The Swedish Rally
For many years now, the principal Swedish rally which has counted towards the European Rally Championship has been the Midnight Sun and, as its name suggests, it has been run during the long days of the Swedish summer. However, long summer days are not only pleasant for the rally drivers, and last year there was so much disturbance caused by the local populace taking to their cars and driving out to watch the special sections of the rally that the K.A.K. decided to run their 1965 event during the winter months. This had a two-fold advantage in that not only were crowds kept to a controllable size by the cold climatic conditions—some exceeded 10,000 last year—but it was possible to reduce the amount of practising to zero as many of the roads used for special stages were not ploughed free of snow until a few days before the event.
The Swedish Rally, as it is now called, is very similar to our own R.A.C. Rally of Great Britain, though the R.A.C. themselves would be the first to admit that perhaps the ideas for their rally owe much to the Scandinavians who came to compete in it in the late 1950s. Be that as it may, both rallies comprise a number of high-speed special stages linked by what are called transport sections which only require the driver and his companion to average about thirty miles an hour on fairly major roads and show every consideration to other road users. The attraction of the Swedish this year was that it was being run as a winter event, so that all but two of its special stages were on packed snow roads, while the speed tests on circuits took the form of ice races on three of the frozen lakes which form a large part of the surface area of Sweden. Very few international rallies involve driving for a long distance at high speed over packed ice and snow. The Monte Carlo Rally is the only one that springs to mind and, as a result of this scarcity of big rallies where the lessons learned in small rallies and ice races can be put to the test, the Swedish Rally assumed a little more importance outside Scandinavia this year— the rally world wanted to see how the new and the old drivers measured up against one another. Extra interest stemmed from the fact that while Timo Makinen, Eric Carlsson, Ove Andersson and Pat Moss had completed the Monte Carlo Rally, drivers like Tom Trana, Sylvia Osterberg, Carl-Magnus Skogh, Bo Ljungfeldt and Ake Andersson had not competed or had not finished.
One disappointment was that despite a ray of hope in the regulations that all the special stages would be run on a scratch basis, with cars losing marks depending on how much slower they were than a standard time, the majority of the tests were marked on the principle of fastest in the class sets the standard time for his class. This is roughly the system used on the old Tulip and has the obvious drawback that if there is a class devoid of really fast drivers, then the top driver in that class, provided that he can outshine his colleagues, must do very well on the rally overall. The second and less obvious drawback is that there may be someone who is exceptionally fast in a particular class and by going exceptionally quickly over the first few special stages, he can penalise the other cars in his class quite heavily. If he then retires, the next fastest driver in his class who has been driving quickly but with an eye on finishing doesn’t stand a chance of finishing well up in the rally.
Fortunately the overall result was entirely unambiguous as Tom Trana and Gunnar Thermaenius in their Volvo were both the fastest in their class and the fastest car in the rally to finish. However, the B.M.C. entry for Timo Makinen and Paul Easter in a 1,275-c.c. Cooper S rather upset the rest of the results, for although they retired on the 11th special stage when their fan pulley came off the end of the crankshaft, they had gone so fast up to that point that they were lying a very close second to Trana and were heavily penalising the other cars in their class. As a result, when they retired, Berndt Jansson and Erik Pettersson took the lead in the class with the new Renault R8 Gordini but because they had been slower than Makinen up to special stage 11, they were only able to finish ninth overall, yet their times were fast enough to justify a much higher placing.
It is only fair to the organisers to point out that not all the special stages were marked in this fashion, but the majority were, and it is to be hoped that for next year they will run all the stages on scratch. The only possible objection to that is that if some of the stages are as fast as they were this year—one was about 80 miles long and was covered by Makinen in 1 hr. 8 min.!—it will not be entirely fair on all the different types of car that are entered. There are enough twisty roads in Sweden for this problem to be overcome and it seems extremely likely that the club may abandon the present system of marking for next year.
As far as the cars that were entered were concerned, Volvo must have been very happy for not only did Tom Trana win the rally outright, but their veteran driver who has won the Swedish Rally twice already (driving a Saab!), Carl-Magnus Skogh, finished fourth after having a fairly easy time of it within his class. It is interesting to see that while Trana was driving the “old” Volvo PV 544, which by virtue of being 70 kilograms lighter and having greater suspension travel is more suitable for rallying than the current production model, the Amazon or 122 B18, as it is known over here. Skogh was driving an Amazon, and I gather that with their new engine imminent, Volvo will probably be rallying the Amazon exclusively in future, except in Canada (where the PV is sold as the current model) and possibly in Sweden and Finland where large numbers of them can still continue to give pleasure to hundreds of enthusiasts. Volvo carried off the manufacturers’ team prize but were beaten in the ladies’ class by Pat Moss and Liz Nyström in the Saab Sport, who convincingly defeated Sylvia Osterberg and Siv Sabel.
Saabs also took second place overall with their new “on the roof” driver, Ake Andersson, who finished well ahead in his class of his namesake Ove Andersson, who is also a Saab works driver but is no relation. The other two leading drivers for Saab were Simo Lampinen and Erik Carlsson, who both suffered from indifferent luck. Erik Carlsson slid into a ditch on the first stage, and though he and his new co-driver, Per Ljungberg, eventually got the car back onto the road and set up a whole string of fastest times within the class, their two thousand penalty marks could not be caught back. Lampinen, the young Finnish driver, was accompanied by that most exuberant of Swedes, Picko Troberg„ but even all that exuberance was of no avail when a piece of dirt blocked a carburetter jet during a stage and slowed the car to walking pace.
As far as bad luck and retirements went, B.M.C. were hardest hit as the first night removed all their top drivers—Harry Kallström, Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen and, of course, Timo Makinen—while Lennart Eliasson just could not get the better of the very fast Renault driven by Jansson. One of the bright new Cooper S drivers is Lillebror Nasenius, who went very well in the second half of the rally until he had his manifold break and a couple of slow stages before it could be mended dropped him many places in the results.
A final word for two makes of car that are not usually seen in any quantity on rallies and are generally considered to be something of a curiosity. The first is the tiny DAF, of which three were entered by the Dutch factory for Rob Slotemaker, Claude Laurent and Jean Geban to drive. Despite the charming Belgian, Geban, rolling his, all three of them finished, and though they had been outpaced by the much faster Saabs in their class, all the drivers felt that they had learnt a lot. For Geban this was the first time ever in a DAF for he normally drives a Porsche Carrera, the first time on ice and snow in such quantity, and the first time on unseen special stages.
The other unusual cars which in fact always seem to do well when driven by Swedes on their own rally, were the Opels, the little Kadett and the big Rekord Six. A gentleman by the name of Ova Eriksson who was driving one of the big 6-cylinder-engined cars, and was not even considered well known enough by his countrymen to deserve seeding, finished fifth behind Skogh in the Volvo and impressed everyone with his spectacular driving on the dire, ice-racing circuits. Last year the little Kadetts won their class against competition from the up-to-1,000-c.c, but Hans Lannsio managed to keep his 970-c.c. Cooper S ahead of them this time, though one of the German cars finished second in class and a rather disappointing 17th overall.
The Swedish Rally is one of the best organised events in the International calendar and when it has a fairer system of marking it may attract a much bigger entry from abroad, as there are few enough events where practice at driving on snow and ice against the champion drivers of Europe can be obtained.—J. D. F. D.