Last weekend’s Rallye Festival Trasmiera in Spain saw Nicky Grist and Juha Kankkunen reunited with their 1994 Rally of Portugal winning Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185. It was a fantastic event that, as Nicky explains, didn’t go quite as well as things had done 24 years ago!

“It was great to be back in our old Team Toyota Europe Celica GT-Four ST185 with Juha. Since I bought it, we’d spend a lot of time returning it to its original spec and Warner Lewis at Lewis Rally Sport had done a great job putting it back into left hand drive. Juha was surprised how mechanically sound the car is and how good it was to drive. And because of a few delays, we spent a lot of time in the car together and he was able to tell me all the special things that TTE had done to the car for him – which all reconfirms the history of my ST185.

Both Juha and my inbound flights were delayed, which meant we didn’t get to the hotel until after midnight which, as it turned out, set the scene for the rest of the event!

There were 185 cars entered – it’s the biggest gathering of cars in Spain and the selection of historic rally cars was quite exceptional. There was a genuine Lancia Stratos, three Audi Quattro Sports, 6R4s of all different varieties, Peugeot 205T16s, RS200s – it was all very special indeed.

We were the top seeded car, but as the event ran in reverse order we started last, some three hours behind the first car. The Thursday night stage started at 16.30, but our start time was 19.30 – and of course by then there had been a few breakdowns and delays, so it was dark by the time we did the first stage!

There were three stages on the Friday evening, but Harri Toivonen’s Escort WRC caught fire and Warner Lewis blew the head gasket of his Toyota. We had a slight problem with the steering rack – the rubbers needed replacing as the rack was moving a little, this giving the steering a far bit of movement, so we decided to skip the next two stages as they were narrow and bumpy and not good to compete at our pace with the steering wheel movement. It was a demonstration event, and all were encouraged not to drive at more than 80%, and you could miss a stage and join back in, so it wasn’t a problem.

The weather had been nice on the Thursday and overcast on the Friday, but on Saturday morning it was cold and wet. We were driving to the first stage of the day when the car snapped sideways on a series of corners in a village, the road was so slippery it was like someone had pulled the handbrake. The car hit a kerb and bashed into a wall, causing a bit of front end damage. And that was our rally over – one week to do two stages and we never got to do any of Saturday’s really nice stages in the foothills of the Pyrenees. In hindsight, in such slippery conditions, and at the speed we were going, it’s probably just as well – because now the car will survive and we’ll be out to fight another day!

The Rallye Festival Trasmiera is organised by just six guys and it really is a great event, with a huge number of spectators. There were two plane loads of spectators from the Canary Isles for example, which just goes to show the popularity of the event. Something like this would make a great addition to the British motorsport calendar, especially if a demonstration of historic rally cars could be run on closed roads. It would be a major economic boost for whatever region ran it and great fun for the spectators to see such amazing historic rally cars and great drivers – it would be a real festival of rallying.

But for now, I’m going to repair the Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 and think about where to take it next. It’s too nice just to be sat in the warehouse!”