by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 175
Back in 1975 I was younger and a lot less experienced, but luckily I had the habit of keeping the pictures of the extraordinary people and things I met, and keeping copies of the transcripts of the inter views. I recently discovered things Antonio told me in Madrid before the 1975 Rally of Spain captured life in the sport in a long gone era. Antonio is far from long gone. At 27 years of age, Antonio Zanini was turning the corner from being the ‘enfant terrible’ of Spanish rallying into being a major sporting star. He was approaching the position of being possibly Spain’s most celebrated motor sportsman for a long time. His outrages earlier in his career were receding into the past. Perhaps the most spectacular of these occurred earlier that year and led to his temporary loss of competition licence. He was blamed for bad behaviour after being accused of deliberately blocking a stage. Contrary to the traditional spirits, he was not thought to be a ‘sportive’ type, but there was more to it than that. Gradually the regular Spanish sport was admitting that he was becoming a most feared opponent. As in most motoring career stories of the day, Antonio started his career not in karting but on motor cycles, just as soon as he was permitted to hold a licence. This was 10 years before we met. He started motocross racing, the long distance sort, with a 74cc Derbi, on events which could run for as long as three hours. He then turned to motorcycle hillclimbs, using an Ossa 175cc Sport category machine, lent him by Norat Salom, a friend, who then turned to racing 1430 formula cars. Antonio entered rallying by co-driving, which was the only way he could afford to be involved. Firstly he went with Miguel Casa, in a Seat 600, and then he went with the brothers Babler. Hansi Babler drove a Steyr Puch and his brother, Jorge, a Seat 1430. Antonio used to be allowed to share the driving with Jorge, which was a remarkable honour, since Jorge later became national champion in 1973, and at the time people regarded him as the greatest rallyman Spain has ever had. Even in those days successes were not really important. Antonio competed for fun. His daytime job was studying technical engineering at his father’s plastics factory in Barcelona, in fact not far from the downtown SEAT competition factory. But when he started to drive on rallies things became more serious. The Babler’s father lent him a Renault 8TS for hillclimbs, and then the Escuderia Condac team provided a Simca 1000. This was in 1972, and the car was extremely fast for its size. At that time there was a big and active Simca competition involvement in Spain, with national championships being held to promote the use of Simca 1000s. This car was Group 5 with an engine that gave 75bhp, and provided Antonio with several good places in regional events. At the end of that year he went to watch the RACE Rally, and met up with Salvador Canellas (whom he knew from motorcycle days) who went on to win the event. Antonio decided he too could do justice to a works SEAT... Antonio went along to the factory and it was agreed that he could borrow a car for the next major event, the ‘2000 Virajes’, the Rally of 2000 Corners. Canellas and Jorge Babler were the official team drivers, and they had the then-new twin-cam cars, whilst Antonio would drive a single cam car. Like a dream come true, the two proper team cars broke down and Antonio won the rally! The 1972 season ended prematurely with an accident during training for the Costa del Sol event. In 1973 he had a full works car, he was at last a consummate professional with SEAT, into progressively more competitive cars until the company started to run works specification Fiat 131 Abarth rally cars. The saying is true that first impressions are often the lasting ones. Those first few rallies which I saw in Spain were enough to convince me that Spain is a special place for rallying. And maybe from these fragments of what I discovered about Antonio one can sense why I still believe he is special. However, his most lasting achievement was not so much as a works rally driver, and was to come five years later when he won the 1980 European championship as a privateer driver with a rented Porsche from the Almeras company in France. In those days the ERC was the established part of the sport – the story of the world championship for drivers was only one year old at that time. Zanini became the first Spanish driver to win an FIA rally title, the first on what is still a comparatively short list. Elevation in the rally business was a difficult task but SEAT did a lot to make this possible. That occasion when he was banned from the sport in 1975 and he lost the chance of a drive on the Rally of Portugal provided a memorable chance for one of our colleagues. Ricardo ‘Rizos’ Munoz, working for Autopista magazine, became the only regular rally journalist to be given a works drive on a WRC event. So even by being absent Antonio created stories of interest. WRC >>> FEATURE ABOVE: Teaching Carlos Sainz how to drive .... and (right) with Sainz in 1986 33 GPWEEK.com // 33 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: