Flying back in time with Air Adamo

Andrea Adamo lives and loves the sport of rallying. Thanks for sharing that passion with DirtFish

Rallye de Portugal Estoril (POR) 01-05 03 1988

Sometimes I wonder if Andrea Adamo’s my friend at all. He always does this. Always. It’s a Tuesday morning full of typing, zooming, talking. And now everything’s stopped.

Italy’s calling.

In fairness to our favourite Torinese, it’s not a call. It’s a blizzard of messages. They start with pictures of his stunning, hand-built Subaru Impreza 555 and end with time travel back to 1988. How can I function when I’m watching Markku Alén, Jorge Recalde and Miki Biasion laughing and joking as their respective Lancias are run through scrutineering at the Estoril Circuit?

Rallye de Portugal Estoril (POR) 01-05 03 1988

Joachim Santos had a Portuguese theme his Sierra Cosworth's colour scheme, but it was a transmission problem that ended his rally in 1988

Ahead of this week’s Rally de Portugal, Air Adamo is flying me back 36 years for the Rallye de Portugal – Vinho do Porto. The debut event for Lancia’s HF Integrale. We’re two rounds into the series and the championship is already shaping up to be a Delta benefit, with Monte winner Bruno Saby and Swedish victor Alén tied at the top of the table as they start round three on the Atlantic coast.

Sadly, my Portuguese isn’t up to a full comprehension of the next 25 minutes, but it doesn’t matter. This kind of pre-event behind-the-scenes footage was fairly rare back then. I’m walking down the pitlane, nosing into Joachim Santos’ Ford Sierra RS Cosworth – did you know it had a red steering wheel and Boreham-style stripes that aped the colors of the Portuguese flag.

Further along the line, there’s Biasion’s #4 Lancia, complete with Martini-stickered headsets hanging from the mirror. Talking of mirrors, even the Italian’s sunglasses are complete with Martini stripes. Of course they are.

Rallye de Portugal Estoril (POR) 01-05 03 1988

Biasion and Cassina were miles ahead of everybody in their brand new Lancia Delta HF Integrale

There’s the Lancia mechanic who always wore a cravat. What was his name? R-something…

Rino Buschiazzo (thank you, Andrea!).

Morning, Ingvar. Carlsson’s here in the second Mazda 323. Hannu Mikkola’s sister car is being wheeled along behind, but there’s no sign of him or Christian Geistdörfer. Hands up if you forgot the German sat in with the Finn through 1988 and 1989…

Didier Auriol’s ‘Export 33’ Sierra is up next, with a very special Mike Taylor Developments-run car following. Marlboro was in full flight in those days, with the famous red and white livery never more obvious than on Carlos Sainz’s Sierra. We’re not 12 months on from his incredible WRC debut, when he led Portugal after the opening stage. The Spaniard’s outing will be all too brief in Portugal this time around. He’s out with a broken halfshaft in SS3. The 1988 season delivers a successful defense of his Spanish title, but more importantly he storms the WRC with fifth in Corsica and Sanremo, sixth at the 1000 Lakes and seventh on the RAC.

Rallye de Portugal Estoril (POR) 01-05 03 1988

Carlos Sainz was well on his way to greatness in 1998, but would retire from Rally Portugal on this occasion

Little wonder he’s world champion two years later.

I digress.

These being the days of big Lancia commitment, there are Jolly Club cars for Yves Loubet (Pierre-Louis’s dad) and Alex Fiorio (Cesare’s boy). The green and orange Integrales are always easy on the eye, but I find myself speeding by to feast my eyes on 200 HMN. David Llewellin’s Audi 200 quattro. The Welshman was a proper boyhood hero for me and I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t remember how he and Phil Short fared in their eighth-seeded behemoth.

Fortunately, Phil forgets nothing. Although he might have forgotten sitting in the Estoril pitlane with his foot up on the big Audi’s door, reading that week’s Motoring News.

Rallye de Portugal Estoril (POR) 01-05 03 1988

They were heading in the right direction here, but steering colum failure eventually sent David Llewellin and Phil Short into the scenery

“Audi UK wanted to give David some WRC experience,” Short told DirtFish, “and the roughness of Portugal was deemed to be OK for this car. We were sharing service with the Audi factory and David said right from the start that there was something amiss on the steering. It was a bit ‘vague’. Each service the mechanics checked the car, but reported nothing.

“Eventually, on a long right-hander somewhere around Arganil, the steering column snapped and the steering wheel just spun around and around in David’s hands, with no connection to the front road wheels whatsoever. We understeered off into the undergrowth and a bank. We reckoned the column was always partly fractured, which is why David felt there was something vague about the steering.”

The result was something of a forgone conclusion. The HF 4×4 was already ahead of the rest, but there was a hope that the Fords might carry the fight to Lancia on asphalt. The Integrale killed that hope. On and off the loose it was on another planet. After 350-odd miles of competition, Biasion was eight minutes (nearly nine, actually) clear of Fiorio with Loubet third. Mikkola’s Mazda was first non-Lancia in fourth with Ford man Stig Blomqvist top two-wheel drive runner in fifth.

Rallye de Portugal Estoril (POR) 01-05 03 1988

Is there anything better than a Martini Lancia? What about a Jolly Club one?

Alén? Blown differential early on cost him 12 minutes and left him sixth. The Integrale’s extra power was nice, but still needed harnessing.

But this isn’t about the result. The competition today is so much closer. It’s about the ambiance and the atmosphere. It’s the style as much as the sport. Who knows, maybe my successor here at DirtFish will write a very similar column in the spring of 2060 reflecting on how cool it is to see Dani Sordo and Sébastien Ogier chatting in their fancy sunnies and swish team kit.

Either way, Andrea… grazie mille. Keep them coming.