Tour de Corse or the Rally of the Ten Thousand Turns
The Tour de Corse is an asphalt rally event at the French island of Corsica which is currently one of the fixtures on the World Rally Championship calendar. The rally is also known as the Rally of the Ten Thousand Turns (Rallye des 10000 Virages) because of twisty mountain roads.
The first Tour de Corse has been organized in 1956. In 1973, the event became a part of the inaugural World Rally Championship and stayed in the world’s premier competition until 2008. From 2009 to 2014, Tour de Corse was a part of another competitions and then returned to the WRC in 2015.
Two record holders with six wins at Tour de Corse are Bernard Darniche (1970, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981) and Didier Auriol (1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995). Among active drivers, Sebastien Loeb is the most successful with four wins.
Through the history, Tour de Corse, unfortunately, became a place of several notable deaths. In 1985, Attilio Bettega lost a life in a Lancia 037 Rally. A year later, Henri Toivonen and his navigator Sergio Cresto died in their Lancia Delta S4. That tragedy caused a ban of the Group B rally cars.
The first winner was a woman
The first ever Tour de Corse was held in November 1956. The name of the event refers that the rally was run around the island. The first ever winner was the Belgian female driver Gilberte Thirion in a Renault Dauphine, with a help of a Swiss navigator Nadege Ferrier.
In the following years, the winners were Michel Nicol (1957, Alfa Romeo Giulietta), Guy Monraisse (1958, Renault Dauphine), Pierre Orsini (1959, Renault Dauphine), Herbert Linge (1960, Porsche SC 90) and Rene Trautman (1961, Citroen DS19). Pierre Orsini celebrated two more wins in 1962 and 1965. Rene Trautman was also a double winner, repeating a triumph in 1963. Jean Vinatier triumphed in 1964 and Jean-Francois Piot in 1966, both in a Renault 8 Gordini.
Munari, Andruet, Larrousse, Darniche among winners
Sandro Munari was the first among winners who later developed a significant international career. He won Tour de Corse in 1967 at the wheel of Lancia Fulvia HF Coupe. A year later, Jean-Claude Andruet captured the first of his three wins (1968, 1972, 1974) inan Alpine-Renault A110. Gerard Larrousse has won in 1969 in a Porsche 911 R.
Bernard Darniche was the winner in 1970, driving an Alpine-Renault A110 1800. It was his first of six wins.
Part of the World Rally Championship since 1973
In 1973, Tour de Corse became a part of the inaugural World Rally Championship, as the final round of the championship. The first WRC winner at Corsica was Jean-Pierre Nicolas in an Alpine-Renault A110 1800, beating Jean-Francois Piot and Jean-Luc Therier in the same cars.
The record number of six wins for Bernard Darniche
In 1980, Jean-Luc Therier managed to score his first and only win at Tour de Corse, driving a Porsche 911 SC.
Corsica was unfortunate place in a Group B era
In an era of the Group B rally cars, Jean Ragnotti managed to win a rally in a Renault 5 Turbo in 1982. After that, Markku Alen took two winner’s trophies with Lancia 037 Rally in 1983 and 1984. Ragnotti repeated a victory in 1985, driving a Renault R5 Maxi Turbo.
Unfortunately, the 1985 Tour de Corse was marred by a death of Attilio Bettega, who lost a life during the fourth special stage on day 1. An even bigger tragedy happened exactly a year later, on May 2nd, 1986, when Henri Toivonen and his navigator Sergio Cresto were burnt in crashed Lancia Delta S4. The winner of that event was Bruno Saby in a Peugeot 205 T16 E2.
One more tragedy at 1987 Tour de Corse
The Group B rally cars were banned at the end of 1986 and an era of Group A cars started in 1987. The first Tour de Corse winner in that period was Bernard Beguin in a BMW M3. Unfortunately, that event also took one victim.
The Corsican Jean-Michel Argenti lost a life in a crash serving as a navigator to Jean Marchini in a Peugeot 205 GTI.
Six wins for Didier Auriol
The Group A era was marked by six victories for Didier Auriol between 1988 and 1995. After the first win in a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in 1988, the next three wins (1989, 1990, 1992) came in different versions of a Lancia Delta. His navigator in those four wins was Bernard Occelli.
In 1994 and 1995, Auriol triumphed two times in a Toyota Celica (Turbo 4WD and GT-Four ST205), sharing a car with Occelli (1994) and Denis Giraudet (1995).
During the Group A and Didier Auriol’s era, few more drivers triumphed at Corsica: Carlos Sainz (Toyota Celica) in 1991, Francois Delecour (Ford Escort RS Cosworth) in 1993 and Philippe Bugalski (Renault Megane Maxi) in 1996.
An era of World Rally Cars started in 1997
In 1997, an era of World Rally Cars started. Colin McRae captured two wins (1997, 1998) in a Subaru Impreza WRC. Philippe Bugalski triumphed in 1999 in a Citroen Xsara Kit Car and Jesus Puras took the first ever win for Citroen Xsara WRC in 2001.
Four consecutive wins for Sebastien Loeb
After finishing second in 2004, Sebastien Loeb triumphed at Corsica for the first time in 2005, at the wheel of championship-winning Citroen Xsara WRC. He won again in the same car in 2006.
In 2007, Loeb’s victorious car was a Citroen C4 WRC. He celebrated his fourth win in 2008, again driving a Citroen C4. His navigator in all four wins was Daniel Elena.
Tour de Corse was out of WRC from 2009 to 2014
Due to Round Rotation system, France dropped out from WRC calendar in 2009. Then, in 2010, WRC returned to France but Rallye de France took place in Alsace region. The French WRC round stayed there until 2014.
In that period, Tour de Corse was a part of other competitions or has been cancelled (in 2010). In 2009, Pascal Trojani (Peugeot 307 WRC) won the Tour de Corse as a part of the French Rally Cup. In 2011 and 2012, Corsica hosted a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. The winners were Thierry Neuville (Peugeot 207 S2000) and Dani Sordo (Mini Cooper S2000).
World Rally Championship returned to Corsica in 2015
Finally, the World Rally Championship returned to Corsica in 2015 with an event based in Ajaccio, Porto Vecchio and Bastia. The event was marked by a couple of stages cancelled due to floods. Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) celebrated a victory. Latvala’s teammate and reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier triumphed in 2016.
In 2017, Thierry Neuville scored his second win at Tour de Corse, six years after the first victory in the IRC event. This time, he won in a Hyundai i20 WRC.