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Rating the world championship’s 20 biggest moments

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Because it launched in 1973, the WRC has created a myriad of memorable moments from emotional victories and defeats, historic sport altering achievements, to feats that merely defy perception.  

Distilling all of the motion from the final half century into 20 outlined moments is in no way a small job. To aim this the WRC collated a panel of specialists to provide an inventory of fifty moments which had been then put to a fan vote to find out this record.

20. Burns triumphs in Battle of Britain

Burns emerged on high after a chaotic four-way title decider in Wales to develop into the primary and up to now solely English WRC champion

Photograph by: Ralph Hardwick

4 drivers had a mathematical likelihood of successful the 2001 World Rally Championship on the Rally GB finale, and it was Richard Burns who claimed an emotional maiden title.

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The season-closer was maybe one of the vital dramatic in WRC historical past, with 9 factors separating Ford’s Colin McRae (42), Mitsubishi’s Tommi Makinen (41), Subaru’s Burns (40) and McRae’s team-mate Carlos Sainz (33), an outdoor guess who wanted his rivals to hit bother.

With out a podium within the first 4 rounds, Burns discovered himself within the title hunt after scoring second place finishes in Argentina, Cyprus, Finland and Australia, along with his one and solely win that yr in New Zealand. McRae and Makinen had each endured their fair proportion of retirements, however every had three wins apiece.

PLUS: Ranking lost legend Richard Burns’ 10 greatest rallies

An unusually dry Rally GB, held within the Welsh forests round host metropolis Cardiff, supplied loads of drama. Makinen was first to fall because the four-time champion lower a nook and ripped his front-left suspension from his Lancer on Friday’s first stage.

A puncture for Sainz successfully condensed the title struggle right into a Battle of Britain between Scotland’s McRae and England’s Burns. McRae pushed from the beginning, opening up a lead over Peugeot’s Marcus Gronholm, with Burns fourth after three phases. Nevertheless, McRae’s title hopes had been extinguished in spectacular trend when he lower a nook and hit a gap, sending his Focus right into a barrel roll.

 

Burns virtually threw it away after seeing McRae’s broken Focus along side the highway. Nevertheless, he and co-driver Robert Reid held their nerve to complete third, to win what can be the duo’s solely world title.

“I drove even worse than my grandma in the previous couple of kilometres however it feels improbable to be world champion,” stated Burns.

19. Unlikely champion Salonen comes from nowhere

After Vatanen's huge crash in Argentina, his Peugeot team-mate Salonen stepped up to the occasion magnificently in 1985

After Vatanen’s enormous crash in Argentina, his Peugeot team-mate Salonen stepped as much as the event magnificently in 1985

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

The penultimate season of the notorious Group B period produced a considerably unlikely champion. It had appeared that the 1985 title struggle can be between Audi’s Walter Rohrl and Peugeot’s Ari Vatanen, however it was the latter’s team-mate, Timo Salonen, who would shock the institution to say the crown.

Archive: The day that killed rallying’s greatest era

The bespectacled 34-year-old was removed from the super-fit athletes of at present, and even insisted that Peugeot fitted an ashtray and energy steering to his fireplace respiration 205 T16. Nevertheless, the chain-smoking Salonen, who had scored solely three WRC wins in 11 seasons, took the season by the scruff of the neck to guide Jean Todt’s Peugeot squad.

A drought-ending victory in Portugal put the Finn within the struggle earlier than reeling off 4 consecutive wins in Greece, New Zealand, Argentina and Finland to successfully safe his solely world title. Audi’s Stig Blomqvist was his nearest rival, 52 factors adrift, with Rohrl third, having solely taken half in eight of the 12 rounds.

Vatanen lived as much as the early billing by ending Rohrl’s run of consecutive Monte Carlo wins (1982-84) on the time-honoured season-opener regardless of an error from co-driver Terry Harryman that resulted in an eight-minute penalty for checking into the Hole management early.

A win on the subsequent spherical in Sweden adopted however his championship problem unravelled following retirements in Portugal (crash), Kenya (head gasket), Corsica (crash) and Greece (steering).

