Welcome to Rally Flashback, where we look back to a previous version of the upcoming round of the World Rally Championship. This year we already know that Sebastien Ogier is the 2016 WRC champion, but before Wales in 2001 the story was quite different.
Wales is one of the most challenging rallies of the season, with mud, fog and rain like you don’t see any other place. It is a place where the best gravel drivers come to fight, and those wanting more grip come to survive.
No less than four different drivers could win the title when the then last rally came up. On top of the standings were Colin McRae in Ford, who could take his second title with a perfect drive. Tommi Mäkinen in Mitsubishi followed closely one point behind, but had never won in Wales before. Richard Burns and Subaru were in third, but just two points shy of the lead. Carlos Sainz (Ford) had a slim chance to take the title, as he needed to win the rally while the others finished outside the points.
So far McRae and Mäkinen had three wins, while Burns had one and Sainz none. None of the wins had come with the new Lancer WRC for Mäkinen though, and this would be his last rally with the Japanese manufacturer. Hoping to contend for a good result in Wales were the up and coming Petter Solberg, and together with Markko Märtin help Burns to the title. The Peugeot duo of Marcus Grönholm and Didier Auriol looked set to secure the manufacturers championship, even if Ford had an outside chance to win. Harri Rovanperä joined them in a third car. Mäkinen only had Freddy Loix in support, and it seemed unlikely that he would mix with the big guns in this rally.
In the teams a bit further down the results we find Kenneth Eriksson, Alister McRae and Piero Liatti in Hyundai. Skoda entered with Armin Schwarz, Bruno Thiry and Roman Kresta. Mark Higgins have also joined Ford for the event, and several privateers like Henning Solberg and Neil Wearden performed well. In the highlights video below we are also introduced to a freshly crowned S1600 champion called Sebastien Loeb.
This rally might have one of the most eventful first days in rally history, including rolls and other spectacular retirements. As you may know, it all ended with the first English World Rally Champion, and lengthy interviews with Richard Burns, Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Nicky Grist. You can find the final results of the rally here.