Rally review, February 1973
or not to stud
IT’S AMAZING how unfailingly the Monte Carlo Rally seems to cause a controversy year by year. Perhaps that statement is really unfair, for we know of many other rallies which cause upsets of a far more serious nature than those which spring up in Monaco. Even at home in Britain there have been cases of timing errors changing the results of international events and of competitors becoming so fed up with delays that they have left for home long before awards have been ready for presentation. Fortunately such drastic cases are rare and timing errors, if any, are seldom allowed to remain unnoticed for long.
The odd thing about Monte controversies is the fact that, they arise despite what must be the most concise, clear-cut and ambiguity-free set of regulations ever produced. Nothing is left in the air, and if anything seems difficult to explain it is invariably followed by a number of set examples which provide a clear explanation.
But regulations, once produced, distributed and acted upon by prospective competitors whose plans depend to a large extent on their contents, should not be changed, and it was precisely this which sparked off the dissatisfaction before this year’s event. By the time you read this, the event will be over, but at least you Will have some idea of the Problems which confronted both organisers and competitors before it started.
In 1971 the AC de Monaco introduced a special stage to the tail end of the concentration runs. This was done in order to put a stop to the growing feeling that the journeys to Monte were no more than boring, expensive preliminaries which could be abolished without harming the event one bit. Regular rallyists were becoming fed up with a two-day run which did nothing, absolutely nothing, to contribute to the competitive nature of the event, and which only seemed to be appreciated by those who entered more for the glamour than for the competition. What is more, a test before the first Arrival at Monte Carlo would provide a significant order of classification before the two legs containing special stages, and not merely a long list of unpenalised runners followed by a shorter one of those who had picked up odd minutes late. The idea was popular and successful, hough the seeding for that particularly narrow, ice-rutted road was a little odd to say the least. The same arrangement was planned for 1972, but insufficient police in the area of the test at the time it was scheduled caused the authorities to refuse permission for the road to be used as a special stage.
For 1973 a test was again put into the tail end of the concentration run, and everything seemed to be running smoothly when, just as most people were completing their service and tyre arrangements, word came 1.1-om The organisers that the test would very likely be Cancelled, due once again to problems With the local authority. Then came news of a different kind ; the test would be held after all, but studded tyres would not be allowed even though they would be quite in order for the remaining special stages.
This caused an enormous upset. Works teams had laid their service and tyre plans and would have to change them, but Much worse was the effect on the plans and budgets of private entrants. Amateurs usually choose to make the run-down to Monte Carlo on partly studded tyres. They can’t afford an abundance of tyres with varying degrees of studding so they usually opt for a compromise set which will give reasonable performance on dry tarmac and yet give acceptable grip when ice and snow is encountered in the mountains of the south. Faced with the ban on studs for the first test, they would have to run down on unstudded tyres, which would mean that, the number of studded tyres available for their runs through the remaining stages would be confined to those which they could carry as spares on the concentration run, for very few amateurs can afford the extra expense of a service crew to carry equipment for them.
A number of competitors made hurried changes Of plan and some even went to the trouble of ordering an extra set of studded tyres (at considerable cost) to be transported to Monte on their behalf by the tyre company concerned. Them just two weeks before the rally, catne the news that studs would be allowed after all. ft seems that the local authority had relented and had decided that the passage of so many cars with studded tyres would not cause significant damage to their road after all.
Thus changed plans had to be changed back again and the result was an upheaval which did nothing to enhance the reputation of the AC de Monaco, even though they were hog-tied by the dictates of road authorities.
The very fact that regulations were changed after they were accepted and acted upon by Competitors has caused dissatisfaction in a number of quarters, it being felt that the organisers should have sorted things out properly before publishing anything. Indeed, the matter is being taken up by the newly formed Rally Pilots’ Association (see later). To stud, or not to studi is a debate by no means confined to Monte Carlo. Already Sweden has passed a law restricting the number of studs per tyre which can be used on all vehicles on public roads. The use of studs is widespread in Sweden; indeed on country roads drivers cannot get about without them. But when they venture onto main roads they find themselves on salted tarmac. Obviously they cannot stop to change wheels each time they pass from one surface to another, so most people use a compromise number of road studs (certainly not the sharp chisels used for competition) which will not appreciably affect handling on tarmac, will not damage the road surface and will not become distorted within the tyre treads.
But the Swedish government has taken the view that studs do damage the road surface, the result being legislation which limits the number of studs per tyre and which provides Cur future reviews of the situation. Something of a rumpus has blown up about it in rally circles, for although drivers will face up to whatever natural hazards a route will provide (most of them have no liking at all for Armco!), they do like to have the right sort of equipment to cope with them. The organisers of the Swedish Rally have ruled out studs altogether for their World Championship qualifier in February, and although the country has none of the precipices which abound in the Alps the prospect of slithering around on frozen rivers and lakes, scrabbling for non-existent grip, does not appeal to them at all.
Studded tyres represent a tremendous safety factor on ice or snow-covered roads, and we do not go along with the argument that their use should he curbed in order to save fractionally on road surface wear. Happily, British winters are not as severe as to bring about, wholesale use of studded tyres, so the question of road damage should never arise. But if the tendencies of the Council for Europe are anything to go by, there appears to be a danger that blanket legislation will extend its covering to Britain, denying the right of the sure-footed few to use studded tyres whenever they feel it necessary. NO matter how united the states of Europe, Britain is still Britain and to accept needless regulations pressed on us from across the Channel would be to submit to administrative invasion just as effective as a defeat in war.