The story of mistaken identity, a stewards’ meeting and one European frontrunner’s foul play
MN’S legendary national rally editor, the late DKW, was at the 1988 event for the title and he unearthed a story relating to the Euro crews and a backfiring appeal. Here’s the story from MN, September 21 1988.
One of the most bizarre, not to say distasteful incidents of the rally was a protest against Patrick Snijers/ Dany Colebunders by Fabrizio Tabaton/luciano Tedeschini. The Italians alleged that Snijers had serviced illegally between the first and second stages, along Sulby straight.
Nothing was said at the time, Tabaton only revealing his intentions during the afternoon of the second day, by which time Snijers was looking increasingly comfortable in the lead. Since no Judge of Fact had been present one might have expected the matter to be dismissed on the spot, but Tabaton gave photographic evidence, and a stewards’ meeting was called.
He maintained that the fact that it was Snijers, his main championship rival, was not the point; he wanted to establish whether restrictions on the servicing were real or sham. “It is important to know what is correct or what is not correct,” he declared.
Prodrive vigorously denied allegations that it had serviced illegally. “I think he’s just trying to throw our rhythm,” stated the team manager John Spiller.
The protest fell flat well before the stewards’ meeting. When Tabaton’s film was developed, it revealed a picture of a car receiving illegal service, but it was Droogmans’ Sierra, not Snijers BMW, and Droogmans had retired that morning. Tabaton could only apologise, both to Snijers, and later on, the stewards. His £100 protest fee was not returned.
The next morning, one of the Grifone [Tabaton’s team] service barges crashed into a peat bog while avoiding a car. It was towed out by Prodrive.
Tabaton’s stewards enquiry failed