The 1981 world champion missed the ultimate 4 rounds following a daunting crash in Argentina that sidelined the Finn for greater than 12 months. Vatanen was fortunate to be alive after struggling a fractured lumbar vertebrae, a badly damaged tibia, various fractured ribs and different inside accidents that prompted respiration difficulties, which required time in intensive care.

Salonen’s victories not solely secured the drivers’ title however helped Peugeot to its first producers’ crown. The marque defended its success within the ultimate yr of Group B in 1986, however it was Salonen’s team-mate Juha Kankkunen that took his first of 4 drivers’ titles.

18. El Matador breaks by way of in Finland

No non-Scandinavian had ever won in Finland prior to Sainz's breakthrough in 1990 on his way to a first world title

No non-Scandinavian had ever received in Finland previous to Sainz’s breakthrough in 1990 on his option to a primary world title

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

It was thought you needed to be a Finn or herald from Scandinavia to beat Rally Finland – till Carlos Sainz modified that in 1990.

The Spaniard had broken his left foot in a violent roll in Argentina a month prior, however nonetheless turned the primary driver born exterior of the nordic international locations to win the quick gravel rally, and went on to say the primary of his two world titles.

“Once I got here to the WRC I wished to vary the best way it was by beginning to win rallies like Finland – I assumed a superb rally driver should be capable to win in every single place,” says Sainz.

What may have been: When a rally king’s Le Mans debut was scuppered

17. Privateer Vatanen turns into champion

It didn't matter that Vatanen's Escort RS1800 wasn't a works-prepared machine in 1981 as he took his only world championship

It did not matter that Vatanen’s Escort RS1800 wasn’t a works-prepared machine in 1981 as he took his solely world championship

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Toyota, Talbot, Fiat and Audi – with its new Quattro – all deployed manufacturing facility groups to do battle in 1981, however they couldn’t cease Ari Vatanen and David Sutton’s privately run Rothmans Rally Crew from taking the title.

 

Ford had withdrawn from the WRC on the finish of 1979, however Sutton’s personal outfit stored the Blue Oval present with the long-lasting Escort RS1800. Vatanen and co-driver David Richards claimed wins in Greece, Brazil and Finland to beat Talbot’s Man Frequelin to the championship, Vatanen’s solely world title.

16. Loeb’s record-breaking 2008

Loeb destroyed his rivals in 2008, winning all but four of the 15 rallies to secure a fifth title in utterly dominant fashion

Loeb destroyed his rivals in 2008, successful all however 4 of the 15 rallies to safe a fifth title in totally dominant trend

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Already a four-time world champion, Sebastien Loeb was unstoppable in 2008. The Frenchman swept to his fifth consecutive crown, successful 11 of the 15 rounds in his works Citroen C4 WRC. Loeb was solely absent from the rostrum twice that season when he retired in Sweden and completed tenth in Jordan.

The run of victories in Monte Carlo, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Greece, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, France and Nice Britain set a brand new benchmark for many wins in a single season by a driver, which is but to be overwhelmed.

15. The beginning of the World Rally Automobile guidelines

Liatti only ever won a WRC event once, on the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally, the first held to the new World Rally Car rules

Liatti solely ever received a WRC occasion as soon as, on the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally, the primary held to the brand new World Rally Automobile guidelines

Photograph by: Ralph Hardwick

In a bid to stage the taking part in subject within the high class and entice extra producers, World Rally Automobile rules had been adopted in 1997.

The brainchild of Ford head designer John Wheeler, Prodrive’s head of know-how David Lapworth and FIA engineers Gabriele Cadringher and Jacques Berger, the foundations had been based mostly round front-engined, four-seater mass manufacturing vehicles, at the very least 4 metres in size and restricted to round 300bhp.

The foundations attracted eight manufacturing facility groups in 2000, a WRC golden period. The opening spherical, Monte Carlo, was received by Subaru’s Piero Liatti.

14. McRae’s Argentina heroics

McRae furthered his growing cult hero status with his quick thinking in 1998

McRae furthered his rising cult hero standing together with his fast considering in 1998

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Colin McRae was cherished for his flamboyance however it was his grit and dedication to by no means surrender that endeared him to many.

