In 1966 Vic Elford won the rally in a Ford Lotus Cortina, but was then excluded on account of a clerical error in a homologation form. And there were those who escaped likely exclusion - in 1967 the second placed Mini broke a driveshaft coupling on the final test and only reached the finish when the car was pushed downhill to Sanremo. Sensation? What about Michele Mouton's victory in 1981, the first ever win for a lady driver on a world championship rally - but then husband and wife Erik and Pat Carlsson had finished 1-2 in 1964. In 1988, Lancia driver Miki Biasion was proclaimed the first ever Italian World Rally Champion, and the first all- Italian motorsport champion for 35 years. But strangely, Italian car victories on the country's most important rally event have been few and far between. A Renault Alpine All 0 won the first Sanremo Rally, run in the inaugural year of the World championship in 1973. No Italian car has won since 1992, and 2008 is the third year running that there is not even an Italian car on the event at all The landscape of Sardinia is wonderful, the Ceremonial Start and the Finish in Porto Cervo gives a million-dollar feeling, even to passers-by. The special stages in old days in the Liguria hinterland behind Sanremo may have had limited photographic scope, but when the ra lIy travelled down to Tuscany, with special