Around and About, January 1973

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Chrysler UK LTD, one of Britain’s big four motor manufacturers, announced an official return to competitions last month. Their come-back follows a period of four years in which they maintained a Competitions Centre under the guidance of Competition Manager Denis O’Dell and assisted private entrants racing and rallying their own cars, but did not play an active part themselves. For 1973 Chrysler’s budget will be “at least £100,000” according to their Assistant Managing Director, Canadian Don Lander, when he made the announcement in London. This money will be spent mainly in the area of saloon car racing and rallying where Chrysler have continued to do well despite their recent policy. O’Dell’s department will be enlarged to cater for the extra workload.

Amongst Chrysler’s recent successes has been the incredible form of Bill McGovern’s little Sunbeam Imp prepared and entered by George Bevan. By dominating the 1,000 c.c. class of the British Saloon Car Championship for the past three years, McGovern has clinched the title in 1970, 1971 and 1972 and he was honoured at the function for this achievement. Chrysler development engineer Bernard Unett is another driver who has done well for the firm and this year won his class in the Britax Group 1 Championship with a Hillman Avenger entered by Chrysler’s parts division, Mopar. The exact details of the Chrysler programme for next year are yet to be announced but will encounter International Group 2 racing yet again with Bill McGovern, Group 1 racing with Bernard Unett and Bill McGovern and also possibly “anything goes” club racing with Unett again. On the rallying front Colin Malkin will lead the team but cars for other drivers, yet to be announced, may also be run. In the recent RAC Rally, Malkin, with codriver John Brown, completely dominated the up to 1,600 c.c. Group 1 category with an Avenger entered by Mopar, but patently the start of the new competitions programme. An Avenger also finished second in the class.

All the works Chrysler’s next season will be entered under the banner of Chrysler Dealer Team Club for the dealers are helping with this exciting come-back and are being urged to add their support.

British Leyland are now the only member of the Big Four without any kind of competitions programme, having only their Specialist Tuning division to keep British Leyland racing and rallyists happy, although rumours of their imminent return persist. Ford continue their massive and tremendously successful cornpetitions programme, with the recent win in the RAC to boost morale, while despite General Motors policy of non-participation in sporting events, the Dealer Team Vauxhall outfit seems to enjoy a good deal of backing from Luton and successes, particularly on the race track with Gerry Marshall at the wheel, have been encouraging.

Clan too

Meanwhile one of Britain’s newest car manufacturers, the Clan Motor Company of Washington, County Durham, have just announced their official competitions programme for next year which is centred around the Crusader model road tested elsewhere in this issue. Clan’s Competition Department is under the guidance of Arthur Birchall, former chief mechanic on Lotus’ Indianapolis team.

The Clan Crusader has just been homologated into Group 4 (Production Sports Cars) by the FIA and is believed to be the first car to be allowed into International competition with a glass fibre roll over cage. Clan will have works cars in both rallying and racing next season. On the rallying front Alan Conley/ Martin Holmes will contest the Motoring News Rally Championship, Conley has already won a round of this championship in 1972 with a private Clan. Also rallying a Clan, but in the RAC National Championship, will be Andy Dawson whose car will be “works assisted” and will be sponsored by Zenith carburetters.

The racing Clan will be driven in Modsports events by Whitley Bay driver Johnny Blades who is widely experienced and recently has been driving in Formula Two. Blades will contest the up to 1,150 c.c. category where he will surely offer strong competition to Barry Wood’s works Ginetta G15 which has been virtually unchallenged in 1972. Birchall is also said to be working on “a secret weapon” which is expected to make its debut next month while, on a production front, eight Clans to competition specifications have been ordered. Expect to see the Clan name high in the racing and rallying results in 1973.

Racing Car Show

The bi-annual International Racing Car Show at Olympia has come round again and, if the advance publicity is anything to go by, it will be bigger and better than ever before. In 1971, the last time the Show was held, 93,000 visitors clicked through the turnstiles and the Show organisers, the BRSCC and the SMMT, are confidently predicting that the figure will show a healthy increase for 1973.

The Show promises to be bigger and better than ever before with at least 130 stands booked as we go to press and with almost every racing car manufacturer showing off brand new models. There are also several new specialist road cars including the very attractive Volkswagen based Puma GT built in Brazil and being imported by the Chequered Flag. There are more special features than ever before including a cinema, a pit stop competition, and the ever present racing car simulator. Various Championship winning cars from Emerson Fittipaldi’s John Player Lotus downwards will be on display as well as two of Britian’s fastest dragsters and the Shadow Can-Am car, never previously seen in this country.

The Show will be open in the National Hall for 11 days from January 3-13 inclusive of the middle Sunday. Opening times are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., on every day except Sunday, when the time will be Noon-7 p.m., while admittance will be 40p for adults, 20p for children on all days except January 3 when the figure will be £1. British Rail is offering special rail tickets from many stations which include the return fare including underground journeys and the admittance to the Show.

