TG chats with Massimo ‘Miki’ Biasion
Legendary Italian rally driver shares his experiences with us right here in Mumbai
If you’ve seen Lancia rally cars flying through slush and snow in old videos and documentaries, there’s a good chance the man behind the wheel making that Lancia fly was Miki. Miki and his fellow drivers took Lancia to the top of Group B rallying and made sure it stayed there a while.
What brings you to India?
India is growing quickly in terms of motorsports, more and more people have started loving it. I’m here to have a look. I’m here to find out if there are more opportunities to develop motorsports and to see if my knowledge and expertise can be used to develop the sport. I’d also love to set up sports driving schools in association with some luxury carmakers.
How did you start rallying? How did Henri Toivonen’s crash change your role in the team?
I began rallying in 1979. I joined Lancia in ’83 and since ’86, Toivonen and I were teammates and factory drivers for Lancia. In ’87, I started competing in WRC and finished second after a very good season. I won two championships in ’88 and ’89. I was on the podium 40 times in the 63 events that I raced and won 17 rallies – I’ve had a pretty good career as a rally driver.
Did you enter rallying on your own?
I did everything by myself at the start. I used to drive an Opel and after the first rally, I was taken on as a factory driver by Opel. At the end of ’82, Lancia asked me to drive and in ’83, I won the Italian and the European championships.
Which is the favourite Lancia you raced?
The Delta S4 has given me most satisfaction because I won a lot in that car. It was the most powerful rally car ever made. It put out 600bhp and at that time there was no electronic aid, it was just fantastic.
You were at your peak in the late ’80s, what went wrong after that?
After that, I moved to Ford in ’92, raced for three years and in ’95, did a few rallies with Subaru, Ford and Lancia again. But the scene was different by then. There were only a few carmakers involved in rallies, it was very difficult to get a good competitive car. So I thought it was a good time for me to end my career as a rally driver. I did miss rally driving after that. Three years later, I started cross-country racing.
Why move to Ford?
Lancia stopped competing in ’91 and gave away its cars to private teams in ’92. After that it completely stopped racing. I went to Ford because they offered me an opportunity to drive for three years to develop the Escort RS Coswort and race it in WRC. In the last few races in the Lancia, I came so close to winning but there were so many mechanical problems that I lost everything.
How were the Lancias and the Fords different?
The Lancia Delta S4 is still a fantastic car and the entire team, from the chief engineer to the last of the mechanics, were the best in the business. The Delta S4 has been developed from a basic road car and we did thousands of kilometres of testing on it before we raced, while the Escort was sold as a standard car that could be modified into a racecar very easily, with the central longitudinal engine. The concept was way advanced for that time.
Do you think rally cars with less electronics are better to drive?
All of us professional rally drivers enjoy driving cars with minimal electronics. Today’s rally cars are reducing electronics to save money... developing electronics is expensive.
How’s rallying different today compared to the ’80s?
The cars now have less power. In the ’80s, our cars made 400-600bhp, but now you get a maximum of 300bhp with very good brakes, good tyres and shock absorbers so the drivers are no more stars, like they were in the past. Also, with the new WRC rules, the spectators can’t come too close to the cars, can’t touch the cars the way they could in the ’80s. Now, there’s no connect between the pilots, cars and spectators.
Why dabble in truck racing?
After Dakar 2009, I went to truck racing; the truck I raced had a standard chassis, standard gearbox but way lighter. Only nine tons and more than 1000 horsepower, so it was really nice to drive. It reminded me of rally cars of the past.
Who’s your current favourite in WRC?
Sebastien Loeb is the best not only now but for the last eight years. It’s unbelievable how he does not have a competitor.
Between the Stratos and the Delta, which one would you want?
If it were to be my bedroom car, it has to be the Stratos; it’s a piece of art. The Delta is like my daughter, I have watched it grow. We started developing it under 30bhp and at its peak, it would make 400bhp with the same engine.
Does being a rally driver help impress the women?
Well, when I was the WRC champion, I was famous with the ladies but if you were to be a champion back then, you had no time to think of girls. When I was at the top of my career I used to be in my racecar 330 days a year, sometimes from eight in the morning to midnight.