Rally Review, April 1966

Italian Rally of the Flowers

It seems to he the sad task of Rally Review to devote an in amount of space to rally scrutineering rather than to rallying itself. That a controversy concerning the scrutineering should have cropped up on the Rally of the Flowers is most unfortunate and was certainly not desired by any of the parties involved.

The organisers—the Automobile Club of San Remo—were quite adamant before the start, at the time when entries were still being finalised and it seemed likely that British teams would be entering, that they did not want a repeat performance of the Monte fiasco. However, they made it quite clear that scrutineering would be no less strict, especially for cars entered in Group 1 of Appendix J, and in the regulations it stated that the first three cars in the general classification would be stripped at the end of the rally. To demonstrate their good faith, they went to some length before the rally started to clarify the situation concerning the use of iodine lights on Italian roads, and, after a little persuasion, they clarified the regulation concerning sump guards and under-shielding in order to allow any amount of careening under the bodywork.

Three cars were affected by scrutineering once the rally had started : the Group 1 Mini-,Cooper S of Tony Fall/Henry Liddon; the Group II Lotus Cortina of Vic Elford/John Davenport: and the Group 1 Lancia Flavia of Rene Trautmann/Claudine Bouchet. The French-entered Renaults did have a small problem before the rally even commenced as they had large aluminium splash-guards mounted proud of their front bumpers which the scrutineers insisted they remove, on the grounds that with them fitted the overall length of the car did not agree with that stated on the form of recognition. After the rally started and all the crews had completed the easy run-in from the several starting points to the start of the common route at San Remo, there was a cursory examination of the cars (not really a proper scrutineering), at which it was discovered that the paper filter element was missing from the air cleaner of Tony Fall’s Cooper S. The element was actually in the car, having been removed during carburetter adjustment. Yet despite offers to replace it, he was excluded. A case, one would have thought, in which to show clemency and generally improve international relationships, but technically they were right.

After the rally, with Vic Elford’s Lotus Cortina home in first place with a comfortable lead over its nearest rivals, the Lancia Fulvia of Leo Cella and the Porsche 911 of Gunther Klass, these three cars were taken away for stripping, and everyone sat back for confirmation of the result. The next announcement was to the effect that the scrutineers had found two points where the Lotus Cortina did not match up to its form of recognition and that, pending any appeal to the Sporting Stewards, it was disquilified. The first point concerned the weight of the connecting rod, of which the example in the engine seemed to be very much heavier than the weight quoted on the form, until it was pointed out by Elford that they had weighed the rod complete with bearing shells and nuts and bolts. It is interesting to note as a sideline that the form of recognitam does not state whether the connecting rod should be weighed bare or complete with accessories—a point that the F.I.A. should have realised could lead to differences of interpretation.

The second point raised against the Lotus Cortina was the fact that one of the gear wheels in the second gear train had only 27 teeth and not 28 as stated on the form. This was much more difficult to answer as at first it was not clear whether the gearbox or the form was incorrect, but at last tired minds grasped the fact that the gearbox was in order, the ratios listed for the gearbox on the form were correct, and the only fault was in the number of teeth. If the teeth numbers were multiplied out using 25, they did not give the ratio that was alongside them, which could only be obtained by using the number 27. Confirmation of this simple typing error came when an old Cortina GT form was discovered which had the same gearbox listed with the same ratios, and the number 27 appearing in the second gear train. This explanation restored the smiles to the faces of both organisers and the Equipe Ford, but in order to be scrupulously fair they decided (that is the Stewards decided) to refer the matter to the F.I.A.. who authorised the mistake in the first place. The third crew to suffer exclusion were Rene Trautmann and Claudine Bouchet, to whose Lancia Flavia the factory mechanics had inadvertently fitted an exhaust manifold from a fuel-injection Flavia while their car had the normal carburetter engine. This other manifold is smaller in diameter than the one that should have been fitted to the carburetter engine, and was a mistake on the engineering side for which there was no explanation. For Trautmann, the exclusion was a bitter blow as the Rally of the Flowers counts towards the French Championship, and he lost valuable points for this as well as the points for winning the Group 1 category for the European Championship.

All this trouble rather tended to conceal the fact that the San Remo Club had run an excellent rally which had not only possessed a tough demanding route but had been exceptionally well organised. One point which other organisers of European Championship events might file away for consideration was the truly remarkable way in which the timing system operated to produce times which were never more than a second out. At time controls, a Longines printing clock was used and access to this was restricted to the co-drivers (except at places where the crowd control got out of hand!), for the cars had to wait beyond a 10-yard line which kept the control zone clear of cars, and each car moved up only when its card was submitted for stamping. This prevented the usual rugby scrum of hot machinery anxious to “cool it” on the next section which is such a drawback on some rallies. The only thing that was lacking in the Italian organisation was someone to adiust the clocks so that they printed in the right space, but this was not terribly important as two separate records were kept of the time of passage and the results were calculated from one of these. When it came to the special stages, these were timed with a flying start and a flying finish by hand-held Longines clocks, and no-one had the slightest complaint about their accuracy.

The thing which astonished most of the people for whom this was their first Rally of the Flowers was the fact that all the special stages, as well as some road sections, were over roads similar to the classic Gavia and Vivione passes in the Dolomites. Some of these were as rough as any of the roughest sections to be found on the East African Safari and, in fact, one stretch of road which was 400 yards dead straight was considerably rougher. The most controversial thing about the rally is its handicapping system, which is not only applied to special stage times but also to road penalties. This definitely favours a small-engioed car with a relatively heavy body, and it was the opinion of most people that had Erik Carlsson competed with a Saab he would surely have repeated his victory of 1964. All the more credit then to Vic Elford in bringing home a powerful, light car in first place.

Not so much a review, more a grope into the future; this final paragraph was prompted by the passage of idle thoughts through the author’s brain before the typewriter could be put away. As you read this, the F.I.A. may have given the final answer to the Monte appeal and also that lodged on the Flowers. The results of these appeals will be very important for the future of rallying, as well as those branches of motor racing which are run under, Groups I and II of Appendix J, for if the F.I.A. indicate that they are not prepared to admit of any fault in their regulations and positively incite scrutineers and stewards to disqualify cars where different interpretations can be placed on the rules, then manufacturers in general, and British manufacturers in particular, are going to wonder whether their money might not be better spent on pictures of beautiful girls posing beside their products.

It might be argued that if the manufacturers did not “cheat” in the preparation of their cars, then they would never be disqualified, but in that case the person arguing along those lines could not have read the new Appendix J, or the new form of recognition that goes along with it. The bodywork clause, which covers both Group I and Group II, is quite clearly ambiguous—if you can accept that ideological juxtaposition—and a manufacturer who prepares his car to his interpretation of that regulation could easily be disqualified by a scrutineer who places a different construction on the same words. This conflict could be seen in Sweden, where arguments were made pointless by the scrutineers saying that they had read the French text and that this was their interpretation. . . . So far, no serious damage has been done either to the Sport or to International relations, and I for one hope that the F.I.A.— who have to be all things to all people, dealing as they are with something which is both a sport and big business—will try to restrain the more esoteric demands of scrutineers while at the same time reading their own regulations to see if some points could not be made clearer. Certainly the free and easy days are gone when cars had only to resemble the original product, but we should not lose all of the spirit that went with them. J.D.F.D.