For 1970, the CSI decided to increase the number of qualifying events in the European Rally Championship for Drivers to 22. Some of them clash with each other, others clash with Constructors’ Championship qualifiers, and this has made it very difficult for teams to pIan two-pronged programmes. Accordingly, the Constructors’ Championship has been given priority by most people, the series for drivers only being considered when cars and drivers are available.
Among the new events in the Drivers’ Championship this year were the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland Rally, which we have already described, and the Shell-sponsored International Scottish Rally which took place in early June.
The Scottish is often described as a gentle, relaxed tour of the highlands, with a break each evening for socialising, the release of sigh spirits, a night’s sleep or what you will. Certainly the evenings are entertaining, but the competition itself is anything but gentle and relaxed.
The rally always starts at Glasgow on a Sunday morning and continues with just a few short breaks until it reaches Grantown on Spey late on the Monday afternoon. Thereafter it runs only during the daytime for three more days and finishes at Grantown on the Thursday afternoon.
That the Scottish is a popular rally cannot be denied. It invariably attracts a full complement of competitors, nearly all of whom bring their amateur but enthusiastic service crews. Eager spectators also flock to Grantown in large numbers and for the week of the rally there is hardly an unoccupied bed in any hotel or private boarding house for miles. The enthusiasm of the local people is heartwarming, and hotel keepers, whose rooms are full will go to great lengths to find accommodation elsewhere for the many stragglers who arrive without bookings.
It is difficult to describe the atmosphere at Grantown during the week of the rally, for the event completely takes over the town and all else has to take a back seat. It must be the most sincere welcome ever given to an influx of high-spirited rallying people by the residents of a British host town.
Internationally, the 1970 Scottish rally was not very representative, for the only entries from outside Britain were one car from the Lancia factory and a handful of private owners from Sweden and Eire. But the event is so popular among British drivers that the demand for places exceeded by far the number available. Eventually, 143 cars started.
British Leyland made one of its rare rallying appearances these days, and sent no less than three cars—all of different types, which must have burdened the spare-carrying service cars somewhat. It was noticeable that each of them towed a trailer. It had been intended that Andrew Cowan and Brian Coyle should drive a Triumph 2.5 PI, but neither had recovered sufficiently from injuries received on the World Cup Rally so their places were taken by Brian Culcheth and Johnstone Syer, the crew who took second place at Mexico. A Maxi was driven by Rosemary Smith and Alice Watson, and a Mini Clubman by Paddy Hopkirk and Tony Nash.
The lone Lancia Fulvia 1600 was driven by Harry Kallstrom and Gunnar Haggbom, winners of last year’s RAC Rally. A second Lancia intended for Simo Lampinen did not arrive, for the Finn had not recovered from an operation for appendicitis. Ford, too, relied in a single entry; a 1,791 c.c. 16-valve Escort driven by Roger Clark and Jim Porter.
Clark was enduring a very painful right foot, the result of a World Cup Rally injury, which led to Porter having to do most of the driving between special stages. When the drive cable of their Halda distance recorder broke, Porter had to both drive and navigate from maps. Among the several interesting cars taking part in the event was a factory-prepared Alpine-Renault 1600. This was entered privately by two Midlanders, Nigel Hollier and Philip Short, Hollier having bought the car directly from the factory under favourable terms. It was the first competitive appearance of such a car in this country, and it showed such potential that the factory will be formidable opponents during the RAC Rally, that is if the French drivers can get used to unpractised special stages without pace notes.
In the early part of the rally, Clark and Kallstrom were the two drivers who really shone, the Swede dropping back when a brake bleeder nipple unscrewed itself on a stage. Culcheth drove his Triumph with considerable skill, and Hopkirk showed that he hadn’t forgotten how to drive Minis fast on loose-surfaced forest tracks.
Clark’s car was probably the fastest rally machine built in Boreham and he stayed in the lead until the middle stages when there was a drop in oil pressure and seizure set in. Earlier, the valve-gear went wrong and the versatile mechanics set about regrinding the cam profiles by hand at the roadside, a job usually only undertaken with accurate toolroom equipment. It is to their credit that they did the job in the time available and the engine ran perfectly afterwards.
The retirement of Clark meant that Kallstrom took the lead, but it was about this time that the row started which caused a protest at the end and an eventual appeal to the RAC Competitions Committee.
It is often the case on special stage rallies that competing cars have to wait in a queue whilst those in front are dispatched at one-minute intervals. Such delays are no fault of competitors and most organisers will arrange for the allocation of delay allowances so that no unfair penalties will be applied. The Royal Scottish Automobile Club made such arrangements, but there was confusion over the interpretation of the regulation which determined what should, and should not, be done at the starts of special stages.
One school of thought considered a stage start to be a normal time control, others did not. It was this difference of opinion which sparked off the controversy when an official bulletin suddenly appeared, announcing that Kallstrom had been penalised one hour for being excessively late at the starts of two special stages. At the time of those stages there had been no mention of such penalties and it was indeed unfortunate that the organisers saw fit to apply them retrospectively. Many other competitors were similarly affected.
When the rally was over, Kallstrom found himself in twentieth place, Culcheth being declared the winner in the works Triumph. Understandably, there was a protest from Lancia, but the stewards decided to confirm the decision of the organisers, although it took an all-night sitting to arrive at that conclusion.
But it didn’t end there. Notice of appeal was lodged, and on July 13th the matter was brought before a tribunal convened by the RAC Competitions Committee. They, too, upheld the decision. It should be said, however, that at the time of writing Lancia still has a few days in which to carry the appeal even further.
Such complex arguments have no place at the end of a superb rally such as the Scottish. They do nothing to enhance the image of rallying, and give the impression to non-rallying folk that the sport is nothing but a series of hair-raising drives through forests followed by endless wrangles over times and distances.
If only regulations were phrased as briefly and as concisely as possible in the first instance, such protests would never arise. Special stage rallies should be won or lost on special stages and all organisers should legislate clearly with that in mind. It was a great pity that an eminently enjoyable rally was marred at the end by unnecessary paper arguments which caused the prizegiving ceremony to be incomplete.—G. P.