I have competed in many good cars during my rallying career. My very first rally car was the Saab 96, where at Karlstad, Sweden, I got a 2nd place in my very first rally, and I was just 18 years old. I stayed with Saab for a number of years and had successful times with Saab cars, winning 20 or so events. I have also competed in many marques of cars including Nissan, Ford, Peugeot, the Sunbeam Talbot Lotus, and a Skoda. I can talk with reasonable authority when it comes to describing great cars.
A car I really felt was great was the Lancia Stratos, not a car I had many outings with; in fact the 1978 Swedish Rally, where I finished 4th, was my one and only rally event in the car. It was just a fantastic car. I would describe it as a car built to race or rally, fit for the purpose. Many rally cars, especially during my early career, were road cars adapted for the sport, some were very good, others not so. I think the opposite was the case of the Lancia Stratos; it was built for racing and adapted for road use. It was particularly good on tarmac, but as I have already said, unfortunately, for one reason or another, I didn’t get to compete in one for much time at all. In the brief time I did have though, I knew it was just a great car. It was so easy to drive and responded so well.
The greatest rally car, and my choice of car, is undoubtedly the Audi Quattro. Yes, it’s a road car adapted to rally and is the opposite to what I have said previously. The twin turbos and four-wheel drive moved this car to another level. My fellow competitors laughed at me with this new car with four-wheel drive. I don’t think they thought it would work. However, at the end of the rally, that was the 1982 Swedish Rally, when I took 1st place, it was me laughing at them. It really took the smile off their faces. I was the first driver to drive and win in a four-wheel-drive car, the Audi Quattro. That year I won the Swedish Rally Championship; the following year I won it again, and in 1984 I won the World Rally Championship in the car. My competitors that year were drivers like Hannu Mikkola, Walter Röhrl, and Markku Alén. That was a year to remember, as I won the first five events. The car was very strong and reliable, just fantastic to drive. I was used to driving front-wheel-drive cars and the principles of driving this car were very similar to that, but it had a little help from the rear; that made all the difference. Once I had driven, competed, and won in a four-wheel-drive car, there really wasn’t any other car I wanted.
As told to Mike Jiggle