Remembering Monte Carlo 1991 - Delecour’s delight and despair

Lockdowns aren’t fun but it does give us motorsport fans the opportunity to dip into our archives and relive classic moments.

Last week at Motorsport.com, we delved into the best 1991 had to offer and dusted off several motorsport gems - from arguably Ayrton Senna’s greatest Formula 1 title, to the worst F1 cars of the year, and the all conquering TWR Jaguar XJR-14.

Through Motorsport.tv, we have the luxury of an extensive archive of action to alleviate boredom and brighten up tough lockdown moments. So as the World Rally Championship kicks off this weekend with the time honoured Monte Carlo Rally, we’ve continued the 1991 theme and selected some highlights from this Monte thriller.

Rewind 30 years ago and the WRC featured one of the best factory line ups in recent years, with Toyota, Lancia, Mitsubishi, Ford and Mazda in a hotly-contested fight on the famous Alpine stages.

And this edition of the Monte saw the emergence of a new force in the World Championship - step forward Frenchman Francois Delecour. 

Delecour had impressed at Monte Carlo the previous year driving for the factory Peugeot squad, finishing as the top two wheel-drive runner and ninth overall.

Now picked up by the works Ford squad, Delecour burst onto the scene in 1991 driving the relatively new and unproven four-wheel drive Q8-backed Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth that had only made its debut the previous year.

The rally began with reigning WRC champion Carlos Sainz beginning his title defence in the best way possible by powering into a comfortable lead in his Toyota Team Europe Celica.

Spaniard Sainz seemed imperious on the tricky stages that were unseasonably bereft of heavy snow, but filled with spectators creeping dangerously close to the cars as they swept through.

By the end of the opening day, Sainz held a 54 second lead over the factory Martini Lancia Delta of Miki Biasion and Bruno Saby in the Jolly Club run Lancia, the latter had been feeling unwell all day. 

Didier Auriol in the other Jolly Club Lancia looked out of contention after a misfire dashed his chances.

Meanwhile, the unfancied Delecour had been setting impressive stage times but was flying under the radar nicely in fourth just 61 seconds from the lead.  

It was on the second day that Delecour made his charge giving chase to Sainz as Biasion faltered early on the only snow covered stages of the rally.

The stages were familiar territory for the Frenchman as he successfully navigated uncontrolled crowds that lined the routes, shaving seconds from Sainz’s lead.

As the Lancia charge dampened, the rally looked set to be a duel between Sainz and Delecour on the final day, with the latter genuinely in with a chance of pulling off an unlikely debut victory for him and the Ford.

Delecour refused to relent on the final day overhauling Sainz’s nine second lead, moving into his own commanding advantage ahead of the final stage.

In fact, he realistically only needed to complete the final 14-mile night stage at a reasonable pace. 

However, drama struck. His Sierra ran off the road severely damaging the rear suspension while also picking up punctures in the process.

Delecour’s car came rolling to a halt at the end of the stage some five minutes adrift, ending what would have been a dream win on home soil.

The Frenchman was surrounded by crowds as he exited the car in tears and rested his head on the roof of the car, realising what had just happened. The dream was over.

Sainz had snatched an unlikely victory finishing four minutes and 59 seconds ahead of Biasion’s Lancia, with Delecour left to console himself with third. 

Join Motorsport.tv to access over 800 episodes of Duke Classics including the full 1991 Monte Carlo Rally review.

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