Italian Flowers Rally
Finding suitable routes for rallies of International status in Western European countries is pretty well a major headache as far as most organisers are concerned, for without the use of the much over-used Alpes Maritimes and so far the leniency of the French, many times would the event be transformed into another 84 hours at the Nurburgring as the famed “Liege” has been. As it is, several have taken to the forests off the public highway, and the trend in future must be towards Eastern European countries where the roads are far less crowded than here.
A tribute therefore should be paid to the A.C. di San Remo for even managing to hold an event worthy of inclusion in the E.R.C., because their particular choice of venue is more limited than most. Incidentally, this seaside resort motor club bears the individuality of being the only non-national club to hold its country’s major rally.
All they have is the hinterland of the Italian Flower Riviera where there is a small range of jagged mountains, at no time much higher than 4,000 ft., the slopes of which are multi-covered in layer upon layer of terraced vineyards where the peasant farmers seek to eke out their existence. A far cry indeed from the rich valley of the River Po lying just the other side of the range.
Wriggling their snake-like tortuous paths up these near vertical slopes are the roads, some of them engineered into reasonable passes, others mere tarmac ledges, while a few are not much more than widened goat tracks, and just as rough ! It is the latter which form the “meat” of the Flowers Rally.
To fit a 31-hour-long 1,500 km. event into this small area the organisers had to use the best pieces of road at least twice and sometimes even three times, the net result of which resembled a mild “Gorgon’s knot” when viewed in plan form. All the twelve special stages, totalling just over 130 km., were rough, very rough, but only two of the road sections were extra tight, which made the event into something of a circuit of sprints. Mind you, it was inadvisable to overdo the sprinting bit for an “off” usually meant a fair drop if taken on the open-air side, as indeed several of the local boy racers exhibited.
Up to three days before the event most of the route was blocked by a freak snowfall, and it seemed that for the third rally running the drivers’ main headache was going to be tyres. Eventually, though, most of the works cars ran with lightly or half-studded tyres all round as the hot Mediterranean sun did its good melting work and the worst condition to be found anywhere was packed slush. One surprise was when the running order was reversed after a protest from the Group 2 and 3 cars that they would be unable to pass slower Group 1 people on the narrow passes, especially between any high snowbanks. However, the real shock of the rally came when Pat Moss-Carlsson and Liz Nystrom were refused permission to start their V4 Saab because the homologation papers had been left behind in Trollhatten. Eric Carlsson promised that the form would be flown in before the rally finished, but the organisers stuck rigidly to the rules, as indeed they are well noted for doing if anyone remembers last year’s minor scrutineering ” fracas.”
The major battle of the event centred round the 1293 Cooper S of Paddy Hopkirk and Ron Crellin, and the eventual winners Jean Francois Piot and Nicholas Roure in the 1,296-c.c. Renault Gordini. Confusingly the type number of the 1300 S, as it is known in France, is 1135, and sometimes it still gets referred to as an 1,150-c.c. Gordini. Hopkirk, the only one completely clean on the road section, took the lead very marginally from the young Frenchman halfway through, but dropped to a final second place when the fan belt broke on the last test, and the B.M.C. Cooper S also suffered drive coupling failure. Piot’s team-mates did not fare nearly so well for “Ia bombe Suedoise” Berndt Jansson went out with broken gear linkage and Vinatier gradually gained more and more “toe out” on the front wheels as the suspension subsided, this being a fairly frequent occurrence on the Gordinis. The latter two faults are both ones which will need rectifying for rough-road rallying on these otherwise extremely rapid and pretty machines.
Despite Lancias having six crews entered they never once seriously challenged the two leaders, although Hopkirk’s misfortune nearly allowed the Andersson/Davenport car to slip through into second place. Incidentally this crew also won the “Flowers and Gardens” trophy for being the highest placed crew on both the Monte and this rally.