In Argentina in 1998, the Subaru driver hit a rock that left his right-rear wheel pointing inwards, two phases earlier than service. McRae intentionally popped the tyre on the wheel after which he and co-driver Nicky Grist tried to straighten a bent suspension arm with a rock discovered by the roadside.

Amazingly, the duo had been quickly posting quickest stage instances and completed fifth, 1m17.6s behind winner Tommi Makinen.

13. Elena’s weird rally-saving antics

Despite this major damage, Loeb was able to continue after co-driver Elena hung himself from the moving Xsara on the road section

Regardless of this main injury, Loeb was in a position to proceed after co-driver Elena hung himself from the shifting Xsara on the highway part

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The WRC has produced its fair proportion of weird moments, comparable to this one in Mexico in 2005.

Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb broken his Xsara’s suspension and, on the highway part again to service, the right-rear wheel broke. Because the rear of the automotive dragged alongside the bottom, co-driver Daniel Elena sprung into motion, hanging out of the passenger window and utilizing his weight to behave as a counterbalance.

 

It caught the eye of the police however, as a substitute of issuing a ticket, the authorities escorted the pair again to service. After the Xsara underwent repairs, Loeb and Elena recovered to complete a exceptional fourth.

12. Audi modifications the sport with the Quattro

Audi changed the game when it introduced the Quattro in 1981, although Mikkola had to wait another two years to take the title

Audi modified the sport when it launched the Quattro in 1981, though Mikkola needed to wait one other two years to take the title

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Immediately’s WRC vehicles can all be traced again to 1981 when Audi gave its turbocharged, four-wheel-drive Quattro its debut. Laws had outlawed four-wheel drive, however Audi requested a rule change in 1979 and confronted little resistance from rival marques.

PLUS: The Group B pioneer that transformed rallying forever

Years of improvement resulted in Audi’s game-changing Quattro, which made its debut in Monte Carlo 1981. Hannu Mikkola blew the sector away to construct a six-minute lead after six phases solely to be thwarted by alternator belt failure and a brake concern. As soon as the failings had been fastened, Mikkola swept to victory in Sweden, the primary of 24 wins for the Quattro.

11. From automotive park tour to victory – Meeke’s Mexico save

Meeke came close to throwing away victory in Mexico in 2017 with an excursion into a car park before rejoining the road

Meeke got here near throwing away victory in Mexico in 2017 with an tour into a parking lot earlier than rejoining the highway

Photograph by: Sutton Pictures

Maybe essentially the most dramatic and weird WRC end belongs to Kris Meeke, who someway recovered from an off into a parking lot to win Rally Mexico in 2017. The second has clocked up a whole lot of hundreds of views on-line.

Citroen’s Meeke headed into the ultimate stage with a 37.2s lead, a primary win of the season seemingly within the bag. Then he misjudged a quick proper, 750 metres from the end. A compression bounced the C3 off and into an adjoining automotive park, prompting co-driver Paul Nagle to utter the phrases: “Jesus Christ, Kris!”

The pair weaved out and in of parked vehicles and vans looking for a manner again to the stage. Fortunately, they discovered one and amazingly saved their blushes, taking the win by 13.8s from Sebastien Ogier.

“I made a mistake, an enormous mistake,” Meeke stated. “I braked and obtained the automotive too sideways by way of this quick proper and, as I hit the compression, it popped me out and we went right into a subject.

 

“After that I used to be within the fingers of the gods. I went by way of some vans they usually began to slender up. I assumed I used to be heading for a {dead} finish so I handbraked round a truck to return the best way I got here, noticed a niche within the fence and went for it.

“I’m not notably delighted with myself however we’ve received the rally, so I’m blissful. I had no concept I’d received after I crossed the road however shortly folks began shaking their fists after which I knew. I’m certain [team principal] Yves Matton will shake his fist at me later for a unique cause!”

