Carlsson's SAAB wins third consecutive R.A.C Rally

B.M.C.'s Cooper-Minis Win Team Prize. Pat Moss/Pauline Mayman (Austin Healey 3000) Take Ladies' Award

A Peugot 403B saloon rolls to a standstill in the darkened town of Newport, Salop, before the sombre slab of building in the main street which is the Vine Hotel. Three portly bodies, two young, one less so, step out, their elation at the prospect of dinner after travelling from the City of London dashed when they find the hotel closed and discover that on the final depression of the clutch pedal before the car stopped a rod had broken and fallen on to the road.

The occupants were on their way to report the first stages of the R.A.C. International Rally and, after the Peugeot had been driven, clutchless, on to Blackpool and repaired by that firm's rally-mechanic, it gave no further trouble, although it was driven near to flat-out for 1,700 miles and took many of the forest special stages at speed in order not to baulk rally competitors. It proved to have notably comfortable seats, to be spacious, well-braked and economical. The same crew had used another 403B for the same arduous task in 1961 and were pleased to do so again this year. A fine family car, this Peugeot. It can now be bought for under £900. No more need be said. . . .

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The Rally? The formula was much the same as in 1961, a 2,200-mile route through so counties of which many miles consisted of timed special stages over 300 miles of Forestry Commission roads, which had to be covered at averages in the order of 50 m.p.h. These special stages took heavy toll of the competing cars. Organisation was excellent, a tribute to Jack Kemsley, but due to trouble with the time-clocks several special stages had to be scrubbed before drivers returned to Blackpool, resulting in some discontentment.

The Rally started from Blackpool, went into Scotland, came back via the Lake District to Blackpool, and then into Wales, to finish at Bournemouth, competitors getting one night's sleep between Monday and Thursday afternoons, while apart from the forest roads there was a driving test at Oulton Park. An entry of r6o, in six classes, was reduced to 153 when two Mercedes, including Ewy Rosqvist's, a VW, two Fords, two Sunbeams non-started but several reserves were brought in to give 158 starters.

We spent Friday evening driving to Peebles, to await the arrival of competitors for breakfast, the dining lighting at the palatial Hydro Hotel failing during dinner, which, with the clutch withdrawal failure on the Peugeot, constituted our only personal rally incidents. The R.A.C. had pre-rally worries when British Railways lost many of the time-cards—on more than one occasion Press"copy" has vanished when sent to us on Dr. Beeching's trains.

Already, by Tuesday morning, however, Bohringer in No. 1 car, his Mercedes-Benz, had bent things by running out of road on a left-hand bend of the Pickering Forest special stage, the Morley brothers, too, were out, because for some unaccountable reason they rolled their Austin Healey 3000 on the road, and Norman Garrad, breakfasting with Rosemary Smith, looked glum, for Harper's lights had failed, leading his Sunbeam into a tree. Leaving Peebles ahead of the "racers" we did some observing in Loch Ard Forest, a rough, undulating, stony 5-mile timed section. Gunnar Andersson's Volvo, navigated by Douglas Johns, was well ahead of the field. The TR45 were bottoming badly, Soderstrom drove his Mini-Cooper splendidly, Aaltonen's similar, somewhat dented car was very fast, Baxter's Rover slow, Seigle-Morris, strapped in his M.G. x too, very cautious, but Anne Hall (Ford) and Trana (Morris) showed more fire. Henry Taylor was content to tread gently in his Anglia, Procter's Sunbeam had obviously shed its exhaust, gun-like sounds accompanying the over-run, and Grimshaw actually used his Healey's brakes. Bengry's Rover, too, was touring, whereas Makinen had a tailslide in his Mini. Wilson-Spratt was cautious in his Ferrari-like Austin Healey Sprite, O'Connor-Rorke nearly stopped in his Porsche and Uren's twin-Weber Cosworth-tuned Ford Cortina, making its rally debut, was emitting a disgustingly loud noise. Sometime that night Anne Hall was seen to be towing it, as it had holed a piston! Elford's Triumph came by very late and then Anne Hall let her Ford Anglia fall into a ditch, when equal sixth with Pat Moss, which held things up. Luckily Jack Welsh was near-by with a Ford service car and got her out, the engine starting promptly although the carburetter was under water. The front suspension was damaged, putting the wheels out of true, and athletic Val Domleo climbed in through the window as her door had jammed.

