Rallye Internat. du Valais
Round 11, Switzerland
European Rally Championship
In 2009, the Rallye International du Valais will celebrate its 50th edition. It was first organised in September 1960 as part of a regional event that took place in Martigny and was called "Le 1er Comptoir de Martigny" (The 1st fair of Martigny), then became the "Rallye du Vin" until 1975.
From 1976, the tourism aspect left place to a pure sporting event that will rapidly gain access to international championships. As a result, the Rallye du Vin was included in the European Rally Championship from 1980 with coefficient 1, then 2 the following year, 5 until 1997 and finally 10 until 2008. Several renowned rally drivers entered the event to acquire experience, such as Per Eklund, Jimmy McRae, Jean Ragnotti, Guy Colsoul, Sepp Haider, Harald Demuth, Patrick Snijers, Robert Droogmans, Bruno Thiry, etc.
The event became the Rallye International du Valais in 1985. From then, the wine was no longer associated to a driving activity and the geographic venue for the most important automobile competition in Switzerland was clearly identified.
1993 was a key date in the progression of the rally towards the internationalisation that the organisers were seeking. An important partnership with a written media covering the entire country was signed, allowing widening the exposure and the reputation of the RIV. At the beginning of 1994, an association was founded with the aim of gaining access to superior levels of the European Rally Championship and - why not - to the World Rally Championship.
In 1996, the efforts to expand the event internationally and to attract foreign drivers were rewarded by the presence of four-time World Champion Juha Kannkunen. Andrea Aghini was the overall winner, facing opposition from Piero Longhi, Janusz Kullig (Polish Rally Champion) and Jindrich Stolfa (Skoda work driver). The most successful driver is local man and four-time Swiss Rally Champion Olivier Burri who won the RIV no less than eight times.
The headquarters of the rally are located in Martigny, the second largest city of the canton, in the French speaking-part of the Rhone upper valley, few kilometres away from the Lake Geneva. This area is a major crossroads between France (Chamonix via the Forclaz Pass) and Italy (Aosta via the Grand-Saint-Bernard tunnel or pass and Domodossola via the Simplon Pass), as well as an access to different parts of Switzerland via the motorways to Lausanne or Berne.
The Rallye International du Valais traditionally takes place the last week of October from Thursday to Saturday. The shakedown, the administrative and technical checks take place on Thursday morning and are followed by the start while the prize-giving and the traditional "Big Night" go on Saturday night.
The Rallye International du Valais is divided in three days with some 20 special stages covering about 265 km. It actually consists of eight to 10 different stages which are tackled once or twice. In 2008, their length varied from nine to 40 kilometres. The rally has the reputation to be tough for men and machines, the elevation of the stages being between 400 and 1800 metres above sea level.