News that Italian ace Miki Biasion (54) will contest next April's Drivesouth Otago Rally brought back memories of the golden era of Group B supercars world championship rallying.
I was lucky enough to see Biasion compete in his heyday on four separate occasions. The first was back in 1986, when he made his Rally NZ debut in the potent Lancia Delta S4.
By that time, the Group B era was already ending, due in large measure to a fiery crash that claimed the lives of Biasion's team-mate, Henri Toivonen, and co-driver Sergio Cresto in the Corsica Rally just two months before the NZ event.
Here in New Zealand, while Biasion's team-mate, Markku Alen, fought (and eventually lost) a tooth-and-nail battle for victory with eventual 1986 world champion Juha Kankkunen, the Italian showed solid form as he drove to third place. He cemented that result by scoring his first WRC round win a matter of weeks later, in Argentina.
By the time I saw Biasion rally next - in the 1990 Safari Rally in Kenya - he was a double world champion, having dominated the opening years of the Group A formula that followed Group B.
However, he retired his Lancia in Kenya that year, and did so on the two further occasions I saw him rallying back in New Zealand driving for Ford in 1993 and 1994.
With a third place his best result here, and just three previous visits here to his name, Biasion is not quite the household name in New Zealand as are some other WRC stars. He is much more highly regarded elsewhere in the world, having won the Argentine, Italian, Portuguese and Greek rounds of the WRC three times each, and the classic Monte Carlo and Safari rallies twice.
Those accomplishments mark him as a driver who is adept in a wide range of conditions, including gravel roads such as those he will face in Otago next year. It will be great to see him take the start in Alan Dippie's Porsche 911, with co-driver Fabrizia Pons beside him, as the prospect they will give the dominant Ford Escorts a real run for their money is something to look forward to.
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