Rally Review, August 1969
International Scottish Rally
THE Scottish Rally, one of the four Home Internationals to be held this year (the Gulf London Rally having been cancelled), was both interesting and disappointing. In the first place it saw the third appearance of the 1,852-c.c. Ford Escort Twin Cam specially built at Boreham for group six rallying. Its previous events were the Circuit of Ireland and the Welsh Rally, both of which it won, respectively driven by Roger Clark/Jim Porter and Ove Andersson/Gunnar Palm.
In an effort to win the hypothetical Triple Crown of Rallying, Clark and Porter took it up to Scotland at Whitsuntide, just a week after the Acropolis. But it retired quite early in the event with damaged front suspension and Clark’s attempt at his fifth outright win in Scotland failed.
The disappointment came when Routes announced their departure from rallying, albeit only temporarily as the announcement said, and there was no works team of those startling little Imps which have acquitted themselves well in British events over the past two years and have even worried the bigger works Escorts and Saabs on Internationals.
However, Andrew Cowan and Brian Coyle managed to borrow a car from the factory and entered the rally knowing that they were without the organised service usually provided by the factory for its team cars. On rough special stages, such as those in Scotland, service is vital if drivers are to give of their utmost and pound their cars hard over rocks and ruts. Cowan lost considerable time by carrying out various repairs himself, but he nevertheless managed to finish second, indicating that his versatility is of a high degree.
British Leyland had come out of their shell to send a Triumph 2.5 PI to Scotland, in the hands of Brian Culcheth and Johnstone Syer. Both car and crew performed well and were among the leaders until two stages had to be missed near the end of the rally after its differential had broken. With a little more “sorting”, this car could be just what B.L.M.C. has been seeking as a successor to the Mini-Cooper S.
With Clark out and both Cowan and Culcheth having troubles, Simo Lampinen and Arne Hertz in a works Saab were comfortable winners, although Cowan regained much of his lost time and would have rechallenged for the lead had the rally gone on for much longer.
Behind the two leaders were the strings of well-driven, privately entered cars which have been a feature of all the Home Internationals this year. Though I do not wish to decry their performances, I feel sure that their entrants will agree when I say that this has been brought about by the drop in factory participation. One such private entrant who deserves special mention is Chris Sclater who works for the Allard Motor Company. Although his experience is limited, he has shown considerable natural talent this year and was right up at the head of the field in Scotland at one time. He finally left the road and retired. Others to retire included Tony Fall (Lancia Fulvia) with a broken drive shaft and Roy Fidler, who had led for a while in his Cortina, when his car was dramatically gutted by a mysterious fire which started in the boot.
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With Rootes pulling out of rallying for a while, B.L.M.C. blowing a little hotter than they were last year, Porsche suffering an internal upheaval after Le Mans, and the World Cup Rally being thrown into the arena to upset what balance there was left, it was only to be expected that a certain amount of team reshuffling would take place in the quiet period around June and July.
Perhaps the most significant man without a contracted drive was Andrew Cowan, a very desirable property indeed after his drive to Sydney, particularly for a team considering putting entries in the World Cup Rally to Mexico next year. Cowan had several offers, but it was the one from British Leyland he accepted. He is now scheduled to drive for them in both the R.A.C. Rally this year and the World Cup Rally. Furthermore, he will doubtless appear in other events for B.L.M.C. during the next twelve months.
British Leyland have, in fact, three events firmly inscribed upon their calendar, the third being the Tour de France which is being revived in September in its familiar style—a week-long tour of racing circuits, hill-climbs and alpine cols, many of them well-known as special stages in both Monte Carlo Rally and Coupe des Alpes.
Whilst their cars for both R.A.C. and World Cup Rallies will be powered by 2.5-litre fuel-injected engines (drivers being Cowan, Hopkirk and Culcheth), the Mini is being brought back from retirement for the French event. Three of them will be entered (for Hopkirk/Nash, Handley/Easter and Culcheth/Syer), one with fuel injection.
At Ford, Stuart Turner has obviously adopted the policy of keeping his team drivers occupied during the periods between rallies. Hannu Mikkola, their Finnish driver, has been taking an Escort around British sprints, hill-climbs, club races and autocrosses, whilst co-driver Jim Porter will be driving in a number of British National rallies with Mike Wood as navigator.
The Tour de France is being left to Ford of Cologne, but four cars will be sent from Boreham to the Alpine Rally in September, Escorts for Mikkola/Wood, Clark/Porter, Piot/Todt and Andersson/Davenport. Andersson’s former co-driver has been brought back to the team for this one event because his regular partner, Gunnar Palm, will be elsewhere at the time. Very likely, he will be in South America participating in the Peruvian Grand Prix—a rally, despite its name. The inference is obvious; much of the route of the Peru G.P. takes in terrain which will be used on the World Cup Rally, and the opportunities for practice could have been too much for Ford to miss. Palm’s partner in Peru will be Tony Fall, a former B.M.C. man (and latterly Lancia) who could well be sharing one of the factory cars on its journey to Mexico with footballer Jimmy Greaves.
A wave of scorn swept through the rally world when it was learned that Greaves would be crewing one of the factory-entered cars in the World Cup Rally. That it was a choice piece of publicity catching cannot be denied, for it was a sure means of getting space in football columns as well as in those describing the motoring event. Unfortunately, certain national newspapers indulged in overplaying the subject, and there was talk in print of Greaves joining the works rally team on a permanent basis for a fat contract fee. Wags, suggesting a reciprocal transfer, commented that perhaps Roger Clark would be signed up for Tottenham Hotspur!
When it gets caught up in large-scale publicity seeking, any sport will suffer the machinations of glory seekers bent on raising the sales graphs. It is a pity that rallying has been so netted by newspapers eager to beat each other with a bigger and better event than the one which went before. But it is too early to judge. Perhaps some good will come of these monster show rallies after all; and who knows, perhaps Greaves will turn out to be an asset in his own right?
Aaltonen, the Finn who joined Lancia when B.M.C. gave up last year, will have driven a 6.3-litre Mercedes-Benz 300SEL V8 in the Spa 24-hour saloon car race at the end of last month, and it remains to be seen whether this will form the basis of a new association. Mäkinen, the other Finn who drove for B.M.C., has driven B.M.W.s since he left Abingdon, and even drove a Ford Escort on the R.A.C. Rally last year. But he has been concentrating more on powerboat racing of late, and expects to be taking part in the Daily Telegraph and B.P.-sponsored round Britain event which is in full swing as this Motor Sport is published.
At Zuffenhausen, the Porsche team is engaged in a reshuffle, and obviously the Le Mans post-mortem is having its effect. The three cars which were entered for Finland’s Rally of the Thousand Lakes in August (Waldegard, Larrousse and Toivonen) have been withdrawn. Lancia, too, is being fairly quiet, waiting to return in strength with their 1,600-c.c. cars, although Harry Källström and Gunnar Häggbom have been competing regularly in events qualifying for the drivers’ section of the European Rally Championship. Munari has been engaged, meanwhile, with the Italian National Championship, which he is at present leading.
Rally drivers are not generally foot-loose; they tend to keep their affiliations to their team for as long as they can. But when circumstances such as Rootes’ amazing and untimely pull-out coincide with announcements of money-spinners like the World Cup Rally, it is natural that a shuffle follows the appearance of top grade drivers on the “open market”. What motivated the Chrysler organisation to call a halt at Coventry and give encouragement to Simca, another of their subsidiaries, is quite beyond us.—G. P.