- August 18, 1958
- Not Active
Didier Auriol, one of the greatest rally drivers in a history, who scored 20 WRC wins in 152 events, was the first world rally champion from France. He won the world's title in 1994 and remained the last driver to take WRC title driving Toyota until Sébastien Ogier won his sixth Drivers' Championship title in 2018 with Toyota Yaris WRC.
Auriol debuted in the WRC in 1984 at Tour de Corse. Later in a career, he won six times at Corsica. His last season in the World Rally Championship was 2003 with Škoda Motorsport.
Rallying career started with Simca 1000
Didier Auriol was born on August 18, 1958, in Montpellier. He started rallying at the age 21, driving the Simca 1000. His next car was the Ford Escort RS 2000 and then, in 1983, he switched to Renault 5 Turbo. With small but powerful Group B car, Auriol competed mostly in the French and European Rally Championship events. His first WRC event was the 1984 Tour de Corse, alongside co-driver Bernard Occelli. They retired after four stages due to turbo failure.
WRC debut with Renault 5 Maxi Turbo
In 1985, the Auriol was driving the upgraded car, Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, again in the French national and ERC events. His only WRC event was Tour de Corse and he again didn't reach the finish, this time, due to electrical issues. His best result in 1985 was the second place at Rallye du Var, the last event of the European Rally Championship.
French rally champion with MG Metro 6R4
In 1986, the French Austin Rover dealer gave him an MG Metro 6R4, a mighty Group B car which was victorious in four national events and Auriol became the French rally champion. He also won the Rallye d'Antibes, the ERC event. At 1986 Tour de Corse, Auriol was the part of the Austin Rover World Rally Team. It was the event in which Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto were killed in the accident on the second day. Auriol retired much before that, after special stage 1, due to oil pump failure.
One more French rally title in 1987
The Group B rally cars were banned after 1986 season, so Auriol switched to Group A Ford Sierra Cosworth in 1987. He repeated the victory in the French Rally Championship but also expanded his WRC program. He participated in three asphalt rallies – Monte-Carlo, Tour de Corse and Sanremo. After a retirement at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Auriol finally finished his first WRC event in May at Corsica. He was eight in the overall classification, scoring his first championship points. At Rallye Sanremo, he nearly missed the podium, finishing fourth.
Maiden WRC victory with Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
In 1988, Auriol won his third consecutive French rally title, again with Ford Sierra RS Cosworth. In the WRC campaign, he participated in four events – Portugal, Corsica, Finland and Sanremo. On May 6, 1988, he clinched his maiden WRC victory, finishing first at Tour de Corse, ahead two Lancias. Auriol added third place at 1000 Lakes Rally to finish sixth in the championship.
Auriol joined Lancia in 1989
Auriol joined championship winning Martini Lancia team for 1989 to drive Lancia Delta Integrale alongside defending champion Miki Biasion. Lancia and Biasion again won the titles, Auriol participated with one victory and two podiums. He won at Tour de Corse for the second year in a row. He was second at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Acropolis Rally.
Championship runner-up in 1990
In 1990, Juha Kankkunen joined Biasion and Auriol in the Martini Lancia. The Italian team again won manufacturers' title, but the drivers' title went to Toyota's Carlos Sainz. Auriol was the most successful of Lancia drivers, he won three rallies and finished second in the points. For the third year in a row, Auriol was the winner at Tour de Corse. Other two wins were at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rallye Sanremo.
In 1991, Auriol was the lead driver for Jolly Club, the Lancia's second team. The new Lancia Delta Integrale 16V was the victorious car at Rally Sanremo. It was Didier's only win in 1991. With five more podiums, he finished third in the championship classification, behind Kankkunen and Sainz.
Six wins in one season, but just third place in the championship
In 1992, Auriol returned to Lancia's first team. The season 1992 was the most successful year in the whole Auriol's career, considering the number of victories because he won six times. He won in Monaco, Corsica, Greece, Argentina, Finland and Australia. However, it wasn't enough for the title, Auriol finished third in the points. He was the championship leader in the most of the season but lost the title after disappointing results in the last two events. He earned just one point in Catalunya and retired at RAC Rally, so both Sainz and Kankkunen passed him in the standings.
