A Year, A Picture: Tour de Corse 1981
Bernard Darniche and Alain Mahé at the 1981 Tour de Corse  © DPPI

A Year, A Picture: Tour de Corse 1981


The 1981 Tour de Corse consecrates, once more, Bernard Darniche and Alain Mahé, who celebrate their sixth victory. With more than a third of the crews reaching the finish line, the vehicles seem to be more reliable, compared to the previous years…

For the first time, the Tour de Corse does not unfold at the end of the year, but at mid-season, at the beginning of May 1981. Still organized over two legs, with a round-trip Ajaccio-Bastia, the 5th round of the World Rally Championship benefits from a much better weather than usual, the sweet Mediterranean spring having replaced the customary autumn.

This edition also marks the beginning of the Ferrari 308 GTB, driven by Jean-Claude Andruet. The very strong pace imposed by the three-time winner of the competition (1968, 1972 and 1974) forces most of the favorites to retire. After 5 special stages, all won by the Frenchman, Michèle Mouton, Jacques Alméras, Bruno Saby and Henri Toivonen, among others, are already down. A mechanical failure constrains Jean-Claude Andruet to retire as well, only a few kilometers farther.

A tight struggle starts then between Bernard Darniche and Jean-Luc Thérier. The latter takes the head of the rally before renouncing after a puncture at mid-race. Bernard Darniche and his co-driver Alain Mahé seize back the lead and strongly finish, winning with more than fifteen minutes in front of Guy Fréquelin and Jean Todt.

The podium of this 1981 Tour de Corse is composed of:

  1. Bernard Darniche – Alain Mahé (Lancia Stratos HF)
  2. Guy Fréquelin – Jean Todt (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus)
  3. Tony Pond – Ian Grindrod (Datsun Violet GT)

Bernard Darniche will in fact remain, for a few years, the most decorated driver at the Rally France – Tour de Corse (5 wins in WRC + 1 in French Rally Championship) before being surpassed by Didier Auriol in 1995 (6 victories in WRC), and a certain Sébastien Loeb at the Rally France-Alsace 2012 (6 successes: 4 in Corsica and 2 in Alsace).

Relive the 1981 Tour de Corse with this great archive video:

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