Driving on, we learned that of the two Reliant Sabres left in— Fisher's back axle had expired in Loch Ard Forest—the Ray/ Hopwood car had its screen fall out several times, and the front coil-springs settled and had to be changed and a hub tightened, etc. But always, in most improbable places, and ever-cheerful, Arthur Rustling was to be seen keeping a watchful eye on his brood. On the forest roads the TR4s lost spot-lamps, SeigleMorris' M.G. Ito° had a leaking fuel tank and retired with suspected piston trouble, Grant complained of fuel tank leaks in his Harrington Alpine, a Sunbeam lost time when its distributor fell off and two of the Rovers had punctures.

That evening we watched the sand on a right-hand corner towards the end of the Culbin Forest stage turn into deep ruts and heard the stones pelting against the cars' undersides. A Rover had to change a wheel on this 12-mile special stage, a Wolseley lost its sump-shield and holed its fuel tank, a Renault R8 had its gearbox plug knocked out, and Procter's Sunbeam lost all its cooling water. "My rally is over," announced Procter, as he peered by torchlight into the radiator filler, and a breakdown truck towed the Rapier away. Yet at Blackpool the following evening it wasn't posted as retired; nor was the Ford Cortina, also seen on a tow-rope! Carlsson had by now taken command but on this stage his best time of 18 min. s6 sec. was well above that stipulated.

Later in the night the luckless Mrs. Hall drove the entire Kingeardine special stage in Devilla Forest on a flat off-side front tyre, Val Domleo nimbly changing the wheel as Anne worked the jack, on reaching hard road again.

A very difficult stage in Dodd Wood provided little excitement, drivers treating one of the final downhill hairpins carefully, so that the two ambulances weren't needed. This Lake District section was very efficiently marshalled, with the help of Civil Defence radio communications. Aaltonen indulged in a tail slide, Henry Taylor ran wide, Sprinzel (TR4) braked, Anne Hall took it fast, Makinen's Mini had an initial tail slide, Mabbs (Austin 850) looked slow, Rosemary Smith flicked her Sunbeam round neatly and Carlsson, if not faster than Lewis' Sunbeam, took his usual excellent line. Otherwise, in spite of much rain, it looked very tame.

So it was back into the comfort of the Peugeot and back to Blackpool, pausing on the way to see the service crews dispensing rejuvenation to badly battered and/or mechanically suffering cars. Anne Hall was driving on knobbly back tyres which she didn't like, the only two left for her, and was heard expressing the opinion that B.M.C. had laid on far better service facilities for its entries than Ford had done.

Back at Blackpool a big board in the foyer of the Imperial Hotel displayed the state of the contest so far, showing Carlsson nicely in the lead. It gave 33 retirements, but these didn't include two Volvos that had gone out with gearbox and transmission failure close to the town, one being towed in. Peter Riley, however, confessed to having driven his Austin Healey into a tree. Over, then, to a colleague who followed the diminishing number of competitors into Wales and on to the finish.—W. B.

