Part nine, Norway, September 6 1987: Seppo's Sunday
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.
Seppo Niittymäki was undone in qualifying but struck back to win the A final. © Tim Whittington/RallycrossWorld.com
Atmospheric and usually full to brim with enthusiastic fans, the Lyngås Motorbane near Drammen offered a challenging home to the Norwegian round of the European championship. Environmental concerns were unknown in 1987 and a method of controlling dust was to use waste oil on the surface. When it rained, that made things pretty interesting, so the wet 1987 event was one of ups and downs. The event was run in a single day, Saturday given over to heats for national drivers who could qualify into the the ERC event on Sunday.
The Saturday track time and local knowledge helped some names new to the series to spectacular results in the poor conditions. Norwegian hillclimb legend Tore H Bratlie brought his MG Metro 6R4 and qualified second on the A final grid alongside Matti Alamäki who had propelled his Lancia to fastest times in the first and second heats. Alamäki drove the third heat, beating arch rival Seppo Niittymäki and in doing so easing the Peugeot driver down to fourth on the grid as Dagfinn Larsen claimed third place with his BiTurbo Metro 6R4. The first man to hang turbos on the Metros V64V engine, Larsen had been unable to complete an event with the car which had a huge appetite for differentials, but was perhaps helped by the slippery conditions and clearly demonstrated the potential of the turbocharged 6R4. Kjetil Bolneset also went directly to the A final while Olle Arnesson and Martin Schanche failed to make into the finals at all, series regulars Thor Holm and Bengt Wiklund also non-qualifiers while Will Gollop’s first visit to Norway was a tough one, and ended with second place in the C final behind Andreas Nærby’s similar Metro 6R4.
John Welch used his Xtrac Escort to lead the B final from start to finish, beating the RS200s of Rolf Nilsson and Mikael Nordström to make his into the main event.
Alamäki’s tactical third heat might have served its purpose but, from the outside of the second row of the grid, Niittymäki made a great start, braved it out on a wide line through the first corner and grabbed the lead as the pack spilled out onto the straight. Niittymäki was by himself from there, Alamäki running second with Bolneset on his tail all the way. Larsen and Welch passing Bratlie who slipped back to sixth place at the end.