The R.A.C. Rally


This year’s R.A.C. Rally followed the pattern set by Jack Kemsley in 1961 of relatively easy road sections interspersed with flat-out motor racing on Forestry Commission roads plus a test on Oulton Park circuit and a hill-climb at Porluck. As the competitors arrived in Blackpool for the start they were met with teeming rain and large signs informing them that Police radar speed traps awaited the unwary. In fact the police chief told the rally organisers that a radar trap would be set up on the route out of Blackpool, so Tiny Lewis and John la Trobe added a radar-warning device to their rally equipment. Scrutineering passed off quite amicably but one or two people, including Paddy Hopkirk’s Mini-Cooper S failed the exhaust noise test and had to change silencers.

As the time for the start on Blackpool promenade drew near on Monday evening competitors were informed of the gloomy weather forecast for the Lake District and Scotland of torrential rain, howling gales, snow, trees blown down and other horrors likely to cheer the rally driver. The Mayor of Blackpool flagged off the first few cars, then retreated to the warmth of his Mayoral Vanden Plas Princess and left the remainder of the 165 starters to their fate. After creeping out of Blackpool to avoid the radar speed trap, competitors headed straight for the Lake District and within an hour or so of the start were facing the first of the special stages in Grisedale Forest.

The old hands had decided to work up their speed on the special stages gradually rather than try to go quickly in the dark, and the wisdom of this strategy was soon apparent for people were going off the road in all directions. The honour of first to go out was given to Lucien Bianchi in a works Citroën DS19, whose lights failed on this stage. He struggled on for a few more stages but the electrics failed again and he retired after Stage 5. Next to go was Swedish driver Jansson in one of the Swedish entered VW 1500Ss, which were tuned to give about 75 b.h.p. He turned the car on its side but a group of spectators righted it and he did well to complete the stage in 21 min. 22 sec. against the 12 min. 26 sec. of the fastest, Tom Trana. Raymond Baxter burst a tyre on his works Reliant Sabre Six and left the road. He got going again and took 50 min. to complete the stage, but Baxter had hurt his shoulder and they retired. The Reliants were fitted with Ford Zephyr engines with Raymond Mays cylinder heads and three carburetters, and looked to be quite fast. Rauno Aaltonen driving one of the works 200-b.h.p. Austin Healey 3000s blew a tyre and drove to the finish on the spokes of the wheel, as did Peter Proctor in his works Rapier and Logan Morrison in his works Mini-Cooper S. Swedish driver Olle Bromark rolled his Saab on the first stage and had to retire from the rally, while racing driver Jimmy Blumer looped the loop in his Ford Cortina GT and finished up immersed in a deep pond, which put an end to his rally. The Saab driven by Andrew Mylius and Bill Rogers also went off the road but more spectators helped it back onto the road. Brian Culcheth lost 2nd gear in his Mini-Cooper and carried on by over-revving in 1st and changing straight to 3rd. Despite this fearsome handicap he kept going for a long while and put up some fine times until the gearbox finally broke completely. “Tiny” Lewis, driving a “manx-tailed” Sunbeam Alpine, holed his petrol tank and retired after S.S.2.

Having learned their lesson, competitors moved on to the next four special stages, which were all close to each other in the Lake District. Tom Trana in the old-fashioned looking Volvo 544 was fastest on all of the five initial stages, while other fast times were being put up by Timo Makinen, the Finnish B.M.C. works driver, in an Austin Healey 3000, A. Andersson in a Saab, Harry Kallstrom (VW-1500), Rauno Aaltonen (Austin Healey 3000) and, of course, Erik Carlsson who was not going as quickly as expected in his Saab. The competitors were seeded so that the fastest drivers had a crack at the special stages first and this seemed to work satisfactorily, but one or two very fast drivers were well down the field and the Swedish driver Larsson was doing wonders and going very fast while running at No. 143. This meant that he was driving through the mud churned up by the preceding competitors and he often had to pass other cars on special stages.