10. Loeb’s excellent weekend in Corsica

Loeb was truly unstoppable on his way to winning at Corsica in 2005, as he was never beaten in any of the 12 stages

Loeb was actually unstoppable on his option to successful at Corsica in 2005, as he was by no means overwhelmed in any of the 12 phases

Photograph by: Sutton Pictures

The WRC has witnessed a number of dominant drives through the years however Sebastien Loeb is the one driver in a position to declare an ideal weekend. Loeb produced a benchmark in Corsica in 2005 that’s but to be matched. The Citroen driver was untouchable on the twisty asphalt roads, successful all 12 phases of the occasion to say victory with a margin of 1m51.7s over Ford’s Toni Gardemeister.

This was Loeb’s ninth of 10 wins throughout the marketing campaign on the best way to his second world title.

“I actually wished to win this rally, it’s the first time I’ve received it,” stated Loeb. “I’ve received a number of instances in Germany and Monte Carlo, however that is my first time right here. To win it by successful all of the phases is a good second for me.”

9. Lancia thinks small to create the Stratos

The Stratos enjoyed enduring success, winning in Corsica with Bernard Darniche in 1981 seven years after its introduction

The Stratos loved enduring success, successful in Corsica with Bernard Darniche in 1981 seven years after its introduction

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Lancia is the WRC’s most profitable producer with 10 titles. Its run started with a wedge-shaped marvel: the Stratos.

The Bertone-designed automotive, powered by a 2.4-litre V6 from a Dino 246GT, weighed in at roughly 950kg – a pocket rocket. The automotive was the brainchild of Lancia boss Cesare Fiorio, Giampaolo Dallara, Marcello Gandini and former Ferrari man Mike Parkes.

It proved an prompt success, claiming the producers’ crown in 1974 with Sandro Munari’s wins in Sanremo and Canada, and Jean-Claude Andruet’s triumph in Corsica.

The Stratos helped Lancia to titles in 1975-76 and was nonetheless able to preventing for wins in 1981. It scored 17 WRC wins throughout its lifetime, incomes itself a spot within the WRC’s high 10 most profitable vehicles.

8. Mikkola triumphs because the oldest champion

After several years as the bridesmaid, Mikkola finally became champion in 1983

After a number of years because the bridesmaid, Mikkola lastly turned champion in 1983

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

The 1983 season developed into an intense battle between Lancia and Audi. Whereas Lancia claimed the producers’ title with its 037, the final two-wheel-drive automotive to take action, it was Audi’s Hannu Mikkola who lastly claimed a coveted drivers’ title.

Mikkola joined Audi firstly of its Quattro journey. The Finn had already completed third in 1978, when the collection was often known as the FIA Cup for Drivers, earlier than ending runner-up in 1979 and 1980 previous to becoming a member of the German automotive maker.

Within the 1983 season, 4 wins and three second-place finishes had been sufficient to beat Lancia’s Walter Rohrl to the title. Attaining the feat at 41 years {old}, Mikkola (who died in 2021 aged 78) stays the WRC’s oldest topped world champion.

7. M-Sport’s final (and moist) restore job

Somehow M-Sport managed to repair Tanak's Fiesta after its trip into a Mexican lake, with Tanak and Molder marking the feat at the finish by donning snorkels

Someway M-Sport managed to restore Tanak’s Fiesta after its journey right into a Mexican lake, with Tanak and Molder marking the feat on the end by donning snorkels

Photograph by: Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

Rally mechanics are regarded among the many finest in world motorsport and this was proved with the last word restore job after M-Sport’s Ott Tanak crashed right into a lake at Rally Mexico in 2015.

The Estonian misplaced management navigating his Ford Fiesta, leading to his automotive plunging into an adjoining lake. Tanak and co-driver Raigo Molder fled the automobile and swam to security as they watched their automotive sink.

 

Utilizing educated divers, extremely M-Sport was in a position to fish the automotive out of the lake. It was drained, fully refitted and rejoined the rally after a mammoth rebuild. Tanak and Molder reached the rally end, leaping out of their automotive carrying snorkels to make mild of the expertise.

