- August 30, 1962
- Fia World Rally Championship
- Francois Delecour (private team)
France has three world rally champions since the inauguration of the drivers' championship in 1979. Among other former and active French rally drivers, Francois Delecour is the most successful. Since his World Rally Championship debut in 1984, he recorded more than hundred WRC starts, winning four events and scoring 19 podiums. Although he has no individual world's titles, as his best result was 2nd place in 1993 season, Delecour was the world champion with Peugeot team in 2000.
Delecour's first rally car was Talbot Samba
Francois Delecour was born on August 30, 1962, in Hazebrouck in northern France. He started rally career in 1981, entering the French national events driving the Talbot Samba, alongside his copilot Anne-Chantal Pauwels. Talbot Samba was also Delecour's car in the WRC debut at 1984 Rallye Monte-Carlo, in which he finished 67th in the overall classification.
In 1985, François switched to Peugeot 205 GTI, driving that car in the French cup and finishing third in the points for two years in a row. He also had two consecutive retirements at Rallye Monte-Carlo driving the Peugeot 205 GTI.
First ERC podiums with BMW M3
In 1987, he finally reached the finish of Monte Carlo Rally with Peugeot, finishing in 16th place overall. For the rest of the season, he competed mostly at the European Rally Championship. In 1988, Delecour entered the ERC competition with BMW M3 and scored his first podiums, finishing third at Rally d'Antibes and Rallye du Var.
Good performances secured him a factory drive with Peugeot France team in 1989 season. He was driving Peugeot 309 GTI at the European championship, scoring again two podiums. His only WRC event was 1989 Tour de Corse, where he retired due to alternator issues.
In 1990, the cooperation with Peugeot France resulted with two more podiums in the European championship and ninth place at 1990 Rallye Monte-Carlo. He was the best among drivers of two-wheel driven cars.
Delecour joined Ford for 1991 WRC season
The milestone year in Delecour's career was 1991, as he finally reached the factory drive in the World Rally Championship. Q8 Team Ford hired him to drive Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4, together with his old companion Anne-Chantal Pauwels. They scored WRC podium in debut with Ford, finishing third at 1991 Rallye Monte-Carlo. Delecour even had a chance to win but suspension failure cost him five minutes and he dropped from first to third place.
In the last two events of the season, a new co-driver Daniel Grataloup stepped into Delecour's car. They finished third at Rallye Espana Catalunya and sixth at Lombard RAC Rally. Delecour was seventh in the championship points at the end of the season.
Delecour stayed with Ford for five more seasons, until the end of 1996. In 1992, he again scored two podiums, finishing second at Tour de Corse and third at Rallye Sanremo.
1993 - three WRC wins and runner-up spot in the championship
The season 1993 became Delecour's career-best year, as he scored three WRC victories with Ford Escort RS Cosworth and finished second in the championship order, twenty-three points behind Toyota's Juha Kankkunen.
After finishing second at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Delecour took his maiden WRC victory at Rallye de Portugal in March. Two months later, the second victory followed at Tour de Corse. Third win came at Rallye Catalunya in November.
Victory at 1994 Rallye Monte-Carlo was the last in a career
Delecour's winning streak continued in the first event of the 1994 season, at Rallye Monte-Carlo. At the next event, in March in Portugal, he retired with engine failure. A month later Delecour was involved in a road accident when the Ferrari F40 he was driving was hit by an amateur rally driver practicing for a local event. Delecour suffered leg injuries and was forced to miss the next four WRC events.
He was back into the cockpit of Ford Escort RS Cosworth at 1000 Lakes Rally, finishing fourth. He retired at Rallye Sanremo and RAC Rally, to finish 8th in the championship.
Ford's leading driver in 1995
At the end of 1994, Ford's factory team was closed and the Belgian RAS Sport took over Ford's rally operations for 1995. Delecour remained with the team, becoming the leading driver. In nine events, he scored two podiums, finishing second in Monte-Carlo and Corsica. At the end of the season, Delecour was fourth in the WRC standings.
In 1996, Delecour started the cooperation with Peugeot Sport, driving his final event with Ford Escort RS Cosworth at Rally Sweden, where he finished 11th. At 1996 Rallye Monte-Carlo, which was a part of the 2-litre World Championship, Delecour finished second in the Peugeot 306 Maxi.
Peugeot 306 Maxi was his car for the rest of the season, mostly in the European Rally Championship and French national events. During the year, Delecour scored two wins and six podiums with 306 Maxi.
