Welcome to Rally Flashback, where we revisit a previous running of the upcoming WRC round. This week we go back to the 1999 running of Rally Australia.
By this point, the penultimate round of the 1999 season, the championship was down to two contenders: Didier Auriol in his Toyota Corolla WRC, and Tommi Makinen in the Mitsubishi Evo WRC. Both squads were looking good in testing, and in any case Toyota looked to be the sure winner of the constructor’s championship and was looking to consolidate its lead there.
Juha Kankkunen (top) had won this event no less than four times previously, twice each for Toyota and Lancia, and was hungry for another in his Subaru. Unfortunately, this was not to be, as he was forced to retire after SS5 due to untenable suspension damage. Subaru pilot and New Zealander Possum Bourne was also forced out with a failed timing belt, pinning Subaru’s hopes on the #5 car of the Richards Burns and Reid, who were flying... literally.
Also showing speed from the off was a certain Colin McRae, with everyone’s favorite videogame navigator, Nicky Grist, in their Ford Focus WRC, perhaps the most subdued looking WRC machine of the time. They won the first and seventh stages before crashing very heavily into a stand of trees, following a particularly rough landing after cresting a bridge.
At that point the fight for the win looked to be primarily between the Richards and Carlos Sainz’ Toyota, as they traded wins from SS8 onward. Didier Auriol had won SS2-4, and Makinen stole SS5, but it was all Toyota and Subaru at the top of the order. Makinen would play it safe, his eyes on a 4th consecutive title, and would finish 3rd here, enough to clinch before the WRC finished the year in the UK.
No one but Burns and Sainz would win a stage from SS8 to the last, SS23, and though Toyota would win its constructor’s championship, it would be Burns would take a popular win here. I admit, I mostly wanted to do this flashback on the 1999 event to remember this guy. He was the World Champion for Subaru in 2001, and sadly succumbed to a brain tumor almost exactly eleven years ago at age 34. Another great talent and gentleman, lost too soon.
For an excellent in-depth report on this event, please read Neil Blackbourn’s writeup HERE.
Enjoy the race report on Youtube, below: