Rally Review, August 1979

The International Rally of Brazil

Although an immense amount of excitement and pleasure is generated by the established classic rallies of the world, the appearance of a new event is just as much of an attraction and it is with considerable anticipation, even curiosity, that people well accustomed to the near-institutional status of Acropolis, RAC, Safari and others go along to see for themselves a rally which is taking place for the first time.

So it was with the International Rally of Brazil in June. A vast country in which admirable rally roads exist in abundance. Brazil has hitherto held only small rallies in which mathematics and riddle-solving play big parts in finding a route and driving along it with almost total regularity, just as they did in the time-speed-distance rallies which was all the USA had before a group within the SCAA introduced special stages.

A few years ago several rally-minded enthusiasts from Portugal, including some who had driven in the former TAP Rally, went to live in Brazil where they soon discovered the nature of Brazilian rallies and determined to introduce events of a more competitive nature.

Under their influence, the Automobile Club of Sao Paulo, with the co-operation of the national club and government departments and the backing of various sponsors, produced a rally on the broad lines of a European event. Furthermore, after just one small trial exercise they applied for international status, got it, then jumped right in the deep end by putting the event up as a candidate for inclusion in the World Rally Championship.

In the meantime, wheels began turning within wheels as a certain amount of lobbying was done to produce favourable reactions from the FISA, and the astounding result was a declaration by that august body that the 1980 World Championship would have not twelve events as in 1979, but ten, six of them in Europe, one in North America, one in Africa, one in the Pacific area and one in South America. It seemed that even before the first international rally was held in Brazil the door had been opened to World Championship status for its second running, for there were no events in that continent which appeared to be more suitable, although another in the Argentine had applied to join the series in 1980.

It is a condition of acceptance in the World Championship that a rally shall have been held twice before and have been favourably inspected by one of the FISA’s closed-shop panel. The announcement that a South American rally will be included in the 1980 championship seems to have been more than a little premature and certainly presumptuous.

The new organisers of a new rally are bound to make mistakes and there should always be a great deal of tolerance in the minds of those who judge it. When the Brazilian Rally is viewed as a new event, then it must get favourable reports, for it is as unfair to expect smooth expertise from novice rally organisers as it is to expect perfect landings from a glider pilot seated for the first time at the controls of a big jet. However, the usual criteria did not apply in this case, for the Brazilian Rally was not just any event being run for the first time, it was a dress rehearsal for probable championship status in 1980, and viewed in that light it can only be seen as nowhere near the standard of other events in the series.

It was most unfortunate that the Brazilian organisers chose to attempt a gallop before mastering the trot, for they would have found it far easier to have progressed slowly along the full course rather than to have sprinted along a short-cut. The ambition to get big too soon has been the downfall of many, outside rallying as well as within it, and we recall the disastrous consequences of the USA’s Press on Regardless Rally getting World Championship status just a year or two too soon. Had they waited just a little longer, and gathered a little more experience, that event could well be still in the championship now.

Starting and finishing at Sao Paulo; and with night stops at Rio de Janeiro and Campos do Jordao, the three-day event ran only in the daytime for the organisers could not guarantee the absolute closure of special stage roads by night. As it was, non-competing cars strayed on to stages by day, but we heard of no accidents resulting.

Apart from the Portuguese driver Carlos Torres who shipped his Ford Escort RS2000 from Lisbon, the only non-Brazilian entries of any consequence were those of Fiat. Not only did they send two 131 Abarths for Markku Alen and Walter Rohrl, but they provided lady drivers for a team of Fiat 147s (the model number of the Brazilian made 127) fitted with engines running on ethyl alcohol fuel. Brazil already retails fuel with up to 20% alcohol content, and research has resulted in engines burning 100% alcohol obtained mainly from sugar cane. It was to further this research, and to publicise it, that these alcohol-fuelled 147s were driven in the rally by Marianne Hoepfner, Anna Cambiaghi and Maurizia Baresi.

Fiat’s involvement ran deeper than just putting entries into the event. Included in the list of sponsors were Oliofiat and Pirelli, and there was no doubt that the operation was part of Fiat’s endeavours to prise from Volkswagen part of its lucrative Brazilian market. Both companies have factories in Brazil, but the German firm has a head start and one can find all manner of VW-based, rear-engined vehicles in Brazil. including a mass-produced copy of a T-series MG, complete with fake radiator grille and octagonal badge.

That the two works Fiats won the rally goes without saying. Indeed, Alen and Rohrl said afterwards that they had no intentions of fighting with each other, and as it turned out they had no need to fight with anyone else either. In fact, both drove at no more than about 70% effort from start to finish.

When asked what they thought about the rally as a prospective World Championship qualifier, their co-drivers merely laughed. One of them felt that he should claim a fee from the organisers for instructing officials at various controls around the route. On this showing, it was certainly not up to World Championship standard.

Whilst we wish the Brazilian organisers every success with their rally in the future, we would advise them against seeking championship status as prematurely as in 1980. If the FISA does choose this rally to be one of next year’s qualifiers, that will be irrefutable proof that the inspectorate system is either totally ineffective or based on attributes other than merit. — G.P.

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24 Hours of Ypres

The days have long gone when British competitors used to travel in great numbers to foreign events, and nowadays there are very few who would even consider venturing outside these islands unless a generous sponsor is prepared to foot the bills. However, Belgian events have become immensely popular in the last few years and when the recent 24 Hours of Ypres took place in that country over 30 cars journeyed from Britain, many of their crews having realised that it was cheaper, for southerners at least, to tackle a rally just across the channel in Belgium than one in the North of England or Scotland.

