1st: C. M. Skogh/L. Berggren (Volvo Amazon) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 453.66
2nd: E. Carlsson/T. Ahman (Saab Sport) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..462.53
3rd: R. Trautmann/Mme. Claudine Bouchet (Lancia Flavia) .. .. ..576.63
4th: A. Andersson/G. Palm (Saab Sport) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .734.61
5th: D. Glemser/M. Baumgart (Mercedes 230SL) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1,049.40
6th: P. Vanson/J. P. July (Citroen DS19) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .2,329.26
7th: S. Zasada/K. Osinski (Steyr Puch).. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..3,110.47
8th: G. Pianta (Lancia Flavia).. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. … .. .. .. .. .. ..3,233.51
9th: J. Enequist/K. Ehrmann (Volvo P544) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 3,422.14
10th: K. Ruediger/G. Gunther (Wartburg) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .4,983.74
THE Greek Automobile Club used to have a European Championship hill climb at Mount Parnis just outside Athens but the distance that competitors had to travel to the event plus the fact that at that time there was no properly made up road through Yugoslavia nor a good ferry from Italy gradually caused the entries to diminish and now the Mountain Championship is decided on climbs spattered around the Alps and the Dolomites. However, they do still have a European Championship Rally—the Acropolis—and naturally they do not want to lose this as well.
Over the past few years, despite a constant struggle to keep the entries coming in, the Acropolis has become a better and better rally until now in its present form it is one of the best in Europe and probably the world. The formula for this success is a rally which uses many miles of rough unsurfaced roads split up into sections which are just about on in the time allowed provided that the driver can drive that fast on the loose and that the car gives no trouble. In case more than one crew gets to the finish unpenalised on the toad—in the past two years only half a dozen or so of the crews reaching the finish have been without road penalty—there are about fifteen special stages on the route of the rally. All but two of these are on tarmac and the average speed set for them are such that even the fastest cars and drivers are bound to incur penalties. There is a very small handicap applied so that the smaller cars do not have to make quite such fast times as the bigger cars but the twisty and rising and falling inclines on most of the stages are a handicap in themselves to the big cars.
The almost impossible road section plus the special stages are enough to sort out the rally without anything else but the club still retains the three short but classic hill climbs that have been part of the route for many years. These are at Soulion (not Sounion though it isn’t far away), Portaria and Delphi and provide a small proportion of the penalty marks as well as a further insurance against a tied result. The only other competitive parts of the Acropolis Rally do not really affect the results much and are more in the way of a publicity gimmick for the Athenian crowds. One is a driving test held at the foot of the Acropolis as the cars arrive at the finish while the following day, those of the finishers capable of driving some more miles go out to Mount Parnis for a hill climb and to Tatoi airport for a circuit race. I should add that Tatoi is not the main airport for Athens and is only a military base so that instead of interrupting the commercial passenger services to hold a motor race, only the country’s contribution to Western defence suffers. None of these supplementary tests really affects the overall result but they do attract vast crowds who get a chance to see the rally drivers and cars. Last year over 20,000 people turned up at the driving test and it had to be cancelled as there was no space left in which to hold it but though the crowds were equally large this year, many police, managed to keep them under control. A funny side to all this crush and eagerness to see the rally was that several years ago when the rally badly needed publicity, the club’s press officer, John Kapsis, was pleading with the national daily papers to give it a mention while this year he was trying to get them to mention it a little less so that the crowds would not be too big.
