I read with interest John Davenport’s article about the Welsh Rally in the July issue because the 1977 event was a breakthrough rally for our Dealer Team Vauxhall HS Chevette.
Based at Shepreth in Cambridgeshire, we had been told to get among the Fords at the earliest opportunity in our first season of development. Pentti Airikkala was our driver, very ably assisted by Colin Francis.
The Welsh provided a huge duel between Ari Vatanen’s Escort and Pentti’s Chevette. Colin remembers how, towards the end, the pressure got to Ari and he flew off the road. He managed to get back on the stage just as the Chevette came into sight.
The cars ended up racing each other side by side down a long straight leading to a hairpin bend. Colin remembers Pentti shouting: “This hairpin, is it right or left?”
“Right,” answered Colin. “Then it’s my corner,” said Airikkala. And it was! The Chevette duly beat not only Vatanen’s Escort, but also Hannu Mikkola’s Toyota and Walter Röhrl’s Opel.
Gerry Johnstone, DTV’s competitions manager, relates how at the prizegiving Mikkola was asked to say a few words. He told how, well into the rally, while waiting to start another stage, he had strolled up to Pentti. He was asked to tell Vatanen that Pentti’s team manager had told his driver to cool it and drive for a finish. So, Hannu did that. Returning, he told Pentti that Ari had said that he was under huge pressure from his team manager, who’d be furious if he put the Escort off. “As for me,” said Mikkola, “I just hoped that both managers would end up furious, because I’d have won!”
I am, yours etc,
Bill Blydenstein, Buntingford, Herts