Rally Review -- RAC Historic Rally, April 1991

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RAC Autoglass International Historic Rally

RAC Rally, as a road event, was first held in 1932. It covered 1000 miles at 22 mph, took place in early March, had 341 starters, ended at Torquay with driving tests and was won by Col Loughborough (Lanchester). So it was a sound idea for the RAC, with Autoglass as main sponsor, to emulate it this March, with a similar event for cars of 1931/1965. One comment was that in comparison with the Monte Carlo Challenge for such cars it would seem like a drive in the country. Not quite! Because there were 17 tests included, at venues like Castle Combe, Prescott, Shelsley Walsh, Ragley Hall and the Haynes Museum, between Bath and the finish at Torbay.

A fine variety of entries reminiscent of the old rallies included cars from A40 to GT40, even a two-stroke Saab and a powerful Ford Falcon Futura Sport. Famous names, too. Roger Clark led the way in a Lotus Cortina, Aaltonen drove a Mini Cooper S, Timo Mäkinen another,Tony Dron an MGB, Rosemary Smith a Hillman Imp. As in the good old days! Mike McCarthy used an Austin A90 Westminster, Hudson-Evans an early Austin-Healey 3000, a popular choice of others in later versions, and one noted three Volvo Amazons. As if representing that very first RAC Rally, Freddie Giles, with Mark Joseland as navigator, drove his 1932 TT Replica Meadows Frazer Nash.

The organisation was generally crisp, the route interesting. Many cars sported multiple lamps, Greenwell’s 1962 Ford Zephyr a roof spot-lamp, Worswick’s Healey 3000 a faired-in reversing-lamp. Roll-bars were prominent, and the Big Healey crews favoured hardtops. Other cars reminded one that such historic rallying should be relatively inexpensive; Gabriel Konig ran a neat Austin A40, as did Martyn Goddard, Arthur Senior a game 1.5 Riley, Peter Binns his 1965 Ford Cortina, etc.

Spectating at Prescott on the first, and longest day, in sunny weather after a morning of torrential rain, we saw Rosemary’s Imp arrive late and require a push-start, noted that McErlain’s low-hung, yellow 1965 GT40 had a taped-up rear-end and that Sutcliffe’s TR3A managed mild wheel spin on the uphill start of the long special-test. Hopwood’s TR2 had an arrow pointing to its towing-eye, a legacy, perhaps, of MCC trials. The hard-luck story here involved Giles’s Frazer Nash, which had had a puncture on the Motorway, time being lost when the spare wheel wouldn’t go on easily, so that he arrived eight minutes outside the late-penalty time and was told he was out of the Rally, in which he was rumoured to be in the first ten. Freddie was disappointed, and very cross! Later he was told he could continue, at the end of the field, but he then had trouble and stopped on the 1-in-4 downhill Devil’s Staircase road in Wales, a testing section which apparently troubled early brakes less than we had expected. At the well laid-out finishing Control and Parc Fermé in the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth Wells, many cars were running late and the checking-in time was slightly extended (don’t tell Giles!), at the close of a long day’s driving. However, there was little apparent trouble. Griffiths’s Mini Cooper had suspected alternator trouble and, shall we say, limited lighting, Larsson’s Porsche 911 had its wipers roped on. At Prescott Everard had retarded the ignition of his Austin-Healey 3000 to obviate pinking, and Goddard was calling for a fresh battery for his 1961 A40.

At the break at Newton Lars-Ingvar Ytterbring’s Cooper S had led from Mäkinen’s Mini Cooper, with Dron’s MGB third, followed by Aaltonen’s Cooper S and the E-type Jaguar of Colin Anderson. In the less-strenuous National class Tony Fall’s Datsun 240Z led from “Bieka’s“ Triumph Spitfire and Debbie Edward’s Jaguar E-type.

Alas, the oldest car, Giles’s Frazer Nash, had had to be towed home with dead ignition. Most of the cars seemed still in fine form however, although Pepy Andersson’s VW1500S needed a push-start and the big Austin A90 was indulging in some impromptu trials motoring on the grass before taking the test. Dron had been first to arrive. — WB

***

Results (top four):

1st. Timo Mäkinen/Paul Easter (Morris Cooper S); 2nd. Tony Dron/Mike Beales (MGB); 3rd. Lars-Ingvar Ytterbring/Lars-Erik Olsson (BMC Cooper S); 4th. Jerry Larsson/Lars Lundblad (Porsche 911).

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