Daihatsu has entered four of the world's 'greenest' petrol driven cars in this year's World Cup Rally, a gruelling 4,500km race from Oxford to Athens.
Starting from Blenheim Palace near Oxford on 5 October, the event will see around 70 teams drive through 12 countries in 12 days on some of the most challenging and remote roads in Europe.
Anyone with a full driving licence can enter the event in virtually any type of production car of any age, but competition for the overall title is intense. And while a few drivers view the rally as a touring holiday, most enter with one thing in mind - winning.
Daihatsu's entry line-up includes three 1.3 litre Sirions and a 1.0 litre Cuore. Three of the cars - two of the Sirions and the Cuore - will be driven by experienced rally drivers who will do battle with around 50 other 'World Cup Trophy Cars'.
The Sirions will both be trying to bring home the overall title for cars up to 1,400cc, while the Cuore will compete for an overall win in the 1,000cc class.
Meanwhile, true to the ethos of the event, Daihatsu's third Sirion will be driven non-competitively by two retired school teachers.
The Works Teams are:
|Sirion Rally II||S100 WCR||Andrew Actman||James Wheildon|
|Sirion Rally IV||S200 WCR||David Winstanley||Paul Hargreaves|
|Sirion 1.3 SL||S300 WCR||Sue Howell||Molly Falcon|
|Cuore 1.0 litre||S400 WCR||Sophie Robinson||Catriona Rings|
Both Andrew Actman and David Winstanley are hopeful of a podium place at the finish and possibly an outright win.
After driving in the 2001 World Cup Rally, where Andrew finished eighth overall in a classic sports car, both drivers approached Daihatsu independently about entering the 102PS 1.3 litre Sirion in the 2002 event.
Both said that, on paper, the Sirion had the best combination of power to weight, together with fuel economy than any other car they might drive in the main 1,400cc class.
Daihatsu then further heightened their hopes of returning home with some silverware when it unveiled its uprated Rally II and Rally IV versions of the 1.3 litre Sirion in June 2002.
Official figures just released show these UK-developed 'warm-hatches' have virtually identical fuel economy to the standard 1.3 litre models, plus ultra-low emissions levels.
The 108 PS Sirion Rally II, for example, offers an 8.1 second 0-60 mph time yet still gives 55.8 mpg on the Extra Urban Cycle, compared to 61.4 mpg for its base model, the front-wheel drive SL.
Meanwhile, the four-wheel drive Sirion Rally IV is actually slightly more economical than the factory-produced 4trak on which it is based, at 54.9 mpg on the Extra Urban Cycle.
Cunning Cuore Driver
Sophie Robinson won a seat in the Cuore after responding to an appeal in Motorsport News from the organisers for a driver to enter the punishing event in the 1.0 litre class. An experienced rally driver, Sophie will pilot a Cuore 1.0 litre E, which costs just £5,995 on the road.
Although she is competing in the 1,000cc class, Sophie also hopes to beat some of the bigger engined, more powerful cars by using the Cuore's petrol-sipping fuel economy of up to 50mpg to keep covering the miles while the more powerful cars are in the filling stations.
A Lesson in Leisurely Driving
Perhaps the most surprising team entry from Daihatsu is the crew of S300 WCR. Driver Sue Howell (56) and co-driver Molly Falcon (61) entered the 2001 World Cup Rally and were keen to have another go, although not in a competitive way.
Explaining the company's reasons for giving Sue and Molly a team drive, Daihatsu's Marketing Director, Paul Tunnicliffe said: "Rallying is all about adventure and Sue and Molly represent the basic drive that motivates all those who love driving to simply get behind the wheel and go for it. We are thrilled to have them on the team."
He added: "We wish each of our teams the best of luck. We will be there to wave them off at the start in Oxford and we shall be in Athens at the end, where we are confident celebrations will be in order!"Published 12 September 2002