The R.A.C. Rally

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76

Tough 2,000 mile event around Great Britain ruined by protests.

This year’s R.A.C. International Rally started from Blackpool with 131 competitors (15 non-starters). A feature of the event was the pains taken by the R.A.C. to avoid interference with the public as the cars passed through built-up areas, but, on the other hand, the crews had to spend three nights out of bed, starting at Blackpool on the Tuesday lunch time and finishing at the Crystal Palace, London, on the Friday evening. Even before the first competitor was flagged away there was considerable drama. In the first place the German ace W. Schluter (Auto Union D.K.W.) was in a very disgruntled mood and stated he would never run in a British rally again because the route book only gave place names, which he felt it impossible to locate, not being familiar with the British Isles. One place was difficult even for experienced competitors to find on their maps, and the R.A.C. had to issue a map reference for it.

Further drama and excitement before the start concerned Piper, who omitted to have his photograph in his competition licence, but was able to rush back to a Blackpool photographer and obtain one in a very short space of time. Then Madame Ewy Rosquist became ill and refused to leave her bed, becoming a non-starter, to the excitement of the daily Press, who seize on such features of rallies. Graham Hill was a surprise arrival by train from London, Jeff. Uren having decided that he could do better for himself and his team if he stood down and looked after the Fords, letting Hill drive in his place.

The first test came very shortly after leaving the starting control and consisted of a manoeuvring test on the front at Blackpool. Here best time was made by L. O. Sims (Aston Martin DB2/4) in 33.2 sec., a magnificent run. The same time was recorded by D. J. Morley (Austin Healey), but he was penalised for over-shooting the finishing line, where the cars had to brake to a standstill. Other good times were made by J. G. Sears (33.3 sec.) and E. Carlsson (Saab 93B. 33.7 sec.). At the other extreme there was some clumsy driving which produced such times as 46.2 sec. by R. Maclver (Sunbeam Rapier), 47.2 sec. by A. Fraser (Sunbeam Alpine), 48 sec. by P. Bolton (Triumph Herald), and 48.7 sec. by K. C. Chambers (Ford Anglia), while F. J. Powell (M.G.-A Twin Cam) failed the test altogether for over-shooting the first turn. The test consisted of accelerating from the start, turning right round a pylon, driving over the pavement a considerable distance back to another right-hand turn round a pylon and accelerating to the finish, where the brakes were applied. P. G. Walton (Jaguar 3.4) spun his wheels practically all the way, recording 34.9 sec., and Mlle. A. Soisbault (Triumph TR3A) swung too wide at the second turn and had to reverse (38.1 sec.). I. B. McLaughlin (Triumph TR3) also had to reverse at the second turn, an untidy run taking 40.1 sec.; E. Carlsson (Saab 93B) did a very good run indeed, swinging his tail round neatly (33.7 sec.); R. M. Wall (Austin Sprite) appeared to have a rough engine (39.3 sec.) and yet another driver who had to reverse at the second turn, although he appeared to have plenty of room, was H. A. Appleby (Austin Sprite) (39.7 sec.).

A very good attempt was made by C. Molyneaux (Austin Sprite), who slid his car sideways-on round the bends but rather over did things: he also stopped sideways-on at the brake test (38.9 sec.), C. Robrowski (Citroen ID19) not only crunched the cogs but tried to remove a piece of Blackpool rock from the side of the road (39.1 sec. and penalty).  An exceedingly good run was made by J. C. Wallwork (Volvo 122S) (36.0 sec.), while R. W. Richards Riley 1.5 did not put a wheel wrong anywhere (36.4 sec.). P. Hopkirk (Sunbeam Rapier) flung the tail round and turned on a sixpence (35.3 sec.), and another driver who was an expert in the art of throwing the tail round the pylon turns was Dr. J. T. Spare (Singer Gazelle) (37.3 sec.). B. Phipps (Riley 1.5) was really trying, recording 36.5 sec. in a very quick run, but Mrs. Anne Hall (Ford Anglia) surprisingly stopped at the second turn, crashed the gears and nearly stalled, taking 40.7 sec. Perhaps the most clumsy show of all was made by P. Bolton (Triumph Herald), reversing at both turns (48.0 sec.), while R. Maclver (Sunbeam Rapier) also reversed in the second turn, but blamed his car (46.2 sec.).

After a tight section on the Yorkshire Moors competitors were required to cover the Hardnott and Wrynose passes in the Lake District at an average speed of 30 m.p.h. This was no easy matter and it was thought that a very large number of the competitors would be late, as in fact was the case. However, J. C. Wallwork (Volvo 122S) arrived some 2½ minutes early, as did Pat Moss in a Morris 1000 at the expense of slightly dented wheels. Also on time were Christie’s Morris 1000, C. Corbishley’s Triumph Herald and Miss P. A. Ozanne, the last-mentioned cornering extremely well on the twisty roads in a Morris Mini-Minor. Most dramatic ascent and descent of Wrynose was made by G. Houel (Citroen DS19), who had lost a tyre from the near-side front wheel after clouting a bank and contrived to climb on what was left of this wheel. It was no use putting on a spare as this had already been consumed at an early part of the rally. On this tight section it was virtually impossible for one competitor to pass another unless the man in front gave way, as in fact did J. Casewell (Austin A99) for J. H. Ray (Sunbeam Alpine) to pass. Sydney Allard had apparently already been eliminated, as his Zephyr, shod all round with Weathermasters, failed to appear here.