The system of marking on special stages was to give a set time to cover the distance, usually at an average speed of around 50 m.p.h., then anyone who beat or equalled this time lost no marks at all while anyone who was slower lost marks on a sliding scale up to a maximum of 100 marks. This seemed to be generally satisfactory but some people grumbled that after doing badly on one stage their efforts to catch up on later stages were sometimes nullified because these stages were easier and several people beat the bogey time. These people felt that a marking system geared to the time of the fastest on each stage and marking slower drivers on a percentage basis would be fairer to all concerned. But most people were happy enough to be motor racing round England that they weren’t really bothered about marks.

Potential winners were the Ford Falcons fitted with V8 4.3-litre engines, but American driver Denise McCluggage went off the road on the second stage and the big Falcon was irretrievable. Bo Ljungfeldt in another Falcon was going very rapidly in the early stages and really throwing the big car round on the narrow forest roads, while the third team car driven by Jopp and Leston was driven much slower. Jopp’s car dropped out with mechanical trouble on Tuesday morning and Ljungfeldt went off the road on a very muddy special stage and the huge car could not be dragged back on the road. These cars are obviously very fast and if a team of drivers of Ljungfeldt’s calibre can be found they could shake up the 1964 rallies.

It was interesting to study the driving techniques of the faster drivers for some of them looked to be working very hard while others looked positively slow. Makinen and Aaltonen really motored their big Healeys on the limit, hurling the car into bends not knowing what was following and then sorting things out with the throttle and steering. In contrast the Morley brothers’ Healey looked quite stately, being braked heavily into the bends, but their times were not far behind those of the Scandinavians. Pat Moss was flinging her Cortina about in lurid slides but this paid off for she was visibly faster than the male Cortina drivers, including ex-G.P. driver Henry Taylor in a Lotus-Cortina. Erik Carlsson was as usual exciting to watch but he did not like the mud which he had to plough through. Trana’s Volvo was thrown about with abandon, as were the VWs, but they looked surprisingly safe.

After Special Stage 5 David Seigle-Morris was in trouble with the fuel pump on his works GT Cortina and he eventually retired due to this trouble. Richard Martin-Hurst lost the headlights of his 3-litre Rover on this stage but got them working again, while the Malkin/Ryder Mini-Cooper clouted something with the back end and needed some new bulbs at the rear. Moving up into Scotland, Stage 6 claimed Dan Margulies, who ran out of road in his Cortina GT having previously run out of petrol. Special Stage 9 at Carron Valley was cancelled a week before the rally as army manoeuvres were taking place; however, the manoeuvres were cancelled a couple of days before the rally but it was too late to re-instate the stage. On the next stage, Loch Ard, both Geoff Mabbs, running at No. 1 in his Mini-Cooper S. and Bill Bengry in a works Rover 3-litre left the road but got going again, while a particularly nasty bend also claimed the Morley brothers, Alan Allard and Brian Culcheth. They lost very little time. At the end of this stage Henry Taylor’s Lotus Cortina rear suspension was leaning drunkenly and the works mechanics quickly gave him a new rear end, an operation which was repeated during the rally.

On the Tulloch stage Timo Makinen made an off course excursion which cost him a good number of marks, while Ken James burst a tyre on his Rover 3-litre, but he drove to the finish in good time and changed the wheel. The Rover factory had issued a statement before the rally that no service cars would be around to help Rover drivers, and although the odd 2000 lurked around they kept their word. In fact very little service was needed apart from the odd tyre change, which was accomplished very rapidly with hydraulic jacks. Mrs. Barbara Johansson broke the front suspension of her Swedish-entered Mini-Cooper S on Tulloch but it was quickly fixed and she was soon back making the good times that all Swedes seem capable of. The Reliant Sabre of L. Griffiths burst both near-side tyres and had to wait for a service car, while Olle Dahl bent a rear wheel badly. Soderstrom’s Swedish-entered Ford Cortina went onto two cylinders and soon retired.