He had a similar program in 1997, driving Peugeot 306 Maxi only on the French territory and scoring one win and three podiums. Delecour's only WRC event was Rallye Catalunya, where he was excluded. In 1998, Delecour's Peugeot 306 Maxi appeared in four WRC events, with the second place at Tour de Corse as the best result.
Switching to Peugeot 206 WRC in 1999 season
At the beginning of 1999 season, Delecour participated at Rallye Monte-Carlo with privately-entered Ford Escort WRC, finishing fourth. He was involved in the development program of the new Peugeot 206 WRC and he got a chance to drive that car in six WRC events during 1999 season.
The results were disappointing, as he retired five times because of different mechanical issues. He reached the finish line only in Finland, taking ninth place.
World's championship title with Peugeot
In 2000 season, Delecour participated as a full-time driver in the Peugeot victorious season, taking the Manufacturers' title together with Marcus Gronholm and Gilles Panizzi. Gronholm was drivers' champion while Delecour finished sixth in the points, scoring four podiums.
He was close to the victory at Tour de Corse, but his teammate and asphalt specialist Gilles Panizzi took the top podium spot. The similar scenario repeated at another asphalt event, the Rallye Sanremo.
In 2001, Delecour joined Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport
Although the season was successful, the conflicts with Peugeot management and his teammate Panizzi forced Delecour to move back to Ford in 2001. The team was operated by M-Sport, owned by former Delecour's teammate Malcolm Wilson. Delecour was driving the #17 Ford Focus RS WRC, his teammates were Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae.
Although the team was full of stars, they lost both manufacturers' and drivers' titles. Delecour participated in 13 WRC events, scoring only one podium. He finished third at 2001 Rallye Monte-Carlo. It turned out to be his last WRC podiums. In the final event of the season, the Rally Australia, Delecour had an accident that almost cost a life his co-driver Daniel Grataloup.
Switching to Mitsubishi and losing a co-driver
The four-time world champion Tommi Makinen left the Mitsubishi at the end of 2001, so the Japanese manufacturer hired Francois Delecour as a replacement, to drive their newly developed Lancer WRC. Delecour missed scoring any points, finishing best in seventh place at Tour de Corse.
At 2002 Rally Australia, Delecour and Grataloup again had an accident. Grataloup suffered severe injuries which ended his career. At the last event of the season, at Rally GB, the replacement in codriver's seat was Dominique Savignoni.
Nine years without WRC events
At the end of the season, Mitsubishi left the World Championship, so Delecour was without a ride for 2003 season. He returned to WRC nine years later, in 2012. In the meantime, he competed occasionally in various competitions, scoring some notable results.
In 2003, he finished third in the ERC's Rali Vinho de Madeira, driving the Peugeot 206 WRC. In 2005, he was second at Rallye International du Valais with Renault Clio S1600. During 2007, Delecour competed with Porsche 996 GT3 in the French national events.
Monte-Carlo return in 2011, WRC return in 2012
He returned to Rallye Monte-Carlo in 2011, when the 100th anniversary was celebrated. The event was a part of the International Rally Challenge and Delecour was driving the Peugeot 207 S2000 to fifth-place finish.
In 2012, Delecour came to Monte-Carlo with Ford Fiesta RS WRC. It was Delecour's WRC return after nine years of absence. Partnered by Dominique Savignoni, he finished sixth.
Three championship title in Romania
Later in the season, Delecour was competing at the Romanian rally championship, winning four events with Peugeot 207 S2000 and taking the 2012 championship title. In 2013, he took one more Romanian title, again driving the Peugeot 207 S2000. He also participated in four events of the 2013 European Rally Championship, finishing fourth in the points.
The 2014 season started with Delecour's return to Monte-Carlo, with privately-entered Ford Fiesta RS WRC. He was forced to retire on the first stage because of a broken accelerator. Later in the season, he participated in one more WRC event, driving the Porsche 997 GT3 Cup at Tour de Corse. In the 2014 Romanian championship, Delecour was using Peugeot 207 S2000 and Subaru Impreza STI N14, and he took his third title in a row.
Winner of the FIA R-GT Cup in 2015
In 2015, Delecour was one of few competitors in the FIA R-GT Cup. With two wins in five events, Delecour was the winner of RGT Cup. He was driving the Tuthill-prepared Porsche 997 GT3 Cup.
In 2016, Delecour was again on the starting ramp of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, one more time with Peugeot 207 S2000, this time with Sabrina De Castelli as a co-driver. They finished 16th overall and 9th in the RC2 class. In 2017, he returned to Rallye Monte-Carlo in another RGT class car, a brand new Fiat 124 Abarth Rally. He retired on that event but ended Tour de Corse few months later, finishing 19th overall and second in RGT class.