François Delecour’s decision to skip last week’s Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés in order to contest the Romanian championship Braslov Rally paid off in spectacularly when he claimed victory following a stunning fightback.
The event, which took place on ice and snow-coated roads, proved particularly tough for competitors with Delecour – who is supported by Visit Romania and therefore prioritises his campaign in Eastern Europe over his ERC bid in the event of any clashing rallies – facing an added test by running first on the road in his Peugeot 207 Super 2000.
But Delecour, a podium finisher in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship in the snow and ice of Latvia last month, fought back to take a dramatic victory.
“The big problem is that I was first on the road and I had a layer of snow and ice all the time: it was almost impossible,” Delecour told the MAXRALLY website. “I'll give you an example: on one 25-kilometre stage, a Dacia Logan that was behind me - which has around 100 horsepower; I know this because I drove one once - took around 45 seconds out of me! Normally I would be minutes faster…”
Despite starting the second loop of stages more than a minute adrift of the lead, Delecour and co-driver Dominique Savignoni refused to give up
“When I took 16 seconds out of the leader on the first stage of the second loop I thought that maybe we could do this,” said Delecour. “Then, when we did it again, I knew it was definitely possible if things continued to go well for us. It was maximum concentration and full attack, although the minute you got off the line you were gone. There were so many accidents.”
Delecour, 50, arrived at the final stage in second overall – just four seconds off the leader, Valentin Porcisteanu, who would ultimately retire when he rolled heavily. “The rally was incredibly exciting: when you have a fight to come back like this it's the most emotion you can have in a rally car. I’ll always remember this,” Delecour added.