Observing on this bleak Lakeland pass in the early hours of Wednesday morning, we noted the double near-side fog-lamps of Dr, J. T. Sapre’s Singer Gazelle, the brilliant blaze of light from many of the Continental entries, where roof spotlights semed popular, and we saw D. J. F. Stammer’s Sunbeam Rapier sportingly pull in to let P. Hopkirk’s Sunbeam Rapier by. At the control, round a right-hand bend found at the foot of Wrynose, M. Sutcliffe’s Riley 1.5 rammed the back of K. W. Barrow’s Volvo and a short argument ensued, but neither car appeared to suffer much damage.

After leaving the Lake District competitors made for Scotland, where a high-speed test was undertaken at Charterhall. After this they drove to Rest and Be Thankful on the Wednesday morning to make a timed climb on this famous military road above Loch Lomond in driving rain. The Volvos showed up remarkably well, as they have done whenever we have watched them, while the lone Volkswagen from Ireland was driven with considerable verve. The Saab of Carlsson came up fast, making incredible and lovely noises. Morley drove his Austin Healey well, and J. H. Ray tail-slid his Sunbeam Alpine round the top hairpin.

The front of Hudson’s TR3A had been slightly modified during the previous night by contact with a sheep, Mlle. Soisbault was unspectacular in her left-hand-drive TR3A, and Johns cut the hairpin close in his Wolseley 1500, in contrast to whom Grimshaw (TR3A with a show shovel on behind) cornered wide at this point. Quick’s Ford Zephyr had clobbered its near-side front wing, and we heard that Sydney Allard had eliminated his Zephyr against a wall. Ian Walker turned on the power to get his Zephyr round the hairpin.

After seeing the last competitor climbing Rest and Be Thankful we returned to London due to the exigences of printing and the human craving for bed. We next joined the Rally in Cheltenham. Arriving at the Queen’s Hotel, the first car seen was Houel’s Citroen DS19 minus its nearside rear wing; this car had obviously retired. The Rally had taken a distinctly interesting turn on the Wednesday night in Scotland. Heavy snow at Braemar caused some competitors to try and get over the pass, which proved impossible. Fifteen competitors, learning of this, made their way to the control by a devious route and arrived on time. Seemingly, however, they had averaged over 40 m.p.h. in doing so. The problem was, how would the R.A.C. cope with the markings under these conditions?  In the end, those who attempted the pass lost 300 marks, the others none. There was considerable feeling that the pass should have been closed by officials of the R.S.A.C. before the first competitor arrived and the German D.K.W. driver, Ray and Wallwork, all put in protests. After a three-hour meeting this was turned down, which can he taken to mean that the Rally Stewards don’t mind how rapidly rally drivers press on over deserted roads.

Leaving these wintery conditions there were two more speed tests at Aintree and Oulton Park and then the cars went into Wales for some very interesting and tight sections generally appreciated by the more competitively-minded drivers. Then it was on to Cheltenham for breakfast, where amongst the retirements, which arrived at the Hotel but had dropped out of the Rally, were Aldridge’s Ford Anglia, which had lost the way at Loch Ness and run over a bank, damaging the gearbox cross member, Langley’s Mini-Minor which had missed three controls and Quick’s Zephyr with a badly damaged offside front wing, Levy’s D.K.W. also had badly damaged its offside front wing, but the clever Germans contrived to build this up with fibre-glass, making the car look, from a distance, as new. Mrs. Maynam’s Morgan and a Wolseley 1500 were in need of brake adjustment, the Girling representative standing by, which gives rise to the thought that rallies would he even tougher if the cars were not allowed any servicing along the route. As the weary crews came in to breakfast there were complaints that the Pen-y-bont control had not been manned and much time had been lost by many drivers in searching for officials who had not turned out to do their job. The heroine of the Welsh section was undoubtedly Mlle. Soisbault, known to the British competitors as Miss Sauce-boat, who, when a snow-chain shorted the electrical system of her TR3A, drove the tight sections on side lights only.

