Who’s Champion ?
Championships in International Rallying are rapidly becoming more and more farcically meaningless. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile not only seem able to bend rules to suit their own, or perhaps someone else’s, moods but seem to forget which way they bent a particular rule the previous time.
One prime example of this comes from the 1966 Tulip Rally. To compensate for the fact that the rally is just a round of hill-climbs the organisers run a large number of classes by cylinder capacity. Now, the F.I.A. fairly naturally took the final results and amalgamated the three classes m, n, o — up to 750 c.c., 751-850 c.c., and 851-1,000 c.c., respectively (the championship class is 0-1,000 c.c.), thus giving Sobieslaw Zasada seven points for a class win, whereas before he would have scored nothing since there were only six starters in his class and there must be ten starters to score any points at all. Fair enough. But, the F.I.A. didn’t add the 1,000 -1,300-c.c. and 1,301-1,600-c.c. classes together to give the championship class of I,001-1,600 c.c. If they had then outright winner Rauno Aaltonen would gain seven points; but perhaps they felt that his nine from first overall was enough!
Still, we must let sleeping dogs lie; we’ve got our three rally champions, for whatever that’s worth, but how can a manufacturer advertise that one of his drivers is European Rally Champion (small print Group I, 2 or 3)? It’s worthless, for if you asked a man in the street he might remember Rauno Aaltonen as Champion in 1965 but he’ll not know who’s who this year. In fact, Gunther Klass for Porsche amassed nearly the total of the other two. The most amazingly pathetic fact is that we’re burdened with the same ridiculous situation this year—to save mathematical headaches I’m off to buy a 1401!
This whole nonsense of three Groups arose from the French “concern” for the private owner. At the beginning of 1966 they hailed the fact that everyone could go rallying in perfectly standard motor cars (it couldn’t be the fact that Citroen at that time had ready and prepared the most powerful Group I cars, could it ?), and that theoretically the private owner would be on the same footing as the works. All rubbish, for servicing and thorough preparation count more as main contributions to success, neither of which the shoestring motorist can possibly afford. Also, why is it that only two of the three groups count for points on any one event ? This fact prevented Citroen from competing in the Acropolis, it being held for cars of Groups 2 and 3 only. Why not let all Groups count ? To take it to its bitter and illogical conclusion we’ll finally end up with 11 champions, one for each of the set classes.
The next thing wrong with the championship is the scoring. Firstly, class points are only scored if there are ten or more starters in that class. Returning to my earlier point about not amalgamating the two classes on the Tulip we have the ridiculous situation of Aaltonen scoring 9 points for his outright win, while second overall Vic Elford scores 6 points for that and 7 for his 1,301-1,600-c.c. class win, thus making 13 points! If rightfully administered it should have read Aaltonen 16, Elford 12, which is much more realistic. Therefore, points for class wins should be scaled accordingly if there are less than ten starters. Still on scoring, we have the fact that the best seven scores count, out of seventeen rallies, but worse still all events count the same, whether one wins a gruelling Alpine in the face of Europe’s toughest opposition, or the Polish with only five works cars present, you get nine points. Some method of grading rallies not by their severity so much but by the amount of opposition should be introduced. Perhaps this could be done by according the best drivers and works teams a certain weighting, the total of which would act as a coefficient to be applied to the points gained on the event. However, this would need some careful thinking out
We also have the peculiar situation where a national motor club, the R.A.C., organises the World Rally Trophy —this is for manufacturers, but can the public tell the difference after some crafty large print/small print advertising—while the world body just runs a European championship! Comparing it to racing it’s rather like the A.D.A.C. running Formula One!
Let’s have a Group 5 out-and-out World Rally Championship, Choose the ten toughest rallies, including the Australian Starlight; let each rally have a special category just for the World contenders and anything goes. Manufacturers could then put up one or two of their best drivers and we might at last have something in rallying which the public understand and can follow. Not only that, but the cars could then become real mobile test-beds and the trade and manufacturers might well be persuaded to back rallying to more like Formula One.
Manufacturers don’t spend money for nothing, they want results, success and, above all, publicity. So give them something clear and definite, not just the unanswerable question … who’s champion ?
— A. E. A. K.