Part five, France, June 20-21 1987: Allez Arnesson
Rallycross entered a boom period 25 years ago. Group B cars arrived en masse and, for the next six years, would dominate the sport. These monsters, exiled from rallying after a spate of accidents became faster, lighter and more powerful as, in rallycross, they found their ultimate form. It’s true that every cloud has a silver lining, for Rallycross the cloud over rallying didn’t just present an opportunity but opened a golden era, perhaps the best years the sport has ever known. To mark that anniversary RallycrossWorld will look back at the 1987 season in parallel with the 2012 European Rallycross Championship.
Olle Arnesson leads en-route to his first 1987 win. © Tim Whittington/RallycrossWorld.com
No-one who was present will ever forget the 1987 French event at Le Creusot. The Circuit de Torcy lay in a valley, twisting and turning up and down each side, plunging into and climbing out of it. It might have been a memorable event for all kinds of good reasons had it not rained, rained the kind of rain that we have had this year, rain that left the paddock (a grass field) so wet and full of mud that event tractors got stuck, rain that turned the track into a muddy snake, rain that veteran photographer Eddi Laumanns running to the nearest town where, armed with a list of shoe sizes, he bought Wellington boots for most the press corps! When it dried up on Sunday the racetrack became dusty but the paddock was such a mess that the organiser simply closed a section of the public road outside the track and used that for the paddock.
What the French track did provide was close racing, and not a few incidents. Championship leader Seppo Niittymäki set fastest time in the first heat with his Peugeot 205 T16E2 but the second went to Martin Schanche who had thrown his RS200 around with abandon in the wet early running but lost his first heat after a driveshaft failure. His Metro 6R4 mauled by Matti Alamäki who had drove over the car when it suddenly slowed with gearbox failure, Will Gollop fought back into the second heat and staged a mighty battle with Schanche. When the Norwegian spun crossing the finish line, Gollop was unable to avoid it and both cars needed repairs before the third heat. Schanche went off in the third heat while Gollop booked his place in the A final. The most dramatic incident of the weekend came in the third heat where Alamäki, Niittymäki and Olle Arnesson all flew off the track in the first corner. While the teams patched up their cars again, the grids for the finals put Arnesson on pole having twice set second fastest time.
Schanche’s run came to an end in the C final where he slipped up while challenging Thor Holm for the lead. Niittymäki was lodged in the B final in which the Finn appeared determined to win at any cost. The third heat off had left the front of the car mashed, and after contact with Mikael Nordström’s RS200 and Kjetil Bolneset’s Quattro, it sustained further damage. This time the radiators were also damaged and after the chequer fell the car stopped in the track. Niittymäki was also censured by the officials and it was Nordström, second the road, who progressed to the A final. Arnesson led the final from the start, but had Gollop glued to his tail throughout. The pair duelled through the entire six laps, Arnesson taking his first win of the year, Gollop posting another strong result in his first ERC season. The lead battle left the rest behind, Nordström getting the better of Alamäki in their battle for third. Last finisher in the A final was John Welch who enjoyed a good event and got his Xtrac Escort directly into the A final in which Jukka Peltarri again crashed his Porsche, strengthening his claim to be “Mr 11 points”.