Everyone has spent the weekend talking about Wales Rally GB, as Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb battled for honours on the British round of the World Rally Championship.
One of those people was John Davenport, a man who knows more than most when it comes to the world of rallying, as he is one of the men behind The Complete Book of the World Rally Championship
, a look back over the first 30 years of the WRC.
Along with Henry Hope-Frost, Davenport – himself a rally winning co-driver – has put together the book to allow WRC fans to examine the championship from 1973 to 2003, profiling the drivers who have been lucky enough to win an event at the highest level and looking back over the highs and lows of the championship so far.
“Henry did all the driver stats,” he told Crash.net
, “and I did the words and bits on the cars. We had to profile 60 odd drivers and some of those who just had one win back near the start in 1973 and 74 would have been hard to track down. However I was still competing back then, so it made it easier to get the info we needed.”
In his research, Davenport has been able to see the championship evolve, through the highs and lows, but despite all that he says one thing hasn't changed.
“Driver and co-drivers are pretty much the same!” he said, “they way they drive the cars is the same, but other things have evolved and changed beyond all recognition. In the 70s, a rally would last four, five, maybe even six days, running over long distances and with stages into the night.
"The Safari rally, which isn't on the calendar anymore, was one of those long endurance events and it was the pinnacle for a driver, it walked a bit taller than the rest. Monte Carlo is the most famous event, and drivers always looked at the old 1000 Lakes event, but the Safari was the big one that a driver wanted on his CV.
“Now we have a strict three day format, with very little night running, maybe just the odd stage towards the end of the year when the nights start to draw in a bit. Of course the cars have changed beyond all recognition. In 1973, a front-wheel-drive car with 150hp was competitive. Now we have closer to 400hp, sequential gearboxes, turbos, the list goes on.”
In looking at 30 years of competition, Davenport is in an ideal position to compare the different cars that have competed over the years, but despite the many millions of pounds invested in the modern WRC cars, it is one from the 1980s that gets his vote as the greatest take part in the WRC.