Matters of moment, December 1961


The 1960 R.A.C. Rally was a comparatively mild affair over A and B roads; this year’s event was just the reverse and really proved the merit of successful cars and crews. Pat Moss declared that it was tougher than the Liège (although only eight cars out of 85 starters finished this year’s Liège, whereas 81 out of 150 got home in the R.A.C. Rally) and Sydney Allard remarked that he wouldn’t have taken a Jeep over some of the Special Stages…

Jack Kemsley, Chairman of the Organising Committee, is to be warmly congratulated on staging a man’s rally, in which the boys, but not the girls(!), were “also-rans.” He did this by introducing Special Stages over private roads generously placed at the disposal of the R.A.C. by the Forestry Commission. One of these had to be cut-out as it was thought to be too difficult after a bulldozer had become bogged down in it, but nearly 200 miles of these roads, which had to be covered at a higher speed than the 30-m.p.h. average of the 2,000-mile public-road section, remained. In consequence of these timed Special Stages on closed roads in the forests of Kielder, Resdale, Rest-and-Be-Thankful, Onich, Loch Lochy, Culbin, Monaughty, Newcastleton, Kershope, Staindale, Oliver’s Mount, Selby, Sherwood, Cannock Chase, Dovey, Eppynt, Radnor, Speech House and Staunton, together with timed tests at Mallory Park, Oulton Park and Prescott, and the mile-long final driving test at Brighton, rendered this year’s Rally, ably run by the R.A.C. and financed by Lombank, memorable, satisfactory to “Ecurie Cod-Fillet” members, and highly rewarding for the successful.

In this country where rallies are unpopular, Kemsley’s idea of incorporating forest roads can surely be beneficially developed? There must be thousands of miles of these private roads and if the Forestry Commission is prepared to co-operate the R.A.C. Rally should go from strength to strength. The time requirements for such Special Stages are flexible, unlike the 30-m.p.h. average desirable for public-road sections, so that the Rally could be made as tough or as lenient as deemed desirable. This year it was tough and fewer private owner entries may result in future. But the entry had been “seeded” to put likely winners at the front of the field and factory-sponsored drivers no doubt welcome a difficult contest in which success has real value from the publicity point of view.

So we hope “Rallies of the Forests” may develop healthily from now on; one does not wish to see premier rallies concentrated in one area, as trials now are, and this certainly wasn’t the case with this year’s R.A.C. Rally, which went from Blackpool to Brighton via Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales, but the more private roads are used, the higher the speed at which a rally can safely be run. This time the longest Special Stage was 21 miles (which had to be covered at a 50-m.p.h. average), and many were around 2 1/2 miles, but no doubt this is merely a beginning…

No praise is too great for the Dunlop-shod, B.P. fuelled Saab, which has won the R.A.C. Rally for two years in succession, so capably driven by modest Eric Carlsson and navigated this year by John Brown, last year by Stuart Turner. These victories fully endorse the desirability of front-wheel-drive and confirm the durability of a 2-stroke engine and the rugged construction of the Saab.

Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom deserve hearty congratulations on winning the Ladies’ Trophy, beating such worthy opponents as Anne Hall (second) and Ewy Rosquist, and bringing their Austin Healey 3000 into second place, especially as a powerful, low-hung sports car is not the best proposition for forest roads. However, the very fact that it was beaten by a Saab of one-third its engine capacity is a further tribute to the effectiveness of the 3-cylinder saloon car from Sweden.

Third place went to the rally-bred Sunbeam Rapier of Peter Harper and I. Hall and Sunbeam Rapiers won the Manufacturers’ Team Award, vanquishing works teams of M.G. Midget (which were second), Austin Healey 3000, Ford Zephyr, Ford Anglia, Skoda, Morris Mini-Minor, N.S.U. and Vauxhall. Winning the Team Award in this strenuous event was truly a fine achievement, of which Rootes can be justifiably proud.

The Class winners also deserve praise—Saab, Sunbeam Rapier, Humber, M.G. Midget, Porsche and Austin Healey 3000—makes to remember when shopping for new cars. The best show by a privately-entered car was put up by Jimmy Ray’s Austin 850.

December fixtures

The R.A.C. Championship Trial, that contest for modern mud stormers, takes place on December 16th and on Boxing Day, weather willing, the B.R.S.C.C. again holds a race meeting at Brands Hatch—details on page 1000. In connection with the latter it is amusing to discover that in 1928 “Casque” wrote in The Autocar: “What fun it would be if it were possible to have a race on Boxing Day just to see how many drivers would be able and willing to turn up! Certainly he would be someone of intense enthusiasm who could summon up enough energy to go out and bother about a car the day after the Christmas festivities.” Which goes to show that the proverb “Everything comes to him who waits” applies even to motor-racing enthusiasts…