The rally now moved across from the West of Scotland over to the East, with Tom Trana firmly established as the leader, as he was almost always fastest on the stages, being beaten only occasionally by Rauno Aaltonen or Harry Kallstrom. His Volvo had the larger and more powerful B.18 engine and it was obviously giving a lot of power for he was as quick as Aaltonen on the dry and fast Drumtochty section. On this stage Sir Peter Moon heard a noise from a front wheel and when he removed it found a part of the brake disc embedded in the wheel. However, he continued but on the Greystoke stage the disc broke up completely and when he applied the brakes the inevitable happened, and he was out. He had already had to weld up his front suspension which broke on Tulliallan, which lost him 10 min. at Peebles. Bobby Parkes’ Reliant Sabre ran its bearings hut they were changed quickly.

Still heading North the route led to Bin Forest and as darkness fell to herald the second night on the road Rauno Aaltonen put himself well and truly out of the rally. He was doing over 100 m.p.h. when he arrived at a particularly nasty T-junction and he went straight off the road into some trees. Neither he nor co-driver Tony Ambrose was injured and the tail of the red Healey sticking out from the trees served to save one or two others from the same fate. The McInnes/Parker Vauxhall VX 4/90 broke its axle on this stage, but got back in the rally by missing several stages, but was later forced to retire.

The White Ash stage was the most northerly of the sections and this was the slimy muddy lane which saw the end of Ljungfeldt’s Falcon. The Lossie stage saw Ken James leave the road in his Rover but he got going again having lost 100 marks. A longish road section followed which brought competitors back South to Perth for the Tentsmuir stage just after midnight. Here Pauline Mayman tipped her works Mini-Cooper S on its side but got going again with little loss of time. Once more in daylight, the competitors headed for three more stages in quick succession, Redesdale Forest having been cancelled. Keilder Forest proved to be quite comfortably “clean” for all but the slowest drivers or the sick cars, but the Vic Elford/David Stone works TR4 succumbed to head gasket or cylinder liner trouble, and as it would have made them hopelessly late to have continued after fixing the trouble they retired.

Two stages in Wark Forest followed and the second one claimed Carl Magnus Skogh, who landed heavily on a rock with his works Volvo 544 and broke the prop.-shaft. As he was well up with the leaders this was most unfortunate.

With the prospect of a night in bed at Blackpool the now depleted line of mud-spattered cars crossed England once more to the Lake District, where they tackled the first five stages in the reverse direction. This was in fact reduced to four as the Dodd stage was cancelled due to flooding. On Greystoke both Geoff Mabbs and Isobel Robinson (Simca 1000) left the road but got going again, while Erik Carlsson suffered a puncture but he still made joint fifth fastest time. It was here that Sir Peter Moon finally retired. George Humble hit a tree in his Cortina and had to retire eventually. As he is an insurance broker he probably didn’t lose his no-claims bonus!

The last stage before Blackpool was Wythop and here the second works TR4 went out when Roy Fidler rolled the car. He and co-driver Don Grimshaw had been using an inter-com. system to pass instructions and no doubt some very terse instructions were passed back and forth as they lay upside down! Barbara Johansson retired her Mini-Cooper S finally when the suspension gave way again. Swedish driver Orrenius had been going very quickly in his Mini-Cooper S and a broken tie rod delayed him very little.

With the rain still pelting down competitors headed back to Blackpool and a well-earned night’s rest, where it was found that Tom Trana was well in the lead, followed by Harry Kallstrom, Erik Carlsson, Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen and Pat Moss.

The next morning this reporter headed the Speedwell Riley Elf down the M 6 Motorway to Oulton Park and thankfully handed over the task of covering the second half of the rally to the Editor.—M. L. T.

The task of covering the rally was split up this year, which is how I found myself driving a Ford Consul Corsair GT to Tarporley on the Wednesday afternoon, to stay at “The Swan” preparatory to picking up the photographer at Oulton Park the next morning.

Competitors had to do seven laps of the circuit, in heavy rain. I was unable to watch much of this, for the photographer was anxious to get trigger-happy elsewhere. Conditions could hardly have been worse, the Longines clock at the start was losing badly and when Andersson’s newly-washed Volvo was dispatched it baulked Carlsson on his run down into Old Hall Corner. For several laps Mabbs kept his Austin-Cooper S ahead of Morley’s big Austin Healey and Carlsson’s Saab was unable to catch the aforesaid Volvo. Procter’s Sunbeam Rapier 3B bore the mud of the forests which the rain hadn’t shifted, and Peter Riley’s Ford Cortina GT had a crackling exhaust. Both Trana and Tony Cox (Rover) did eight laps and were penalised, while Paddy Hopkirk spun.