Alas, their fortunes were not particularly high. Russell Brookes rolled his Escort and Tony Pond his Sunbeam, the latter when trying to recover from the penalty of clocking in eight minutes early after his co-driver had misread a figure on their time card.

The rally was won by French driver Bernard Beguin in his Porsche, and the best Britisher was Brian Nelson who was fifth in his Ford Escort. – G.P.

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Scottish Rally

Due to printing schedules we were unable last month to mention June’s Scottish Rally, but since this fine event should not be allowed to pass unmentioned, we do so this month.

Admirably supported by a whole string of Europe’s leading drivers and factory cars, the Scottish Rally began in Glasgow, remained just for the day in southerly parts of Scotland and then moved northwards to its traditional stamping ground within daily reach of the Spey Valley, where its base was at Aviemore.

The best entertainment, whether in racing or rallying, seems to come when the lead changes hands several times, and in this respect the Scottish Rally provided exceptionally good value. Rough roads invariably result in component failures, whilst the flinty, abrasive surfaces produced an abundant crop of punctures, mainly through sidewall failures as drivers were imprudent enough to put their cars sideways over the sharp stones.

Mikkola led from the start but put his Escort off the road for eleven minutes; the fine Finnish driver Henri Toivonen suffered electrical failure and was disqualified for having his car push-started on a stage in the wrong direction; Tony Pond looked every inch a winner in his Chrysler Sunbeam but sadly lost it all on the final day when his wiring loom burnt out; Blomqvist was troubled by punctures on his f.w.d. Saab Turbo, and even needed a replacement turbocharger after severe overheating; Waldegard put his Escort uncharacteristically off the road; Jean-Pierre Nicolas’ Sunbeam engine blew up and Roger Clark’s Fiesta, a car by no means in the same competitive class as the leaders’, was delayed almost to his maximum by a blocked fuel line.

Leading British driver at the end was Malcolm Wilson who took second place in his Escort, ahead of Per Eklund’s Triumph TR7, whilst fourth place went to German driver Jochi Kleint in his Opel Kadett. Kleint is one of the very few Central European drivers who can do well on special stages without practice and without pace notes, an ability no doubt due to his sojourn in South Africa a few years ago, when he drove regularly in the secret route events which are run in that country.

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A Bright Light

We have been trying a most useful hand lamp of quite extraordinary intensity, powered from a car battery via the cigarette lighter socket. The American-designed Nite Tracker II boasts 200,000 candlepower, the sealed-beam, 100-watt lamp in a 5 1/4 in. lens equating to the same power as an aircraft landing light. The concentrated narrow beam, capable of piercing smoke, rain, fog and snow has a range as far as the eye is likely to wish to pick up detail, but turns night into day for close-up work. Made from high impact polyethylene, the housing is shock-resistant, water-resistant, scratchproof and virtually non-corrosive. The pistol grip houses a lockable, trigger switch, said to be quick enough for Morse code, though we have had no call for this. A 7 ft. cord with cigarette lighter adaptor retracts into the handle; we felt this was too short, but found a suitable extension with socket and crocodile clips to work directly from the car battery. This extension had come with an electric tyre pump, but a similar crocodile clip 10 ft. extension, or a 15 ft. cord with cigarette lighter plug are available as extras with the Nite Tracker.

This powerful lamp offers multifarious uses – rally service crews should find it an ideal piece of equipment. It weighs 2 1/8 lb., is 10 1/4 in. long and costs £15.99 plus £1.00 P&P from Fossemail Ltd., Broadway Lane, South Cerney, Cirencester, Glos.

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Reliant Robins and occasional Morgans are not the only specimens of the tricycle breed to be found on our roads. At Easter we saw a front-drive Berkeley three-wheeler in Rhayader, and a lady perched on one of those Ariel tricycles, on her way into Hereford. – W. B.

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Another Citroen Announced

Latest version of the Citroen GS theme is the cumbersome-sounding GSX-3 with a 65 b.h.p. version of the 1.3-litre boxer engine.

Price in the UK will be £4,046 and the standard specification includes a sunroof, tinted glass and a rear spoiler.

Performance is said to incorporate extra flexibility and a 0-60 m.p.h. time of under 15 seconds.

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Porsche win Commander’s Cup

Two Porsche 924s set two new British national speed records in class E (up to 2,000 c.c.) at Snetterton recently and won the Commander’s Cup for the greatest distance covered at the Norfolk circuit in 24 hours.

The two 924s prepared and entered by Porsche dealers Gordon Lamb Ltd. and AFN Ltd. established, respectively, class records for 2,000 km. and 24 hours also beating the previous 24-hour British record for cars of unlimited capacity.

Gerry Marshall, Tony Lanfranchi, Roy Pierpoint and Chuck Nicholson set the 2,000 krn. record at an average speed of 75.94 m.p.h. For AFN Ltd., Tony Dron, Andy Rouse and Win Percy completed 704 laps of the 2.7-mile circuit in 24 hours, averaging 77.31 m.p.h. for 1,855 miles.

Both cars in the run had to be standard production models on road tyres. The Porsche crews chose Pirelli P6 ultra-low profile tyres.

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Fuel Crisis and Motoring Sport

The RAC British Motor Sports Council reports that it is keeping a very close watch on the current energy situation in relation to all forms of motoring sport and is creating a small Specialist Committee to study what action should be taken for the future.

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Those who like to drive out to see and perhaps travel on steam railways will find a pocket-sized directory of these lines useful. Such has been prepared by BP Oils with the help the Association of Railway Preservation Societies. This “Guide to Steam Trains in the British Isles” lists 65 privately-run railways and steam centres. It is available free on receipt of a s.a.e. to ARPS, Sheringham Station, Norfolk NR26 8RA. mentioning Motor Sport.