Leo Cella was delayed by two punctures on stages; Sergio Munari cracked his sump near Genoa on a particularly rough test; Andersson nearly wrote his car off on the back of Leo Bertorelli’s privately entered Lotus Cortina, while Vic Elford did well to come fifth after having deranged the gear selectors in an early excursion, after which navigator David Stone spent most of his rally holding on to the gear-lever to prevent it jumping out.
Tony Fall’s Mini broke its rear sub-frame and he did a third of the event with monumental camber on the rear wheels, but Brian Culcheth had a change of fortune and brought the Dennis Cresdee ex-works 970 S home first in class and 10th overall. The classic drive of the rally was performed by the lone Citroen DS21 of Jean-Claude Ogier who turned up with Lucette Pointet in a borrowed car, then proceeded to calmly hurl the big machine round the precarious tracks to take Group 1 and sixth overall.
The rally was enjoyable but the marking left something to be desired in that a minute lost on the road was worth ten minutes on the stages, slightly out of proportion perhaps; also the complicated and ineffective co-efficient system could well be completely done away with. Changes for next year can only be in the direction of tighter schedules on the stages as police action prevents any tightening of the road sections; one also hopes that the organisers will take a less exacting line in scrutineering for a day spent tooth-combing through the finishers, much to the annoyance and boredom of all concerned, gained nothing at all. One thing I hope they don’t change is the excellent prize money which extends down to fiftieth place!
Results — General Classification (top five):
1st: J.F. Piot/N. Roure (Renault 1135)……………………..830.418 pts.
2nd: P. Hopkirk/R. Crellin (BMC 1275S)…………………..845.631 pts.
3rd: O. Andersson/J. Davenport (Lancia Fulvia HF)…..875.843 pts.
4th: R.A. Fall/M. Wood (BMC 1275S)………………………895.377 pts.
5th: V. Elford/D. Stone (Lancia Fulvia HF)……………. 1,044.223 pts.
Manufacturers’ Team Prize: HF Squadra Corse (Lancia Fulvias) — Andersson/Elford/Cella
Some Rallying Thoughts
News from the Continent indicates that rallying might well be in for a rude shock in France some time this summer. Rumour has it that when the new government gets into its stride the politicians will put pressure on for an overall 70-m.p.h. limit and a total ban on rallies. If this comes true then our prophecies that in the years to come the only countries where road-rallies as we know them can be held will be over the more desolate reaches of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, Hungary and even other countries further East, may indeed come true earlier than foreseen. This comes at a time when foreign teams are becoming more organised and competitive than at any other time during the last two highly successful “years of the Mini.” Renault, flushed with success, are hoping to do twice the number of rallies that they had planned at the beginning of the year. Saabs, with the V4 and later on with a larger capacity and an even more potent unit, will be competing in several of the Iron-Curtain rallies and will again go to the East African Safari in 1968. Lancia are also feeling the rosy glow of success and will be seen on the “classic” rallies but not so much further afield. Porsche, after starting off with a limited budget are also going to do a few more rallies than originally planned since the 911 and the “S” version have turned out to be such good potential rally winners. B.M.C. for their part are cutting out the Iron Curtain events and will not be doing the Spanish rally, although they will be going to the Tour de Corse and have sent their Monte-winning pair Aaltonen/Liddon on the Safari. Ford, after their massive Safari onslaught, will be seen back in full-time action on the Alpine, and perhaps before that on the Acropolis with at least a new Lotus for Bengt Soderstrom; Henry Taylor promised Bengt he could do the Acropolis if he won the R.A.C. Rally! On the other hand Rootes are cutting down even more and after the Circuit of Ireland will only be contesting the Scottish Rally and the R.A.C. However, we may see a surprise return of Rovers to the battlefield with a V8 version of the 2000. Citroen are rather in the same position as Rootes in that they haven’t really got a very competitive car and so will only be doing the Alpine Rally for certain this year. The dealer-network sponsored rally team of G.M. Opel Rekords in Sweden may themselves not stir far from their country, but activity within other G.M. groups, i.e., Vauxhall, may not be so far off! –A. E. A. K.