From Oulton Park we penetrated into North Wales, observing for a while at one of the forestry sections near Lake Bala, rain still pelting down. The start was uphill, immediately off the road so that a Rapier made a poor getaway, Sprinzel’s 3-litre Rover was slow but Kallstrom’s VW 1500-S, aided by rear-engine wheel adhesion, got away punchily, showing the performance that was to take it on to second place behind the winning Volvo, to the astonishment of Carlsson, whose Saab was unable to hold it on the muddy forest roads or up the hills.

After dinner we went along to the very rough 3.2-mile forest section, which included a sharp hairpin, near Abbeycwmhir, marshalled in a very efficient manner by the Coventry Godiva M.C. Rain was soon falling again in torrents and as no excitement seemed likely, after Carlsson had gone through well ahead of the other competitors, we set off for the breakfast halt at Bristol Airport, after pausing at Cross Gates, which was alive with spectators and service-crews, the latter a facility the 3-litre Rover team had decided to forgo. Here, Tom Trana changed the rear axle of his Volvo. Sydney Allard had come down in his Thames caravan to await the arrival of his son’s GT Allardette, and the actual Control, at obliging Cross Gates Motors, was a hive of fascinated humanity, under the eyes of the tolerant Welsh Police. Here we learned that Harper’s gearbox seized at Gwydyr, Proctor’s Rapier broke its transmission at Dovey, Tom Paton’s Mini went off on Coed-y-Brenin, while Olle Dahl rolled his Saab at Crychan.

At intervals along the route parked cars, some with their white lights facing towards oncoming traffic, indicated a service crew waiting for its driver, and before the breakfast stop Swedish mechanics were changing wheels and replacing a sidelamp on Carlsson’s Saab—there were rumours that it had been on its roof but no body damage was evident.

After breakfast we took up a position towards the top of the 4-mile timed ascent of the Porlock toll-road, which will make a very fine speed course if this ever comes about. First up was the Morleys’ Austin Healey, making a punchy climb. Andersson made a quick, tyre-bending ascent in his Volvo, Carlsson never lifted off but his Saab’s triple cylinders were misfiring, and his wife had a slight tail slide in her Cortina GT. A long pause, then Parkes’ noisy, dirty Reliant Sabre 6 blipped its way up. Paddy Hopkirk really had his Morris-Cooper S going, holding it close in round the corners, Soderstrom’s VW 1500-S came up very neatly, with no fuss, as a rally-car should, its quiet exhaust betraying rumours of its power output, and Peter Riley’s Ford Cortina was extremely fast. Sprinzel took a line for the top bend but was sedate, then, after another long pause, peace descending on Porlock Weir far below, A. Andersson’s Saab came up well, less noisy than Carlsson’s. Trana, the Rally winner, made a splendid ascent, giving the Volvo a few tiny blips on the throttle, and Makinen (Austin Healey GT) came whistling up, followed by Thuner’s very racy TR4, looking a bit “lifty,” reminder of shock-absorber troubles. By common consent Henry Taylor’s Cortina was given f.t.d. to date, Mabbs came walking down, proclaiming a fractured fuel line as cause of his Austin-Cooper S retiring (he was No. 1 in the Rally), and Fisher’s similar car was very fast and steady, likewise Pauline Mayman’s Cooper-S while Morrison’s Mini-Cooper, not in the G.T. category, looked even faster.

Anne Hall hung her Cortina’s tail out a shade, Hunter’s Mini-Cooper had a very crisp exhaust note, but Jansson, who had been off the road earlier, looked slow in his VW. Rosemary Smith didn’t hang about, her Rapier lifting its inside front wheel on the corners, Bengry went fast considering the bulk of his Rover, whereas Peter Bolton’s VX 4/90 Vauxhall was slower, and lifting off. After watching Kallstrom give a demonstration of how it should be done, the photographer began to fret-about getting his precious films to the office, so we left, the Corsair GT making light of the long run from Porlock to London.—W. B.