Two months before the fatal accident of Henri Toivonen in Corsica which led to the demise of the infamous Group B cars, the 1986 World Rally Championship was marked by another tragedy.
On Wednesday, March 5, the crews contesting that year’s Rally de Portugal headed for the celebrated loop of classic stages near Sintra, northwest of Lisbon, a magnet for the country’s rally fans.
The party turned to tragedy, however, when Portuguese driver Joaquim Santos lost control of his Ford RS200 four kilometres into SS1. He collided with a group of spectators, killing three people instantly, while a fourth victim died later in hospital. Dozens of others sustained injuries.
Following the incident, the factory drivers – including those representing Peugeot, Audi, Lancia and Volkswagen – met in a room on the 16th floor of the Hotel Estoril Sol. Meanwhile, Ford had already withdrawn its cars.
The organisers were incapable of containing the masses of spectators who lined the stages and they agreed to cancel the next six tests, but the rally continued for two more days.