6. Loeb rolls again the years in Monte Carlo

After a thrilling battle with Ogier, Loeb rolled back the years to win the first event of the WRC's new hybrid era at the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally

After an exciting battle with Ogier, Loeb rolled again the years to win the primary occasion of the WRC’s new hybrid period on the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally

Photograph by: Pink Bull Content material Pool

Sebastien Loeb added one more file to his glittering WRC profession in 2022 by changing into the oldest rally winner following an epic duel with Sebastien Ogier.

The championship’s most profitable drivers went head-to-head at their favorite occasion in Monte Carlo. Loeb conceded the result in countryman Ogier, who appeared on the right track to win earlier than a puncture struck the Toyota driver on the penultimate stage.

 

Loeb, then 47, held his nerve to say his eightieth profession win on his debut for M-Sport. His co-driver Isabelle Galmiche, a 50-year-old college instructor making her WRC debut, was the primary lady to face on the highest step of a WRC podium since Fabrizia Pons in 1997.

5. Sainz’s heartbreak fingers Makinen title

Sainz's co-driver Moya sits dejected inside the Corrolla after it failed within sight of the finish, costing them the 1998 world title

Sainz’s co-driver Moya sits dejected contained in the Corrolla after it failed nearby of the end, costing them the 1998 world title

Photograph by: Sutton Pictures

It’s not usually you win a world championship whereas sitting in a lodge room, however this was the case for Tommi Makinen as Carlos Sainz suffered final-stage heartbreak in 1998.

The title struggle got here right down to the wire on the Rally GB finale as Mitsubishi’s Makinen held a two-point benefit over Toyota’s Sainz, each drivers eyeing a 3rd world title. The championship swung closely in Sainz’s favour when Makinen retired on stage seven. The Finn was caught out by oil left by a historic automotive, leading to his Lancer dropping the right-rear wheel after swiping a concrete block within the Millbrook Proving Floor.

“It was one of many worst moments for me,” stated Makinen on the time. “We had been in no hurry to clinch the title, there was no hurry in any respect. I simply must drive and end the rally.”

Sainz was in a position to cruise understanding a end in fourth or greater would safe him the spoils. With the championship seemingly in sight, glory was snatched away from the Spaniard as his Corolla’s engine expired 300 metres from the tip of the ultimate stage in Margam Park. Sainz was shell-shocked, whereas co-driver Luis Moya took out his frustration by throwing his helmet by way of the rear windscreen, earlier than kicking the stricken Toyota. The title was Makinen’s in essentially the most dramatic of circumstances.

 

Planning to move residence, Makinen was conducting a ultimate interview within the reception at his lodge when he obtained a cellphone name from his brother, with the information of Sainz’s retirement: “My brother phoned from the tip of the stage and he stated, ‘Are you able to consider Carlos’ automotive has caught fireplace and he’s simply 300 metres for the tip?’ I stated, ‘Don’t be joking me’. I couldn’t consider it.”

Reflecting on the second years later, Sainz stated: “On the time it was a really laborious scenario however I feel I discovered many, many issues. It was not my mistake however it was one thing that got here. What are you able to say? It made me stronger.

“It was actually unlucky and I feel we must always have received perhaps two or three extra championships with extra luck however, on the finish of the day, I’m proud of what we achieved.”

4. Tanak ends the period of the Sebastiens

Tanak delivered Toyota its first world title since 1994 in 2019, becoming the first driver other than Loeb or Ogier to claim the crown since 2003

Tanak delivered Toyota its first world title since 1994 in 2019, changing into the primary driver aside from Loeb or Ogier to say the crown since 2003

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

For a 15-year interval, the WRC was dominated by French drivers Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier, till Ott Tanak broke the stranglehold in 2019.

Citroen’s Loeb rattled off 9 consecutive titles from 2004-12, earlier than Ogier received six on the bounce for Volkswagen and M-Sport-Ford, forward of a transfer to Citroen for 2019.

Ogier turned Citroen’s troublesome C3 into a daily rally winner however he was unable to match Tanak and his Toyota Yaris. Tanak didn’t have all of it his personal manner as niggling technical points emerged early within the marketing campaign. However he and Martin Jarveoja had been quickly the pair to beat, successful 5 of the final eight rallies.

