Round 1 of the FIA World Rally Championship 1986

Round 1 of the FIA World Rally Championship 1986

Monte Carlo is undoubtedly the rally that everyone looks forward to the most. You love it because it marks the opening of a new championship, you love it for the incomparable charm that the event has always jealously guarded.

Throughout the French special stages, we have witnessed in each edition a close fight between the drivers and the teams to which they belong, often resolved by episodes or by choices that have proved successful. One of the great battles that fans will remember is the final result in 1986, which brought Martini Racing and Henri Toivonen to the top of the podium.

After several gruelling days of a race characterised by continuous twists and turns the fight at the front between Salonen's Peugeot and Toivonen's Lancia was on.

Even Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto were involved in an accident during a link stage (Col de Mounchery, between Burzet and Eintragues, a narrow and shaded road) with their Lancia Delta S4. They collided head-on with a fan's car.
The car he crashed into was a Ford Taunus. Reportedly with slick tyres and a driver's blood alcohol level... through the roof...

And finally we come to the last final night where the most complete balance reigns.
In Lancia's assistance you can breathe a great tension: you must not overlook all the details if you want to win, and the team from Turin knows it well.

These are hectic times for the guys led by Cesare Fiorio because in a few hours they will know the winner of the most important event in the whole calendar. Two Delta S4 are already out of the game (Markku Alén - Ilkka Kivimaki dropped out due to a broken camshaft in SS16 St Nazaire le Desert of 23.70 km and Miki Biasion - Tiziano Siviero dropped out due to a traffic accident outside the stage, finishing 68th), so all the attention is on Henri Toivonen. The Finn, after a grotesque accident with a spectator's car, is the author of a furious comeback and is currently in second place behind the Peugeot 205 T16 of his compatriot Timo Salonen.

Among the special stages still in play is the second run (late in the evening) on the legendary Col de Turini, a true icon of the sport: 25 kilometres where every bend is a real puzzle, hairpin bends, ice, wet conditions and a tension that cuts with a knife even among the spectators.

However, the element that will be most carefully controlled will be the snow, which, for the umpteenth time, will be the real needle in the balance.

Despite the bone-chilling cold, the timed section is animated by the many fans who climbed to the top of the hill to cheer on their favourites, creating a healthy sporting war between the French and the Italians.

The Martini team decided to make all their scouts available to Henri and Sergio, hoping to capture every useful clue to help them as much as possible in this roulette. Among these was also the veteran Vittorio Caneva, probably the best. Cesare Fiorio paces nervously in assistance as he waits for radio news from his men.

Then he orders the mechanics to fit yellow bulbs instead of white ones in the S4 headlight. Quite simply: with the arrival of yellow lights, the French fans would not have thrown fresh snow on the road thinking it was the 205 of the leader Salonen.

The final checks on the condition of the engine, tightening the screws and cleaning the windscreen. However, the choice of tyres is still to be made.

The first to appear for Turini on the radio is Vittorio Caneva, whose sentence is very clear. The sections where there is snow are very few, so the nails are not needed. Fiorio listens attentively to the Venetian's instructions, until he shouts to his people to gather ... the spikes!

Caneva remains, to say the least, astonished at this decision, but there is no time or way to argue because the start of the p.s. is so close.

Salonen is first over the snowy hill and his 205 T16 looks unstoppable through the dark corners. The Finn is on studs and Peugeot thinks it has guessed the strategy. He is followed by Toivonen, who is also giving his all, but the S4 is on the road with great difficulty: he has fitted four slick tyres.

On the dry sections, the Martini Racing driver is unassailable and in the following special stages he makes up the deficit completely, cutting the French manufacturer's rival by four minutes. With the first light of dawn, Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto climb the finishing podium in the luxurious Principality as overall winners, proving to be the strongest.

A much desired victory and conquered also thanks to the competence of Vittorio Caneva's reconnaissance and that "old fox" Cesare Fiorio, astute strategist in communicating with his boys to mount spikes knowing that the Peugeot technicians would hear his decision on the radio and, in fact, copied.
So, a 1986 started in the best way for Lancia, but one that would end in Corsica with the disaster we are all unfortunately familiar with.

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