Auriol moved to Toyota in 1993
For 1993, Kankkunen and Auriol moved to Toyota Castrol Team while Sainz switched to Lancia. Kankkunen won his fourth title, ahead of Ford's Francois Delecour, Auriol was third in the points. His only win with Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD was at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Three victories for world championship title
In his second season with Toyota, Auriol finally managed to take the world's title. The season didn't start well because he retired at Rallye Monte-Carlo. The podiums at Rally Portugal and Safari Rally followed and then his fifth victory at Tour de Corse. Later in the season, Auriol won the Rally Argentina and Rallye Sanremo, to take the title with 17 points advantage over Subaru's Sainz and his teammate Kankkunen.
Controversial 1995 season and exclusion of Toyota
One of the most controversial seasons in a rallying history followed in 1995. At Rally Catalunya in October, Toyota Castrol team was caught to use illegal turbo restrictors. The team was not only disqualified from that rally but also excluded from the championship results. Earlier in the season, Auriol won at Tour de Corse and finished second at Rally New Zealand. During 1995, Denis Giraudet joined Auriol as his new co-driver.
Return of Toyota with new Corolla WRC
Toyota also had a one-year ban to compete in the WRC, so Auriol was a driver without a drive. He participated in two WRC events only, joining 555 Subaru WRT at Rallye Sweden and Mitsubishi Ralliart at Rallye Sanremo. He finished 10th in Sweden and 8th in Sanremo.
In 1997, Auriol entered Rallye Monte-Carlo with RAS Sport's Ford Escort RS Cosworth but retired due to transmission problems. In May, at Rally Argentina, Auriol was driving the Toyota Celica GT-Four of HF Grifone team and he finished 5th.
In August, Toyota Castrol Team returned to the championship with new Corolla WRC, hiring Auriol as the main driver. In five events his best result was third place at Rallye Sanremo.
Two victories with Corolla WRC
In 1998, Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol were teammates in Toyota Castrol Team. The season finished with dramatic Sainz's retirement at last stage of the last rally, so Mitsubishi and Tommi Makinen took the titles ahead of Toyota and Sainz. Auriol took one victory and three podiums, to finish fifth in the championship. His #9 Corolla WRC was the winning car at Rally Catalunya.
In 1999, the last season with Toyota, Auriol scored six podiums and victory at China Rally, to finish third in the final classification, behind Tommi Makinen and Richard Burns. Toyota managed to take manufacturers' title, just four points ahead of Subaru.
Only podium for Seat at Safari Rally
After Toyota left the world championship at the end of 1999, Auriol joined Seat Sport to drive Cordoba WRC. The Spanish team wasn't so competitive, but Auriol's experience brought them the only podium at Safari Rally in Kenya. Auriol finished third, behind two Subarus of Burns and Kankkunen.
Last WRC victoty with Peugeot at Catalunya
At the end of 2000, Seat withdrew from the championship, so Auriol was again faced with a search for a team. He joined Peugeot Total team for 2001 season, to drive Peugeot 206 WRC alongside defending champion Marcus Gronholm. Auriol scored his last WRC victory at Rally Catalunya, beating asphalt specialist Gilles Panizzi in another Peugeot 206 WRC. With three more podiums later in the season (Italy, France, Australia) Auriol finished seventh in the points. Third place at Rally Australia was his last WRC podium.
Last WRC season with Škoda Motorsport
In 2002, Auriol paused from rallying, participating only in two events with privately entered Toyota Corolla WRC. At Rallye Monte-Carlo, he retired early due to engine failure. In June, Auriol took the win at Rallye de Portugal, which wasn't in WRC calendar that year.
In 2003, Auriol returned to World Rally Championship, joining the Škoda Motorsport. He drove Octavia WRC but also participated in a development of the Fabia WRC, which debuted in the eighth round of the championship, at ADAC Rallye Deutschland. Auriol scored points two times with Octavia, in New Zealand and Argentina, while Fabia didn't reach the points.
2005 Rallye Monte-Carlo was the last WRC event for Didier
It was Didier's last full season. At the age 45, he left world championship but never quit the rallying. Since then, he occasionally competed in rallies all over the world with many different teams and cars. His last WRC appearance was at 2005 Rallye Monte-Carlo, driving and retiring with private Peugeot 206 WRC. Auriol returned one more time to Monte-Carlo, in 2009, when the event was the part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. He drove Peugeot 207 S2000 and retired after an accident on the first special stage.
Auriol never quit rallying
In the period after moving out from the WRC, Auriol was a regular competitor at historic events and rally shows, such were Monza Rally Show, Rally Legends or Legends Boucles de Spa. He also scored wins and podiums at some events of various national championships, such were Rally Islas Canarias in Portugal or Rally Ronde del Ticino in Switzerland.