The brief was simple. An email to all journalists on Autocar: choose your favorite racing driver of all time.
What we weren’t expecting was a whole repertoire of answers that came back. Covering most eras and a wide spectrum of sport – from Formula 1 to club racing – it shows how diverse motorsport and its followers are. For once, there are no wrong answers: it has led to a lot of discussion and quite a bit of disbelief, but in the end, it’s all about personal choice.
Do you agree with us? Would you like to choose someone different? Let us know in the comments below.
You know how the post-race / stage interview is going now, don’t you? ‘Oh that was tough there’, or ‘we got the win but it was hard work’ – all delivered with the kind of austere, rhythmic delivery that suggested they were coming from spending the last few hours cleaning a nightclub toilet after a particularly busy Friday night rather than throwing some of the most thrilling motorsport machines around the fastest circuits or down rough forest tracks.
Not if Welsh rallying wizard David Llewellin, who is smiling, chatty and slightly wide-eyed, always gave the impression that he couldn’t believe his luck; that he was here, a farmer from West Wales, paid to drive rally cars as fast as they went. This contagious enthusiasm made an instant impression on my young self, my growing fascination with the sport coinciding with Llewellin’s rise through the rally ranks.
With his trademark mustache, Dai (as he was always known) rose to prominence in the Metro 6R4, securing the car’s first international victory at the Irish Circuit in 1986. This victory proved that behind the smiles and the banter delivered in those singing Welsh tones (“ Hannua Mikkola, eh? I think he could drive a wheelbarrow fast ”), Llewellin was properly quick, beating both the aforementioned 1983 world champion Mikkola and established national aces Jimmy McRae and Russell Brooks.
That year also caused some big crashes, including launching the metro from a 60-foot drop and rolling it over as it stalked Mikkola in pursuit of a first home win over the Welsh rally. Yet even as he stood on the stage in the pouring rain he destroyed the 6R4 in the valley below him, there was that characteristic playfulness in his interview with the BBC’s Steve Rider. “The boys just rolled him on his wheels and dragged him home for me (pause for a beat, smile). In a box.”
The next two years of Group A machinery saw him wrestle with passion and valor with the naturally aspirated, undernourished Audi Coupé Quattro. No, it wasn’t a fire-breathing S1 group, but it sounded great to my 10-year-old ears, crying as Llewellin squeezed every last drop of performance out of his five cylinders. He couldn’t stop McRae from racking up the last two of his five British titles, but he came close, his quick and committed approach allowed him to beat the much more muscular Ford Sierra RS Cosworth of the Scotsman on more than a rally.
Then, in 1989, Dai finally got his hands on a car worthy of his talents – the Toyota Celica GT-4. Against an admittedly weakened field (Malcom Wilson and Colin McRae were present, but their powerful Sierras lacked two wheels of total traction), he won two consecutive British crowns. Although mechanical ailments ensured that his WRC home round success eluded him during his title years, his efforts saw him win a well-deserved full-time shot on the world stage in 1991. .
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This notice was published: 2021-05-11 05:01:24