Didier Auriol's unexpected podium at Safari 2000

Didier Auriol and Denis Giraudet achieved the small feat of placing the unexpected Seat Cordoba on the podium of the 2000 Safari Rally.

Published on 25/06/2021 à 16:13

Pierre Tassel

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Didier Auriol's unexpected podium at Safari 2000

3rd place for Didier Auriol at the Safari Rally 2000. © DPPI / F. Flamand

Didier Auriol's 2000 season will not go down in the annals of the WRC in terms of the final result. The 1994 world champion, who arrived at Seat after the end of his second adventure with Toyota, suspected that his Cordoba WRC would not be able to compete with the armadas of Subaru Impreza, Peugeot 206, Ford Focus and other Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.

After abandoning Rally Monte-Carlo and a modest tenth place in Sweden, the Safari Rally could provide an opportunity for Seat Sport and the French driver to aim for a result. With its course highlighting the resilience of men and cars, and where speed is not necessarily a guarantee of success, the African event was timely.

But it is difficult to bet on the Didier Auriol – Denis Giraudet duo given the competition previously mentioned. However, at the end of the first 112 km time trial, the French tandem signs the scratch. “Didier, we had the best time! » then released the co-driver for an unprecedented first place overall for a Seat in a WRC rally.

Third at the end of the first day, Didier Auriol and Denis Giraudet only conceded 7′ on Richard Burns and Robert Reid (Subaru), Juha Kankkunen and Juha Repo (Subaru) being inserted 4′ from the leading Impreza. Behind, Colin McRae and Nicky Grist are more than 13′ behind the Ford Focus, Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautianen more than 18′ behind the Peugeot 206.

 

© DPPI / F. Flamand

 

Tommi Makinen? Three punctures in the second sector caused him to retire at the stop point, the world champion's Mitsubishi having suffered too much. Carlos Sainz ? Also the victim of three punctures in this sector, the Matador can continue but the right rear shock absorber of his Ford Focus breaks in the next sector, and relegates the double world champion to more than 20′.

All drivers wearing Michelin tires will in fact experience tire problems, which Pierre Dupasquier, then director of competition for the Clermont-Ferrand manufacturer, explained by carcasses which “give way after accumulation of what we call pinching shocks, compressions like when going up on a sidewalk… The increase in cruising speeds has, for us, disrupted the balance. »

Shod in Pirelli like the Subarus, and despite a rear suspension that was too soft, Auriol and Giraudet continued on the second day despite a bent suspension triangle, and even if Sainz came back strong with three best times.

A power steering failure, also encountered by the Spaniard, will not, however, prevent Didier Auriol and Denis Giraudet from finishing on the Safari box at the end of the last day, behind the two Subarus of Burns and Kankkunen, untouchable in this event .

“This year I led a tactical race, confided Auriol in his column in AUTOhebdo. Namely, drive as quickly as possible when the ground was clean and take your foot off hard on the stoniest sections.

For three days, I followed this schedule to the letter. All the intermediate times prove it. »

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