As the cars arrived in dry weather but with rain on the road for a timed ascent of Prescott, only 60 cars remained out of the 131 which had taken the Blackpool test. Although these tests were put in only to decide ties and drivers were not necessarily obliged to go hell-for-leather at them, it is interesting to note that the three fastest times here were made by Sears’ Austin Healey (53.9 sec.), Peter Morgan’s Morgan (55.9 sec.), and Sims’ Aston Martin (57.7 sec.). Of these, the first two were obviounsly trying hard but Sims’ climb looked sedate and very neat in comparison. Many of the drivers treated the hill as if this was a normal speed hill-climb, pressing on regardless, but only a few lost control of their cars. These were Lewis (Herald), Miss Ozanne (Mini-Minor) and Pearson (Singer Gazelle), the last-named making slowest time of the day, clocking 80.2 sec. There was a bit of comic opera after the first ten cars had gone up the hill, when a Royal Mail Morris van had to come up with the morning’s post, which held up the proceedings for quite a time. Cawsey (TR3A) nearly lost it at the second corner, the tail sliding off the road. Hill was trying very hard (60.1 sec.), Steiner’s Simca was going well, Wallwork’s Volvo 122s was fast and very neat, Pat Moss, (Morris 1000) put up a particularly good show, rowing all the way up the hill with the gearlever, while the Ford New Anglias understeered their corners, the works cars having a much crisper exhaust note than those of the private entrants.

After Prescot there remained only the special tests at Harleyford and Brands Hatch before competitors checked in at the finish at the Crystal Palace. Even now, drama had not forsaken this intense Rally — for with a clear lead Gerry Burgess’ Ford Zephyr met Sims’ Aston Martin coming fast the other way — 70 m.p.h. has been mentioned — in the lanes behind Brands Hatch. Both cars suffered damage and Burgess, making temporary repairs to the Ford’s o/s front wing with sackcloth and tape, feared penalisation. However, his luck held and he lost no points for damage.

The sun is said to shine as the cars come down into Monte Carlo after the rigours of another great rally; but it doesn’t always oblige! A cheerful English sun, however, lit the way from Kent to London as the R.A.C. Rally cars —  only 53 were left — covered the closing miles of their adventurous journey. Miss Ozanne’s Mini Minor retired at the Palace —  its clutch had been slipping. There remained merely the five-lap races at the Palace to decide ties (there was also a “non-finishers” race) and before these took place on the Saturday Gerry Burgess was provisionally declared outright winner in his Ford Zephyr, proof of his great ability as a rally driver and of the continued superiority of this six-cylinder Ford as a tough, fast long-distance touring car.

After some four hours the Rally Stewards rejected the protest and returned the fees, but this was carried by Levy to the R.A.C. itself. Comsequently, no results could be announced and no prizes presented and the issue remains in doubt as we close for Press.

This is an unfortunate ending to a tough rally, nor can the R.A.C. be complaisant about the many corrections to the route book, the unmanned control in Wales and misprints in the programme. It may also care to investigate the story that Burgess was ten minutes late at the Eppynt control, which wasn’t noticed because, they say, an argument was in progress over discrepancies in the timing clocks.

The Palace races were efficiently run off by the B.A.R.C. That in which Harper’s and Leston’s Sunbeam Rapiers were matched against three Volvo 122S was full of thrills. Wallwork’s Volvo led away, followed by Harper. Then La Trobe’s Volvo passed them both, only to spin at S.Tower on the last lap, enabling Lesion to find a way through, at the expense of contact with the bank that wrenched off one end of the Sunbeam’s rear bumper. Leston won at 59.21 m.p.h. from Wallwork and Harper, the other Volvos fourth and fifth. In another race Graham Hill put up a truly polished drive in a Ford Zephyr, winning at 59.23 m.p.h., after Viscount Boyne’s 2.4 Jaguar had spun off before the pursuing Ford at Ramp Bend. The other race winners were: Peter Morgan (Morgan) 63.66 m.p.h.; Mrs. Mayman (Morgan) 57.73 m.p.h.; K. Ballisat (Triumph Herald) 58.36 m.p.h.; V Levy D.K.W.1000) 58.98 m.p.h.; P. J. C. Hughes (Ford Old Anglia) 59.57 m.p.h. and Jack Sears (Austin Healey 3000) 65.60 m.p.h. Bennett won his race convincingly in the Fairthorpe-Climax, but was penalised 60 sec. for moving up from the second row before the flag fell — a harsh decision. — W.B.

Analysis of Finishers

In view of the fact that at the time of going to Press, the Monday after the finish the R.A.C. doesn’t know the final results, as the protest is not resolved, we append this Analysis of Finishers, which shows the makes the Rally drivers favour and how many got through: 

Make  Started  Finished

Ford  26  14

Triumph  19  6

Austin-Healey  12  3

Sunbeam  12  6

Morris  9  1

Austin  8  3

Volvo  7  3

Jaguar  5  2

Citroen  4  0

Singer  4  2

Standard  3  1

M.G.  3  1

Morgan  3  3

Riley  3  1

D.K.W.  2  1

Wolseley  2  2

Hillman  1  1

Gogomobil 1  0

V.W.  1  0

Saab  1  0

Simca  1  1

Fairthorpe  1  0

Fiat-Abarth  1  1

Renault  1  0

Aston Martin  1  1