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GP Week : Issue 70
WRC INSIGHT >> notes ... they learned the roads by heart. Remember, this event was sub-titled the Rally of 10000 corners. But trying to understand their lives was a thankless task. Even this year a once top Corsica rally driver died in a strange and unsolved explosion in a factory! Events on the rally were never quite so dramatic but some drivers escaped with their lives in incredible incidents. There was the famous cow which died when hit by Tommi Makinen's Mitsubishi -- but not before the impact had shot the car and its occupants far down a ravine. In another Mitsubishi accident Freddy Loix went down a ravine into a river, landing upside down on a rock in the water. Another year, Makinen rolled his car and ended up on the side of the road, perilously alongside a very deep unguarded drop. The really special thing about the Tour de Corse was the character of the roads. This changed over time. The traditionally narrow and bumpy lanes were systematically widened and smoothed but still they had their endlessly winding course. The roads never stopped turning -- quite the opposite to the turn-and-squirt routes of Rally Cataluna. The island has some impressive mountains but strangely the roads were never steep, but the ever twisting nature of the roads never gave the rally car's red hot brakes a chance to cool down Those years when this was a three day trip round the island were idyllic. The midday rest halt at the port of Portovecchio; the afternoon driving round the wooded hills of Castagniccia which are threaded by tortuous lanes; the final morning's stage which wound round the west coast of the island. The rally often started in the Place d'Austerlitz ib Ajaccio, overlooked by a statue of Napoleon. Balestre was often the official starter, but never quite understood why foreign photographers tried to get the statue in the background. But now they will not have the chance to do the same with the new FIA President in the foreground. Balestre was capable of misreading situations ... when Malcolm Wilson drove out of Parc Ferme and over the start ramp in reverse. The great leader was furious, until someone told him Wilson's car was actually stuck in reverse gear! Corsica may be entitled the Isle of Beauty (with the arrival of the flowers in late spring), but for rally people it is also an island of sadness. The accidents for Attilio Bettega and Henri Toivonen were tragic but they are still well-respected, with monuments erected at the fatal places. If the Tour de Corse moves away for good, one fears for the spirit of rallying in an island which could have been purpose -builtfor rallying and, most of all, for the memories of the fine drivers who turned their final bend on the island. 41