Leaving the Oulton Park test which consisted of five laps of the circuit competitors wound their way into Wales for Special Stage 24 in Clocaenog Forest, which was cancelled at the last moment as the track was very muddy and a marshal's car had become inextricably bogged down. Drivers were routed past the forest and on to the next special stage in Gwydry Forest near Blaenau Festiniog. Carlsson was once again quickest on this six-mile stage in 8 min. 33 sec., nearly 1 1/2 minutes above the allowed time. Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk kept within three seconds of the Saab on this stage. The next stage in Coed-Y-Brenin Forest saw the end of Anne Hall's rally when her Ford Anglia Super left the road on this muddy section and could not be retrieved. This was a pity as she had been going well in the early stages and had in fact been among the six fastest on three of the special stages. Several other people found this section very difficult and Tommy Gold and Tony Dyke also left the road in their Sprite and were unable to carry on as was the WilsonSpratt Sprite-Ferrari. Paddy Hopkirk was surprisingly five seconds faster than Carlsson on this stage. After a respite at Cross Foxes where much-needed tyre changes and mechanical work were carried out the convoy moved off to Dovey Forest where Carlsson once again was much faster than anyone else, covering the 57.4mile stage in 26 min. 08 sec. Aaltonen was second fastest and Pat Moss third from Hopkirk and Tiny Lewis in his works Rapier whose rear axle was sounding ominously noisy causing him to change gear very carefully.

The route then described a wide circle near the West coast of Wales, taking in another six special stages, one of which, at Coed Samau, had to be cancelled because of a very muddy hill. After this the route went to Llandidloes and on to two more special stages in Hafren Forest which closely followed each other. Unfortunately, the timing went haywire on the second of these two stages and also on the following special stage in Myherin Forest so that after the auditors had checked the times at the finish in Bournemouth both stages were cancelled. However Carlsson had already proved his superiority beyond doubt and in the early hours of Friday morning he was well in the lead and had only to finish to be sure of outright victory. The last special stage in Wales was the well-known Eppynt stage on Army firing ranges which has a smoother surface than the forest roads although loose shale makes it tricky. Here, both Paddy Hopkirk and Pat Moss beat Carlsson but his lead was hardly affected.

A long road drive then took competitors out of Wales via Monmouth to Gloucester, Bristol, over the Suspension Bridge to Cheddar and on to the South coast at Burton Bradstock. The two final special stages were near Lulworth Cove within sight of the sea on an Army artillery range. The first stage ran uphill on narrow tarmac roads then suddenly ran onto muddy tracks which swept downhill through a " ghost " village and round to the second stage which was run almost entirely over tracks through a tank testing ground. Traction was at a premium on these and the power of the big Healeys was of little use. Carlsson was fastest on both stages followed by Tiny Lewis on the first and Rauno Aaltonen on the second. However, as events proved, the inability of the big Healeys to match the times of the smaller cars on these two stages did not materially affect the results. After the 38th and final special stage the convoy motored gently to the outskirts of Bournemouth and on into the Pare Ferme in the town. Provisional results were available by Friday evening and on Saturday morning the final results were made available, showing that Erik Carlsson had once again demonstrated his mastery of rough conditions and the superb disdain the Saab 96 shows for poor surfaces. At the Rally Ball afterwards he was presented with a plaque commemorating his three successive wins and in his speech he paid tribute to Jack Kemsley, without whom he felt there would be no R.A.C. Rally as it is now known, sentiments with which we heartily concur.

Rally ripples

Afterwards Rauno Aaltonen reckoned the rally was about the toughest he had ever been on.

Timo Makinen, the Finnish driver, earned his drive in the works Mini-Cooper on the R.A.C. by his fine drive in last year's Monte. He speaks little English and would not allow navigator John Steadman to give him instructions on special stages as it would have distracted him. When his radiator was pouring water out on the way into Blackpool the occupants of a police car kept him going by supplying jugs of water. The radiator was removed before going into the parr ferme and he drove out in the morning without a radiator!

These Swedes really know all about rough roads. Diminutive Sylvia Osterberg, who is an ice-racing exponent at home, threw her Volvo about very rapidly and finished a staggering tenth overall.

A bunch of enterprising competitors advertised in the Bournemouth local paper for young ladies to accOmpany them to the Rally Ball. Ten girls applied and were accepted, then the National papers got hold of the story and a reporter from a Sunday paper arrived. He was thrown out of the hotel as some of the young men suddenly remembered they were married.