The title was sealed with a second-place end on Spain’s asphalt phases, which in the end proved to be the yr’s ultimate spherical after bushfires compelled the cancellation of the season finale in Australia. Tanak took the crown by 36 factors from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, with Ogier third within the standings.

Tanak then left Toyota for Hyundai in 2020 earlier than this yr shifting again to M-Sport, the place he began his WRC profession.

3. Mouton makes WRC historical past in Sanremo

Mouton became the first and to date only female to win outright in 1981

Mouton turned the primary and up to now solely feminine to win outright in 1981

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Michele Mouton realised her potential to see off the likes of Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola and Henri Toivonen to say the primary of 4 WRC wins in Sanremo in 1981. In doing so, Audi pairing Mouton and co-driver Fabrizia Pons turned the primary and solely feminine duo to win an occasion total within the championship’s historical past.

 

“The primary victory within the WRC was essential however I feel, for most individuals, from what I learn, it was the primary time a girl was successful,” says Mouton. “For me it didn’t imply that. For me it was essential for my profession and my psychological sport to have the ability to struggle and to have the ability to address the stress to win.

“To regulate all that was an important second.”

2. Rovanpera smashes McRae’s file

Rovanpera received a pair of Colin McRae’s boots from his daughter Hollie to honour his achievement

Rovanpera obtained a pair of Colin McRae’s boots from his daughter Hollie to honour his achievement

Photograph by: Hans De Bauw

Already the youngest WRC podium finisher and rally winner, Kalle Rovanpera swept the opposition apart to say a record-breaking maiden world title in 2022.

The son of one-time WRC rally victor Harri Rovanpera received 5 of the primary seven rallies to open up a commanding lead. He sealed the title in fashion with victory at Rally New Zealand.

The 2022 season was solely Rovanpera’s third full-time high tier WRC marketing campaign after making his debut with Toyota in 2020 – though he began driving vehicles from simply eight years {old}.
Rovanpera’s triumph arrived a day after his twenty second birthday, smashing the earlier youngest world champion benchmark set by Colin McRae when he lifted the title in 1995, aged 27.

 

“I’ve by no means been an enormous fan of data concerning what age I’ve finished one thing,” stated Rovanpera, who ended a 20-year drought for a Finnish world rally champion. “However taking the file from Colin McRae is sort of particular.”

Rovanpera leads the 2023 standings due to wins in Portugal and Estonia, placing the rising star on a par with Richard Burns and Ari Vatanen, who each scored 10 WRC rally wins.

1. McRae defeats Sainz in intense finale to soar to WRC stardom

McRae beat Sainz in an all-Subaru showdown on home soil in 1995 to win his sole world title

McRae beat Sainz in an all-Subaru showdown on residence soil in 1995 to win his sole world title

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Colin McRae’s gutsy drive to win the RAC Rally and develop into Britain’s first world rally champion in 1995 stays considered one of motorsport’s most iconic moments.

Greater than two million spectators got here out to cheer on McRae on the Welsh gravel phases, such was the affect this flamboyant Scot had not solely on a nation however rally followers worldwide. He was merely one of the vital thrilling drivers in world motorsport, taking rallying’s recognition to new heights.

His cost to what would sadly be his solely world title was removed from simple. McRae and Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz headed into the season finale stage on factors after tempers boiled over on the penultimate spherical in Spain. Sainz led McRae by eight seconds into the ultimate day, which prompted then Subaru boss David Richards to concern crew orders to carry place. This wasn’t obtained nicely by McRae, who ignored the decision and went on to win the rally, earlier than intentionally checking in late handy Sainz the victory.

PLUS: Colin McRae’s 10 greatest rallies ranked

It arrange a tension-filled grandstand end in Nice Britain. McRae’s hopes had been initially dented when he misplaced two minutes with a puncture on the second day and drove 16 kilometres with damaged front-right suspension. On high of that, he additionally had a nervous second when his automotive’s hydraulics failed on day three. Sainz had his personal points, however he couldn’t match McRae’s velocity.

Regardless of the knocks, a decided McRae battled on, successful 18 of the 28 phases to say a well-known win, defeating two-time world champion Sainz by 36s.

 



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