As the World Rally Championship heads to Italian climes, let’s cast our minds back 30 years to what was then the country’s WRC round, Rally Sanremo.
And more specifically, the Ford Escort Cosworth of 36-year-old Franco Cunico.
Just look at that whale-tail rear wing on the Ford Italiana-entered 300bhp Group A machine. And those mega asphalt rims pushing the Vicentini’s Pirelli rubber into the dusty Ligurian stage.
Ford’s last top-line Group A challenger made its debut earlier in 1993, with François Delecour narrowly missing out on a debut Monte Carlo Rally win. But Delecour did win in Portugal and Corsica, while two-time world champion Miki Biasion took the honors on the Acropolis Rally.
The seven-speed turbocharged Escort drew heavily on its predecessor, the Sierra. Its longitudinal engine and gearbox gave it better weight distribution than most of its rivals, while the Escort was smaller and lighter than the Sierra.
The ‘Cossie’ was ideally suited to sealed surfaces and Sanremo had now become an all-asphalt rally for the first time since 1978. Heading to Italy, Delecour remained in contention for the world title, while Ford was pushing Toyota hard in the makes’ race, albeit having lost ground on the preceding rounds in Finland and Australia.
With the Toyotas not present, Delecour’s works-entered Escort initially dominated, winning the first five stages. But in foggy conditions on SS6, Delecour crashed – just as team-mate Biasion’s engine failed.
It was left to Cunico to uphold Ford’s honor. And that he did, benefiting from Pirelli rubber suited to the damp conditions of much of the event.
Cheered on by the home crowd, Franco, who celebrated his birthday on the event’s first day, led home Carlos Sainz’s Jolly Club Lancia and a second privateer Ford of Patrick Snijers. It would be his only WRC victory.
A nice story, but an even cooler picture from the Girardo & Co. Archive for this week’s feature.