Formula Atlantic Grows

Formula Atlantic enters its third season with an increased programme, and races at more important meetings although, as yet, John Webb of MCD, the man behind the Formula has been unable to export this class of racing to other countries. For 1973 there will be two championships. One sponsored by Thompson’s Yellow Pages, who have backed the category since the beginning, will centre on just six major meetings including the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, the Mallory Park F2 International, and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Points will be awarded on a Can-Am basis and each round will have a prize fund of £1.000

The second championship will be centred around club meetings with Formula Atlantic usually being the feature race of the afternoon. The sponsors are BP and their championship will be held over 18 rounds at Oulton Park, Mallory Park, Brands Hatch, Croft, Silverstone and Snetterton from March to October. £300 of prize money per meeting will be allocated for each round.

At Great Orme, stage 5, we were 26th fastest out of 150 cars still running, which wasn’t had for a little 100 b.h.p. Group I Escort Mexico; in fact is was fantastic! Now we headed for the tougher sections in the Welsh forests with stages with unpronouncable names like Clocaenog, Penmacho and Coed y Brenin. This was real rallying country to find out of what we were made. Vandervell was obviously enjoying it and we were usually in the top 50 or 60 but, more important, we were in the first four or five Group 1 cars. This we didn’t know at the time because unless one is in the leading 20 or so it is very difficult to know how you are faring. We had a feeling things were going quite well, however, because on the longer stages we started to catch up and even overtake the car in front which had started a minute ahead. And on occasions, marshals had said our times were good. On one of the most famous stages of all, Dyfi (Dovey to the English) which is 17 miles long, we overtook about three cars and later discovered we were 29th fastest. Then there was a main control at the famous rallying pub, the Wynnstay Arms at Machynlleth where our service crews went over the car thoroughly. So far a fog light had fallen out, and one of the McPherson struts seemed to have come loose.

There were more Welsh stages, then another stop where an engine mount looked as if it was starting to collapse but there wasn’t time to change it. The next two stages were over the famed Army firing ranges of Epynt and, after that, it seemed probable that there would he enough time to make a repair. This was the case and we were on the rally again having lost half an hour by the side of the road in the gathering light but with plenty of time to get to the three stages in the Forest of Dean. By the time we reached there, bang on time, it was light which was to our advantage because we had covered several earlier stages in the dark while earlier numbers had been able to cover them in the light. On the next three stages we were respectively 28th, 25th (despite narrowly missing an errant goat—no I wasn’t seeing things) and 20th fastest on the long Speech House stage. Several of the big names were now dropping out and we were moving up the leader board.

We were at the Bristol control at the M4 service station as early as our schedule allowed us and the mechanics even found time to wash all the dirt and ravages of the rally off the car. Many of the other competitors were completing the most mammoth rebuilds and some of the cars looked decidedly secondhand. So we felt fairly happy. In the night the stages had come thick and fast but as we left Bristol just before noon there were only another six stages to go before the halfway, including the one in Sutton Park, another around the Silverstone perimeter road, and one which followed the old Donington race circuit. This was all fun and we arrived back at York On schedule 9 o’clock that evening feeling rather pleased with ourselves. I had learned more about rallying in 34 hours than I had in a lifetime. The car was locked up in Parc Fertile and, after a meal, I wandered down to Rally Headquarters. By this time I was feeling ready for bed but I had to find out where we were lying at half-way and the results would not be out until after midnight. When I found we were 52nd I was more than happy but by the time I got back to the hotel my driver was fast asleep.

On later scrutiny, however, we found that in one of those Welsh forests a marshal had somehow contrived to lose us four minutes on the time we had actually taken on a stage, and this cost us 13 dear places. If I had been more experienced I would surely have spotted it at the time. We were still puzzling how to have the error righted when we re-started at 9.52 a.m. on Monday morning. At the halfway point everyone starts in the position they finished the first half. Now we were getting mixed in with some of the better known names. As we rushed around the first stage, the grounds around Castle Howard, I felt like an old hand, then it was up to the Yorkshire forests with six stages following in quick succession. The car was going well. Colin was driving superbly, and I now had a real grasp on the intricacies of co-driving.

The last of the six stages was an 18-mile section called Dalby South and we were making good time. I shouted “three miles to go” and suddenly there was a most dreadful row from the gearbox. I knew our rally was over but then Vandervell found fourth gear and we kept going and finished the stage in reasonable time. But only fourth gear had any drive at all and we crawled off the stage to look for our service crew which was scheduled to be a mile up the road. There they were and with a spare gearbox too. We made a fruitless attempt to change it but it is a 2 hour job in the workshop and we only had 40 minutes by the roadside. Finally we admitted defeat and I wandered down the road to a pub where some friends, who just happened to be there, and a pint of beer consoled me slightly. It was bitterly disappointing and we returned, in ignominy, back to York on the end of a tow rope. Next year it will be different. The rallying bug has certainly bitten and now Colin Vandervell and myself are looking for a more competitive car for some future events. Any offers?—A. R. M.

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