1991 FIA European Rallycross Championship

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Martin Schanche 1991In the absence of reigning champion Matti Alamaki the rallycross pundits, particularly the Norwegians, tipped Martin Schanche for this year's FIA European title. But no one told Will Gollop it was supposed to be a one-horse race and the British driver gave chase to the hot favourite with great style. Before the start of the season, some observers even suggested Martin Schanche might win all 11 races. But Will Gollop didn't hold that script, reaching top form just as his G-Tech squad perfected the BiTurbo MG Metro. Schanche started out the year in top form, although in the process of 'working off the rust' in practice at the first round in Portugal he regularly overstepped the limit before eventually managing to invert his RS200. On reflection, it may have been the best possible start to the year for it stabalised Schanche's volatile temper and imposed on him a restrained style of driving that resulted in a hat-trick of victories. The first two events had not been good to Gollop and changes had been made to the Metro 6R4 in preparation for round four, the Briton rejoining the series in France. The battle was altogether closer and Gollop took the fight to Schanche and won. Running 4th after a tardy start, Schanche eventually came home in second place. He missed the presentation and later claimed that he had suffered a broken differential. Pekka Rantanen 1991Seven days later the circus set up at Mondello Park and again the weather played a key role. The A Final grid lined up with Schanche on pole, Rob Gibson putting together a superb set of qualifying heats to share the front line with Gollop. At the first time of asking Schanche was clear but behind there was carnage as Tommy Kristoffersson throttle jammed, slammed into the side of Gibson's MG Metro. The red flag was hung out and as the race started again Schanche was run close to the first corner by Gollop, but arrived first. Gollop though had got the blind turn sussed and sold Schanche a perfect dummy, slipping through on the inside to take the lead. There followed a brilliant see-saw battle, Gollop leading all the way to the flag but was never allowed to breathe easy. At the start there had been some dispute with race officials over grid positions and during the race Schanche had worked himself into a frenzy. Afterwards he ignored directions to go to parc ferme and  blasted back to the paddock. The organisers excluded him from the event, Suddenly what had been forecast as Schanche's season was looking like the most open contest for five years. Sweden was next on the agenda. Gollop led the A Final from the start, but a build-up of heat in the Metro's engine bay helped the exhaust manifolds to crack, robbing the engine of boost pressure and allowing Schanche to close rapidly. Yellow flags were out at the jump following a crash between two other cars. Gollop slowed even more and was stunned as Schanche sailed past, taking the lead and driving to what he thought was a win. Gollop was sure it was not and plugged away until the end in his strangled car. Even before the race was done, the commentator had announced that Schanche would be excluded for passing under a yellow flag so Gollop had bagged a third win and at the start of the summer break, stood level with Schanche at the head of the points table. The series reconvened in Belgium. Pole position was secured in just two heats, Gollop blitzing the track record. Schanche was alongside on the front row of the grid and made the faster start. For the first  five laps Gollop shadowed Schanche's every move and when the Ford driver faltered at the start of the last lap Will was there to seize the opportunity. Through Maasmechelen's sweeping first corner the two championship protagonists were side by side, both cars sideways with tyres smoking. Gollop had the inside line though and held it to take the lead in the second turn as Schanche's RS200 finished up to its axles in the sand trap. Gollop's fourth straight win move him to a clear series lead, despite protests from Schanche. From Belgium there was a short drive to Holland for the following weekend's round, here Schanche was in total control reducing his deficit by three points. Next up was Norway and here too, Schanche was in top form. Where he might have been expected to crack under pressure, Schanche relaxed after the first heats and it was plain to see that Gollop was being made to work very hard just to come close to the pace. Matching it this time was out of the question. Another win for Schanche, his first on home ground for six years, combined with Gollop's poor 4th place and saw the series change hands again. The penultimate round at Lydden put the pressure well and truly on Gollop. The British round proved to be conclusive, the Schanche and Gollop show dominant in the qualifying heats again. But the event ended sourly for Gollop after an enormous first lap shunt, for which the 6R4 driver accepted the blame for trying a 'stupid' move. So Schanche went to the final round with the crown secure and a comparatively easy time of things to add a seventh win to his score line and move his total to a maximum. The rest of the drivers had to live in the shadows this year, Thor Holm coming closest to getting a share of the limelight and ending his best year yet in 3rd place. Tommy Kristoffersson was the only man aside from Schanche who managed to fund 11 outings and hauled his Quattro to a fine 4th place as a result, while Gibson overcame two huge accidents during the course of the year to fight home in 5th place at the last event. Steve Palmer and Pat Doran shone on their occasional outings, Palmer was twice 2nd while Doran finished 2nd to Schanche at Lydden, having made the early running after jumping the start. Kenneth Hansen 1991Kenneth Hansen was the class of the field in Division One, the Sierra driver romping to a third consecutive title in fine style. After winning the opening round of the year in Portugal, Hansen slipped up twice but knew the cause of his problems lay in poor throttle response. Before the fourth round a solution had been found and Hansen never looked back, winning the next six events on the trot to take a handsome victory and become the first ever Division One Champion with a maximum score. Arch rival Bjorn Skogstad twice beat Hansen, once with the assistance of Tom Einar Aaserud who removed the Swede from contention and was again runner up. Ludvig Hunsbedt also took a win, benefiting from Hansen's Austrian error while Aaserud distinguished himself a little more at Lydden by winning.

1991 FIA European Championship Standings

Final positions after 11 rounds, 7 scores count
  • 1, Martin Schanche (2.0 Turbo RS200E) 140 Points
  • 2, Will Gollop (2.3 BiTurbo MG Metro 6R4) 127
  • 3, Thor Holm (2.2 Turbo Ford RS200E) 104
  • 4, Tommy Kristoffersson (2.1 Turbo Audi Quattro) 90
  • 5, Rob Gibson (3.0 MG Metro 6R4) 85
  • 6, Pekka Rantanen (2.3 Turbo Ford RS200E) 79
  • 7, Bengt Wiklund (2.8 BiTurbo MG Metro 6R4) 67
  • 8, Steve Palmer (3.8 MG Metro 6R4) 62
  • 9, Pauli Silvennoinen (3.0 MG Metro 6R4) 57
  • 10, Kjetil Bolneset (1.9 Turbo Ford Escort 3 4x4) 48
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