Putting The Truth Back Into The Myth - Lancia Delta S4 Vs F1 Car at Estoril
Having seen this subject come up a few times around Carthrottle I thought it’s about time I put the truth back into the Myth of Henri Toivonen beating a bunch of Formula One cars around Estoril. Over the years this story has been subject to many Chinese whispers and confusion over the events of 1986.
As many teams did, Lancia set off to Estoril for a spot of testing a couple of weeks before the Portuguese leg of the World Rally Championship. Estoril was no stranger to rallying as it was commonly used as a test venue for World Championship teams to test their tarmac setup for the roads around Sintra and even served as a regroup area for the Rally.
This is where the Chinese whispers took over, a few weeks previous to the test there was also a Formula One test being held. This story is commonly associated with the fact that many people believed the times Lancia took were compared to the Qualifying or Race times.
As was commonly done at all tests the engineers would record the times of the car through the day in order to track progress. With Henri Toivonen on hand to put the car through its paces and being able to use full boost (2.2 Bar on the S4 to produce in access of 560bhp) something that could be rarely done due to the size of the stages in a Rally.
Toivonen’ time was good enough to put him in the top ten of the times set by the F1 cars. Considering the F1 cars of that time could produce over 1000bhp in qualifying trim that’s a pretty impressive feat if you ask me. Back then the difference between a Rally car and a Formula One car was not as big as it is today so perhaps that’s why we always class this story as a myth. With it now being over 30 years since this story first came to light, it’s clear to see how the facts have become twisted over time. We have simply confused a test for a full on qualifying or even a race time and applied Toivonen’s feat to the wrong session.
However it would be short lived as all the top teams withdrew from the Rally after the opening Tarmac stages due to the Santos incident.
Henri Toivonen and his Co Driver Sergio Cresto were tragically killed in an incident at the next round of the World Rally Championship in Corsica when their car left the road. Unfortunately the chance for Henri to become World Champion had vanished but Henri remains one of the most admired drivers of that period even by the youngsters of today and current WRC driver Jari Matti Latvala.