Sun 04 Jun 2023

ERC @ 70: How Biasion’s European title set him on the path to WRC stardom

While the FIA European Rally Championship is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2023, Miki Biasion has been looking back on his 1983 ERC title triumph 40 years on, a result that would propel him to an FIA World Rally Championship title double before the decade was out.

With Tiziano Siviero co-driving his Jolly Club-run Lancia 037 Rally, Biasion completed the season as a seven-time winner having joined the Italian manufacturer after narrowly missing out on the Italian championship with Opel the previous year.

“The European Rally Championship was a beautiful experience for me and very important to have the opportunity to drive outside Italy,” the 65-year-old remembers. “I wanted to do as much rally as possible far from Italy because I wanted to have a new experience and to be involved with the European Rally Championship as, also today, it’s the first step to be in the WRC.

“It was not easy because in each country I used to go there were the local drivers who were very, very competitive and the distances were double that of a WRC event now. But it was a fantastic experience for me, and I was also very competitive with the Lancia 037.”

Biasion was already a two-time winner prior to the Costa Smeralda Rally in late March 1983. He considers his third win of the year on the Sardinia-based event to be a highlight of his campaign.

“I had done a couple of races in Spain, Costa Brava and Alicante, and when I came in Sardinia I had only three days to practice while the other drivers had been there for two weeks. Everybody said, ‘you do the European championship outside Italy because it’s easy, now you come in Italy you see the level of competition’. But I won very easily.”

He won again on Rally 4 Regioni, finished second on Rally Internazionale della Lana before taking further wins in Ypres, Madeira and San Marino to put him out of reach in the title chase. He took his first WRC crown five years later and is quick to remember the important role the ERC played in his career development.

“In Italy most of the rallies were on Tarmac so to compete outside Italy on gravel was a big help to me,” Biasion explains. “In Italy I had done for four years the Italian championship and the rallies were always the same. Going outside Italy gave me the opportunity to do the pacenotes, check the notes and then go flat out in the stages. The ERC helped me to be involved and have the right mentality.”

Asked how he got his chance to go for the ERC title with Lancia in the first place, Biasion says it was a case of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer.

“In 1982 I was fighting for the Italian championship with Opel, I lost the championship but I was very competitive. Cesare Fiorio, [the Lancia boss] said, ‘okay it’s better to have Miki in the team instead to have him like a competitor’. But it was part of my agreement to drive outside Italy and the ERC was a very good school and very good training.”

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