On this day: 1988

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As far as FIA World Rally Championship debuts go, this wasn’t a bad effort. His was a career which spanned close to two decades of professional driving, with 119 WRC starts, 100 stage wins, seven podiums and one win.

And those records began to stack up on this day in 1988 when Armin Schwarz finished RAC Rally a fine fifth overall aboard an Audi 200 Quattro.

His drive on the Harrogate-based five-day tour of the British forests came as a gift from his team after winning back-to-back German Championship titles.

“This was the result which launched my career,” said Schwarz. “This was one of the RAC Rallies with more than 50 stages. It was so long and tough and don’t forget, we didn’t have pace notes in this year.

“I think driving that event without notes taught me more. You had to understand how to read the road and understand and be ready for what was coming.”

And what did come was snow. And lots of it.

“We were sitting at breakfast when everybody looked out of the window, everybody was worried. But I knew this gave me a chance. OK, I had only gravel tyres, but I had four-wheel drive.”

And he used it well, wheeling the big Audi home ahead of former world champion Stig Blomqvist and star of the future Carlos Sainz, both in Ford Sierra RS Cosworths.

For the following year, Audi offered Schwarz the chance to race in America or stay in Europe with a limited WRC programme. He stayed in rallying and landed the dream drive with Toyota at the end of the season.

His first and only win at rallying’s highest level came with a Celica GT-4 in Spain at the end of 1991.

Fast forward 14 more years, via spells with Mitsubishi, Ford and Hyundai, and Schwarz was still laying down top-10 results in a factory Škoda Fabia Word Rally Car. His focus has shifted to the career of 15-year-old son Fabio, who is competing in the Latvian Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta R2.

For the record, the winner of the 1988 RAC Rally was, of course, Markku Alén, who finally erased miserable memories of Kielder Forest (although he did still manage to lose a five-minute lead in there on that 1988 event) to win Britain’s WRC counter at his 13th attempt.


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