Grist, Mcrae and The story behind this very bent bodywork
Around the Nicky Grist Motorsport HQ are some very famous, very dented body panels…
'That was probably my most disappointing moment in my career' says Grist in his distinctive soft Welsh lilt when I ask him to recount the story of how the bodywork got into that condition. 'It was just a classic Colin being Colin kind of situation.
'Probably one of the best bits of on-board video was the first forest stage of that rally. It was St. Gwynno just by Mountain Ash, it was 7.30 in the morning, we were first car on the road and this was "right let’s catch everybody asleep, let’s go for it". He started sensibly [something I question Nicky about given the way Colin throws the car at the first proper corner!] and the speed grew and grew and we finished that stage and we were quickest. We were something like two or three seconds quicker than Marcus Gronholm. Auriol was very close behind him, but more importantly the person we were battling for the championship was something like eight or nine seconds behind him – that person being Richard Burns.
'So we went into the next stage which took us right up on top of the Rhigos [mountains in south Wales] and Marcus Gronholm took three seconds out of us. We were still seven seconds ahead of Richard but we were driving down the next road section into Treorchy and Colin’s going "F**k, f**k, f**k!".
I said "What’s wrong?"
He said "Shit. That’s bad. We’re going to have to go. We’re going to have to push"
I said "Hang on, this is only the second proper stage of the rally. We’re not in a battle with Marcus Gronholm, let him get on with it. It doesn’t matter where he finishes all we’ve got to do is stay in front of Richard Burns"
"Yeah but we need 30 seconds in case we get a puncture" he says.
I said "Get 30 seconds by the end of the day. You’re not going to do it in one stage" And we had this long discussion all the way down the road section that took us into Treorchy before turning back up into the Rhondda stage.
'Anyway, we started stage four which had a steep climb uphill and by the time we got up onto the top some low cloud had come in, so now we drove in fog for a little while. Richard Burns’s notes were quite detailed and he could drive well in fog, he was able to just get that little extra edge. Colin’s notes were more based on his speed and… he would listen to the notes, look at what he could see and then let his ability take over. That’s what worked for him, but when the fog came down, well that’s one part of that scenario that was taken away from him and then obviously the notes weren’t detailed enough to cope with it.
'So we come out of this fog and then he got faster and faster and we had just this series of corners and it was like a six, six, five, six [that’s flat, flat, nearly flat, flat]. We were going at such a speed and two or three calls had to go tat-tat-tat-tat-tat [like a machine gun] because they were one after another. Well, he heard the word ‘cut’, which was for the corner further on and he cut this right hander. He turned in early and it wasn’t a cut - I think that was a five right plus… into six left minus over crest cut – there was a bank in front of us and we slammed into that bank which then sent us up into the air. It just corkscrewed us and bing, bang, bosh, completely destroyed the car. It was completely undriveable, the radiator was gone, the whole bit. The bonnet, boot lid and the two doors you can see here are from that car. Somebody bought that car and reshelled it, rebuilt it and I had the original panels back. But it did cost us the world championship.'
This is only part of a longer interview in which I also asked Grist about his time with the legend that is Juha Kankkunen. I'll publish the rest of it in the next few weeks...