Rally Review, August 1974

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The World Rally Championship

The CSI has announced its list of qualifying events for the 1975 World Rally Championship for Makes, again without reference to any drivers’ championship based on the same series. Although many efforts have been made to convince the CSI that a World Rally Drivers’ Championship would have far greater public impact than a series in which the laurels are wrapped around the machine, not the man, all they would agree to was an extra trophy for drivers based on the unchanged World Championship. The recent announcement of the 1975 series makes no mention of anything for drivers, so presumably even that small concession has been forgotten. When will it be that the CSI finally appreciates a few of the basic promotional benefits to be gained by the sport as a whole if only there could be such a live person as a World Rally Champion. It’s a grouse we have aired before and one which we will continue to air until something sensible is done about it.

The list of qualifying events for the 1975 World Rally Championship is as follows: January 17/26: Monte-Carlo Rally (MC); February 13/16: Swedish Rally (S); March 27/31: East African Safari (EAK); April 22/27: TAP Rally (P); May 27/June 2: Acropolis Rally (GR); June 25/29: Morocco Rally (MA); August 1/3: Rally of the 1000 Lakes (SF); October 1/4: Sanremo Rally (I); October 15/19: Rally of the Rideau Lakes (CDN); October 28/November 2: Press-on-Regardless Rally (USA); November 8/9: Tour of Corsica (F); November 21/26: RAC Rally (GB).

On the face of it the list looks a fait accompli, but it isn’t really like that at all. In the first place there is likely to be considerable reorganisation within the administration of the TAP Rally, for the airline from which the event takes its name has now withdrawn the tremendous financial support which it has provided for the past several years. There is very little chance that the event will not be held, for the Portuguese Tourist Board appreciates the benefits of having a major international rally spanning the whole of the country for close on a week and is expected to pledge its support. The airline will not withdraw completely, for its technical and administrative facilities will probably remain at the disposal of the rally organisers.

Despite the problems of this year which caused the cancellation of the Acropolis Rally, this event isn’t likely to be affected next year. The 1974 Morocco Rally took place as usual despite being dropped from the series by the CSI on the flimsy excuse that the organisers had not applied in time. Next year the event is back in the series, where it rightfully belongs, and where it should have been this year.

As far as the Press-on-Regardless Rally is concerned, we understand that its inclusion in the 1975 series will depend largely on the contents of a report on the 1974 event prepared by CSI inspectors. We can’t say that we are enamoured by these inspections, for in the main they are undertaken by people who are organisers of other events seeking inclusion in the Championship. An unfortunate result of inspections in the recent past has been the feeling induced among organisers that Big Brother is watching over them, waving the big stick which threatens to deny championship status if certain requirements are not met. There are other ways in which the CSI inspections do not prove as much as they are thought to prove, but in the absence of an efficient alternative perhaps they represent the only checking method available at present.

Canada’s Rally of the Rideau Lakes will undoubtedly be subjected to the same inspection, whereas New Zealand’s Heatway Rally is already out of the list. It had been put in for this year but was cancelled when the petrol shortage became acute in New Zealand. Next year there will presumably be no shortage, but in the meantime there have been requests from the CSI which the organisers of the rally were unable to meet. Owing to the distance involved, the organisers were asked if they could arrange for a substantial reduction in the travel costs of competitors from Europe who would be taking part in the Heatway Rally by virtue of its inclusion in the World Championship. Some organisers, by various means, are able to do this but the Heatway Rally organisers were not. Whether this is the reason for the event’s absence from the 1975 World Championship is not clear, but it seems unfair in one way to vote an event out simply because it doesn’t have a very deep pocket. On the other hand it would have been very costly for a European team to transport cars, equipment, crews, mechanics and others all the way to the other end of the world and keep them there for a few weeks.

The Tour of Corsica has been included in the series, and this is really the cuckoo in the nest. An admirable event in its own right, the Tour is virtually the French equivalent of the Targa Florio, organised and regulated as a rally rather than a race simply to comply with French regulations. In times past the event catered for prototypes and it was indeed an exciting spectacle to see all manner of very specialised race/rally cars competing in the tortuous Corsican mountains. By accepting World Championship status the organisers have done themselves a disservice, for they can no longer accept the cars which used to give the event much of its character and atmosphere. The whole thing is on tarmac and stands out like a sore thumb against the snow, ice, mud, gravel, rocks and sand of the other events.

The RAC Rally needs no explanation; nor do those other popular classics, the East African Safari and the Rally of the Thousand Lakes. The latter event has attracted a stirring entry for 1974 (it takes place during August 2-4) including Makinen and Mikkola in Escorts, Blomqvist, Eklund, Lampinen and Rainio in Saabs, Alen, Kinnunen, Pinto, Barbasio and Paganelli in Fiat Abarths, Kullang and Rohrl in Opel Asconas, Warmbold and Fischer in BMWs, Culcheth in a Dolomite and Fiorentino in a Simca Rallye 2. And that list doesn’t include the good Finnish drivers who will be in dealer-entered cars and those backed by private sponsors, all men of such a calibre that there is real truth in the belief that it’s hard to beat the Finns in Finland

The Monte-Carlo Rally is back in the series after a year’s absence; it was most fortuitous that its year out of the Championship coincided with the year of cancellations, for it turned out that the 1974 Monte-Carlo Rally was one of several events which fell victim to the petrol crisis and were cancelled. After the 1973 Monte and the fracas which came after the blockage of the Burzet-Burzet loop there were strong representations, many from regular competitors, to have it removed from the Championship. For next year it has been reinstated, not necessarily by popular demand and not necessarily by the CSI but seemingly by the full congress of the FIA, suggesting that words have been said in high places. Whatever one may think of previous Monte-Carlo Rallies and however much its overall style may cry out for improvement, it is still the Monte; how could one explain to a nonsporting layman why the Monte-Carlo Rally is not regarded as suitable for the World’s top series of rallies?

The other event to be dropped is the Austrian Alpine Rally, an event which ran into tremendous trouble in 1973 owing to the needlessly late permission given by the country’s roads authorities. This year it was not held and next year it will probably remain just a name in the archives—a sad fate for what is one of the oldest rallies in the world.

South Africa’s leading event, the Total Rally, has not been mentioned in the list, though it is to our knowledge that CSI inspectors will be attending the event which takes place in Eastern Transvaal and Swaziland at the end of August. Like the RAC Rally, that is an event which forbids practice and keeps its route strictly secret until just before the start—a practice which makes things very difficult for service planners but which invariably reduces the overall cost of competing since there are no expensive and car-breaking reconnaissance trips.

***

Guide books and other forms of tourist-seeking are published in such profusion that they are rarely mentioned in the pages of Motor Sport. However, two recent books from George Philip and Son, 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP, are so unusually good that this column feels obliged to mention them, particularly as the countries covered, Greece and Morocco, are two in which well-known and very popular international rallies are held each year. The Complete Guide to Greece and The Complete Guide to Morocco have been written respectively by John and Maureen Freely and Jane Holliday, authors whose knowledge of the countries come from living, working and travelling in the regions they describe. We ourselves have intimate knowledge of non-tourist areas in both countries and we found the books fascinating, accurate and enlightening. We would recommend them to anyone contemplating going to the Acropolis Rally or the Morocco Rally, or indeed anyone holidaying thereabouts who wants a little more than a guided tour along the well-trodden paths of previous visitors

—G.P.