Double world rally champion Walter Röhrl, driving a Francis Tuthill-prepared Porsche 911 and co-driven by Beatty Crawford, led the International Rally Britannia from the third stage to the finish.
And then he was excluded at post-event scrutineering, which handed victory to the similar car of Norwegian Monty Karlan. It was KarIan's second consecutive victory on the event, which supported the opening day of the Network Q RAC Rally.
Röhrl's silver 911 was thrown out because it had slots in the lower wishbones. These facilitated camber adjustments, though Tuthill maintained that they were a factory recommendation on early chassis numbers and did not permit more than the normal factory settings. His words fell on deaf ears, however, and the car's exclusion was enforced. Röhrl was not alone, either. The Mini Cooper of Nick and Tom Barrow, provisionally 15th, was found to be running a track wider than that shown on their FIA Identity Form.
Such situations should be much clearer next season, when the new FIA Appendix K regulations specify that cars on international events must run strictly according to their period homologation papers. In the meantime, nobody can continue to suggest that eligibility scrutineers in historic rallying have no teeth.
The event itself was also marred by the unfortunate accident which befell Martyn Griffiths and Max Harvey. On their second run through Clumber Park, nearing the end of the stage, Griffiths allowed the car to stray onto the ice as he snatched fifth gear — some 90 mph in a 911. This resulted in a terrifying trip across the grass which was ended, violently, by a very stout tree. The collision speed was estimated to be around 80 mph. Fortunately for the crew, the car was travelling backwards at the moment of impact. Had the 911 hit the tree sideways on, there is little doubt that the occupants would not have escaped injury. As it happened, both were taken to hospital for a check-up, Griffiths being released the following day. It was all the more alarming as the unlucky pair had been made to cut out a piece from the car's under-dash cage bar before the start. . . as such fitments aren't allowed on international events.
One wonders what would have been said if they had been badly injured?
Snow covered the opening four-mile stage at Chatsworth, making conditions very difficult for the early seeded runners.
With cars restricted to just six tyres, it was almost impossible for those without M&S rubber to get through unscathed. Karlan and Ake Gustavsson and Jerry Larsson/ Torbjorn Henrysson spun their Porsches twice apiece, and Geoff Crabtree/Pauline Taylor took a stage maximum after planting their 911 firmly off the road. Jonathan Everard/Adrian Robinson badly damaged the steering on their Austin-Healey 3000 after an 'off', but their service crew did a remarkable job to repair the car. Their efforts were rewarded when Everard proceeded to finish third overall.
Peter Quinton/John Warren initially led the event in their MGB, taking full advantage of the improved conditions they encountered running low down the order at number 58. Mats Adolfson in a Volvo 122S was fully nine seconds adrift of Quinton's time in second place, with Kevin Bird's Mini Cooper third.
The Triumph TR4s of Alain de Falle/ Robert Rorive and Stephen Hall/Jane Bourne were quickest on the first run through Clumber, but the two Porsches of Karlan and Röhrl had moved to the fore by the time they passed through Clumber for a second time. However, only 25 crews had a crack at this second stage before it was cancelled in the wake of Griffiths accident.
Karlan thought he could hold Röhrl at Donington, especially as there was no snow or ice, but the German took 20 seconds from the Norwegian after the two stages. The crews then headed to the MIRA test track for the final pair of stages. Here, Röhrl firmly outpaced everyone, extending his lead over Karlan by a further 54 seconds.
The third International Rally Britannia certainly wasn't the total Porsche walkover that had been feared — even leaving aside Röhrl's problems — with a Volvo, Austin-Healey and Triumph also squeezing into the top five.
The contest should be fiercer still on next year's event, which rumours suggest will be expanded to cover two days.
Paul Loveridge's Mini Cooper S finished the shortened National Rally Britannia as the clear winner, some half a minute ahead of the MG Midget of Chris Saunders and the Rallye Imp of Rob Pilcher.
For the National runners there were only four competitive stages, those at Clumber having been cancelled. I G M S
International Rally Britannia – November 21, 1993
1. Monty Karlan / Ake Gustavsson Porsche 911 42m 18s
2. Mats Adolfson / Richard Nilsson Volvo 122S 43m 08s
3. Jonathan Everard / Adrian Robinson Austin-Healey 3000 43m 17s
4. Dave Preece / Rowland Prentice Porsche 911 43m 38s
5. Stephen Hall / Jane Bourne Triumph TR4 43m 42s
6. Jerry Larsson / Torbjorn Henrysson Porsche 911 43m 46s
7. Keith Bird / Tony Graham Mini Cooper S 43m 47s
8. Geoff Crabtree / Pauline Taylor Porsche 911 44m 06s
9. John Handley / Tony Moy Ford Lotus Cortina 44m 14s
10. Roger Powley / Brian Goff Porsche 911 44m 24s