Daihatsu is celebrating after winning the 1.0 litre class in the grueling 4,500km 12-day World Cup Rally, from Oxford to Athens.
A Daihatsu Cuore driven by the all-female team of driver Sophie Robinson and co-driver Catriona Rings finished on 15 October a full hour ahead of the next car in its class, a Nissan Micra.
Overall, the near standard Cuore, which costs just £5,995 on-the-road, finished 11th, with only more powerful and often much dearer cars ahead of it.
To add to Daihatsu’s delight, one of its three 1,300cc Sirion’s won second in the 1.3 litre class, having competed on its standard showroom settings for the majority of the marathon event.
Driver Andrew Actman said he was highly impressed with how well his Sirion had performed against more specialist rally cars.
"Half-way through the rally we removed the bespoke sports suspension we had fitted prior to the start and reverted to the Sirion’s standard springs and dampers. And to our surprise, we found the car performed even better," said Actman.
Jubilant Cuore driver Sophie Robinson, meanwhile, said she too was impressed by how well her 55PS car had performed against the event’s more powerful entries, including some ‘proper’ rally cars, competing for the overall title.
She explained: "On some days we set fastest overall stage times, ahead of the Sirions and even beating the eventual overall winning Peugeot 205 Rallye, which at one time was the official recce car for Richard Burns, the 2001 World Rally Champion."
Sophie, who is currently lying second overall in a 1.4 litre one-make series contested as part of the British Rally Championship, added: "In just 12 days we have done the equivalent of a full season’s rallying in my one-make series without a single mechanical hitch. The little Cuore was great fun to drive and I enjoyed every minute behind the wheel."
20,000 kilometres on the rev limiter
In all, Daihatsu entered four team cars in the 2002 World Cup Rally, three 1.3 litre Sirions and one Cuore 1.0 litre. And despite altogether having driven around 20,000 kilometres in just 12 days, most of which was on the red line and in second gear across some of the most testing roads in Europe, none of the near showroom-condition cars suffered any kind of mechanical failure.
Sirion driver David Winstanley said: "It was almost embarrassing when at the end of each day everyone else was busy repairing their cars and we Daihatsu drivers had nothing to do.
"On some evenings we did check the tyres, but usually only because we felt guilty watching everyone else hard at work!"
Unfortunately, despite a promising start, Winstanley could only manage 15th in class and finished 28th overall after a collision half-way through the event badly damaged his car, costing him literally hours. Previously, he and his co-driver, Paul Hargreaves, had been running third overall and were getting quicker all the time.
"We were obviously very disappointed," said Winstanley: "But our Daihatsu sponsors quickly found a Greek dealer who managed to repair the car and so we were at least able to finish the event."
Meanwhile, Daihatsu’s wild-card entry of two retired school teachers, Sue Howell and Molly Falcon, finished a highly respectable 17th in class and 32nd overall.
"We have had a fantastic time," they said after the event. "We never expected to be as quick as most of the other cars, but because our car never skipped a beat we were able to keep going the whole time and were determined to finish as high up the field as we could."
In all, around 70 cars competed in the World Cup Rally, around 40 of which battled for the main prize for cars up to 1.4 litres.
Explaining why Daihatsu decided to enter the event, Marketing Director, Paul Tunnicliffe said: "The event is designed to enable virtually anyone with a driving license to take part.
"The rally’s regulations ensure that once a roll cage has been fitted for safety reasons, near standard road cars can compete against more seriously rally-prepared cars.
"While the more committed rally cars had the advantage in terms of overall performance, our entries proved beyond doubt that Daihatsu’s standard road cars are quick enough and reliable enough not only to tackle a major rally but to be truly competitive as well."
Final Result For Daihatsu
|Car||Class Position||Overall Position||Driver||Co-driver|
|Sirion||2nd (1.3 litre)||6th||Andrew Actman||James Wheildon|
|Cuore||1st (1.0 litre)||11th||Sophie Robinson||Catriona Rings|
|Sirion||15th (1.3 litre)||28th||David Winstanley||Paul Hargeaves|
|Sirion||17th (1.3 litre)||32nd||Sue Howell||Molly Falcon|