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In the ‘80s, the centre of Italian motorsport was not so much the Ferrari town of Maranello, but the historic city of Arezzo, and importantly the Hotel Continentale, where people of importance in rallysport gathered in days when Lancia was the most important element of the sport. In 1986 it was widely believed that the Sanremo Rally's chief scrutineer, the late Lanfranco Caneschi, told had friends in Arezzo that he wanted to find problems with the Peugeots. "I am going to Piancavallo (a European Championship Rally held seven weeks before Sanremo) to check the aerodynamics of the car," he said beforehand, taking advantage of the chance to inspect at first hand Andrea Zanussi's 205 Turbo 16, which was identical to the works cars that would run at Sanremo. After an inspection at Piancavallo which lasted several hours, he declared Zanussi's car clean. When asked at Sanremo why the same car which he had declared legal after winning at Piancavallo was now illegal at Sanremo, Caneschi said he had only been checking the brakes and suspension on that previous occasion... Caneschi was already controversial in Italian rallying circles. In 1980, in days when the once dominant Italian rally cars started to be successfully challenged on their home ground, he conducted a campaign to outlaw the Opel Ascona 400, which was the first non-Italian car to succeed in Italian championship rallying. He subsequently had Dario Cerrato’s Opel excluded after winning in Elba. In 1986 Lancia badly wanted to win on home ground in Sanremo, as this would enhance the chance of Markku Alen giving Lancia a world title - and because it was five years since an Italian car had won Italy's world championship qualifier. The method of ensuring an Italian victory at Sanremo was for the scrutineers to advise the sporting stewards that they considered the Peugeots to be illegal. This would compel the stewards to order the immediate exclusion of the cars, without right to continue under appeal. The scrutineers explained that the Peugeots' lateral strakes, attached to the sides of the undercar skid plates, were "skirts". Undercar skirts were banned by FISA (predecessor to FIA) as an emergency potential performance reducing measure after Henri Toivonen's crash in Corsica. The inadequacy of the scrutineers' claims was obvious. The strakes did not protrude below the level of the rest of the bodywork and in no normal circumstance could they offer any measurable ground effect. The ground clearance, even with low profile racing tyres and low level racing suspensions, was 8-10cm. FISA's Technical Commission chief, Gabriele Cadringher (absent from Sanremo on Formula 1 business), had personally advised Peugeot that the strakes were legal, and rally organisers on every event since March had accepted the legality of the strakes. Peugeot designed the strakes to give protection against sideways impact as the fuel tanks were positioned under the seats in a vulnerable place. They were not designed to give aerodynamic effect, unlike the skirts which had been used before the ban was imposed. The loser at the end of the rally was the Peugeot driver Juha Kankkunen, whose 22 point lead in the world drivers' title race was reduced to two. The only winner seemed to be the organisers of America's Olympus Rally, the final round of the world drivers' title, as both Peugeot and Lancia were now expected to compete there. Peugeot appealed against the verdict, initially more to establish their integrity than change the results of the event. That opened up a series of legal actions. The Italian federation was challenged, but not surprisingly, the verdict of exclusion for the Peugeots was confirmed. The President of the event’s Sporting Stewards, Salvatore Aleffi, was Italian. So the anger of Peugeot, already at full throttle at the FISA for removing the Group B cars from the title championship at the end of the season, contrary to stability rules, was directed on to FISA. Procedure for an appeal involved an application by the French federation (FFSA) on behalf of the licence holder, Peugeot, to the FISA International Court of Appeal. Their decision arrived a week after the end of the RAC Rally, the penultimate round of that year’s WRC, saying that Peugeot had committed “no fraud”. They passed the papers on to the Executive Committee of FISA to decide what to do. On December 18, 11 days after the end of the Olympus Rally (the final WRC round) they issued the verdict to remove the whole event from the championship that year. This awarded the Makes championship to Peugeot and the Drivers title to Juha Kankkunen. Peugeot were still upset, pursuing FISA further for their breach of regulation stability rules, which Peugeot lost. Peugeot then went into exile from the WRC and pursued their endeavours in Cross Country motorsport instead. A number of factors emerged from the Sanremo 1986 episode. It was interesting to recall that Sanremo 1986 had come 20 years after the Flowers Rally, predecessor to Sanremo Rally, when Vic Elford’s Ford Lotus Cortina was excluded on a homologation detail error, gifting victory to Leo Cella’s Lancia Fulvia HF. And the Italian sense of foul play at the Peugeot’s perceived ground effect device was rather misplaced, as Lancia themselves were working on such a device, using skirts themselves, though not used in actual competition. Claudio Lombardi, who became a future competition director for Lancia, was recently interviewed. He told Fernando Petronilho, who by coincidence was the assistant press officer at Sanremo in 1986, that Lancia themselves had done tests at their la Mandria track with an S4 fitted with skirts, and that the car had shown a big improvement.
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