The R.A.C. International Rally held from March 8th-12th, finishing at hospitable Hastings, was toughened by bad weather and came in for a good deal of criticism, because baulking in narrow lanes was frequent, sections were cut out after some competitors had tackled them, and the event ran hours behind schedule in places, causing many competitors to retire disconsolate; the Longrines Printogines time-clocks were apparently by no means foolproof, being affected by the cold, according to reports.
Yet, with only two non-starters out of 240 entries, a 2,000-mile route to be covered with only one 12-hour rest period, and driving tests at Blackpool, Hastings, Cadwell Park (under appalling conditions), Silverstone, Prescott Hill, Chilton Park and Goodwood, etc., only experts in efficient cars could hope to do well in this difficult Rally, less satisfactory than the 1954 R.A.C. Rally, but one well worth winning.
A convincing victory by a big margin was won by a works twin-carburetter Standard Ten driven by B.P. Supermen J.H. Ray and B. Horrocks, its astonishing 948-c.c. engine lubricated with Castro! (as were five class winners out of nine.
Second place was won by another Standard product, a Triumph TR2 driven by H.E. Rumsey and P.P. Roberts. Third place was gained by another works Standard Ten in the hands of B.P. Supermen W.K. Richardson and J.C. Heathcote. Standard Tens won the coveted Team Award, the 1955 R.A.C. Rally results emphasising, with complete clarity, that the modified Standard Ten is Britain’s outstanding small car and the Triumph TR2 our leading moderately priced sports car.
Sheila Van Datum, navigated by Anne Hall, followed up her Monte Carlo Rally victory by taking the Ladies’ Award in her Sunbeam— splendid !
The main plan of the R.A.C. Rally, an International competition counting towards the Touring Championship, was a series of driving tests of varying character on private roads, these comprising a full climb of Prescott and a full lap, with hazards. of Goodwood circuit and speed events at Oulton Park and Cadwell Park, and a standing start 1 mile at Silverstone.
In addition, some difficult sections off the beaten track were included and the prolonged winter caused some of these to become so difficult that they had to be abandoned. The event became a very close approximation of the versatility trial Motor Sport has advocated from time to time and the Standard Motor Company of Coventry is to be congratulated on the success of its products. They won leading places which must be the envy of the other three members of the industrial British Big Five who entered cars.
No really serious accidents were reported, but the number of battered cars constituted a record. Sydney Allard had the most pranged car of all, his works-modified Ford Zephyr being a near write-off, yet he and Leslie Allard got it to the finish, second in its class behind another modified Ford Zephyr, the regulations luckily imposing no penalty for bodywork damage.
A magnificent performance in this severe winter rally was that of R.J. Adams and D.A. Wilkins in getting a 3-litre Alvis saloon home in fourth place, a foretaste of which we saw in the excellent manner in which it was driven up Prescott.
Pat Moss made her debut in a big competition, with a TF M.G. Midget, and beat all the male M.G. drivers in the Hastings test— we hope soon to see her in racing events. Incidentally, although she owns a Triumph TR2 she used an M.G. for this event and the Standard Motor Company thereby deflected much limelight.
Troubles with the cars, as distinct from those caused by ice, snow and route-finding, seem to have been rare, although a Jaguar suffered from water-pump failure and an M.G. Magnette had gearbox-selector trouble.
A.G. Imhof made a bold bid for victory in true Rally tradition. driving his stark, powerful Cadillac-Allard with Ian Mackenzie. until a snowdrift came between him and victory, leaving him only the Hastings Starting Control Award; that for Blackpool starters went to the Rally-winning Standard Ten.
The best times in the tests were : Start : Imhof (Allard) and Cooper (Triumph TR2), 19.5 sec.; Oulton Park : Imhof (Allard), 92.0 sec.; Cadwell Park : Hewitt (Jaguar), 56.2 sec.; Monte-Blackpool : Hughes (Ford), 31.5 sec. ; Brock Mill : Imhof (Allard) 14.8 sec.; Hard Knott : Cooper (Triumph TR2), 32,8 see.; Ulpha Cooper (Triumph TR2), 13.6 sec.; Silverstone : Imhof (Allard), 23.9 sec.; Prescott : Rudd (A.C. Ace), 54.9 sec.; Goodwood : Imhof (Allard), 125.6 sec.; Hastings : Cooper (Triumph), 26.6 sec.
Prescott was rendered tricky on account of a loose patch just before the Esses. Ian Apple-yard, M.G. and not Jaguar-mounted (!), held an unexpected slide skilfully, as did Ginn (Triumph), and Jones (Morris Minor) in a bad slide, but Boulton (Healey) had nasty moments, likewise Hurlock (A.C. Ace), while Hughes (Ford Anglia) suffered three distinct slides going into the Esses and then smote the inside barrier at these corners. Moore (Morgan Plus Four) drove like a demon-driver, nearly turning round at the first corner. Birkett (M.G. Magnette) was rapid but crunched the cogs, Sir Chas. Kimber’s Sunbeam-Talbot got so out of control that it nearly stopped, and Pearson (Mercedes-Benz) merely crawled, although the tyres still howled.
At Goodwood, in a biting wind, it was impressive to see J. Sprinzel’s Austin A30 still in correct station as No. 1 in the Rally, the Press cameramen taking shots of the charming, trousered girl navigator as this crew waited for the control to open. There were few fireworks in this test, except for the demolition of several police notices, used as pylons in the reversing test, by J.A. Rail’s Triumph TR2, when he changed his mind, and direction, at the last moment.
British cars put up excellent performances, winning every class. Best all-foreign crew was Prince von Preussen/W. Bushmann in a 1,290-c.c. Porsche. The European Touring Champion, Schluter (D.K.W.), retired after being hopelessly delayed by baulking, and Gatsonides crashed the works DB2/4 Aston Martin.