The rally itself, as I have already suggested, was really one of the best events to have been held this year and the entry was also of high quality. The Germans were represented by Eugen Böhringer and Dieter Glemser in Mercedes as well as four works Wartburgs from the Soviet side while Sweden had Saabs for Erik Carlsson, Pat Moss, Ake Andersson and Olle Bromark and Volvos for Tom Trana, Carl-Magnus Skogh and Sylvia Osterberg. The Gallic crews were quite well represented with Lucien Bianchi, Jean-Claude Ogler and Patrick Vanson in Citroens and Rene Trautmann in a Lancia Flavia. Two further works Flavias were driven by Giorgio Pianta and Peter Jopp while British interest centred on the lone works Cooper S of Timo Makinen and the four works Rovers of Anne Hall, Logan Morrison, Andrew Cowan and Roger Clark. A sprinkling of private entrants from Britain, Scandinavia, and naturally, Greece completed the field, but two that perhaps deserve to be singled out are George Raptopoulous and Zobieslaw Zasada. The former is probably the quickest rally driver in Greece and he and his D.K.W. have a truly great local reputation and as has happened for several years, he was going remarkably well until the a D.K.W. stopped, though this time it was engine trouble. Someone nothing seems to stop is the incredible Mr. Zasada who hails from Poland and drives a fantastic little car called a Steyr Puch. He and his car came to our notice last year when he won the Polish Rally against strong opposition while this year he has had good results in the Monte Carlo, the Tulip and now the Acropolis and the Geneva.
On the rally, probably the biggest-surprise was the poor showing of the Citroen and Rover equipes who had all their official works entries fall out. This was particularly bad luck for Rover who lost Anne Hall and Roger Clark very early on through assorted bumps and scrapes, and then mechanical failure of the De Dion rear axle seized Andrew Cowan while he was lying fifth overall and a Greek lorry pushed Logan Morrison off the road. For Citroen, the misfortunes centred on engine failure for Ogler and a most unusual failure for Lucien Bianchi who had his oleo-pneumatic suspension puncture on what was not a really rough section.
René Trautmann was using the front wheel drive of his Lancia to good effect to keep up with the Scandinavians who with Böhringer and Glemser were making most of the running. Then all of a sudden, Böhringer and Trana were both out, the Mercedes with engine trouble caused by a faulty thrust bearing and the Volvo with a broken differential in the rear axle, while further on, Glemser took a wrong turning and lost twenty minutes on the road. With the disappearance of the two ex-European Rally Champions and the heavy penalty occurred by the 230SL of Glemser, the Cooper S of Makinen took over the lead and dominated the rally until the ferry crossing to the Peloponnese when the hammering that the car was taking began to tell. To start with, the sump guard failed to stay attached to the car and the Finn had to drive one section without it and then after it had been replaced, the rear sub-frame cracked in half and lowered the suspension until the wheels were rubbing the bodywork. The coupe de grace was administered when the car caught fire only one section away from the finish when the B.M.C. mechanics were trying to weld the sub-frame into one piece again.
Perhaps the biggest fault with the hydro-elastic Cooper S that Makinen was using was the rapidity with which the universal joints where the drive is taken out of the gearbox were disintegrating and haying to be replaced by the mechanics. It was the fact that the sump guard had been removed during the ferry crossing to facilitate their replacement that the car had to run without it for a couple of sections. This problem, troublesome as it was on the Acropolis, seems to have been solved or at least alleviated by using a different grade rubber in the suspension units and fitting competition restrictor valves to the hydro-elastic units, for the similar car that Paddy Hopkirk used on the Scottish, gave practically no trouble at all in this respect.
With the slowing of Makinen and his untimely exit so close to the finish, the rally turned our to be a very closely run match between two—dare I say it—veteran drivers, Carl-Magnus Skogh and Erik Carlsson who finished only a matter of seconds apart with the decision just going to Skogh. Little needs to be said about the talent of these two drivers or on the reliability and speed of their cars, Volvo and Saab, to indicate that this Swedish finale was not entirely unexpected. It was a little more of a surprise to find René Trautmann third in the Lancia as these cars have not proved to be fantastically reliable, but the Frenchman’s driving talents are as undisputable as those of the Swedes that defeated him and it is to be hoped that the Italian firm will take heart at this result. His team-mates, Pianta and Jopp, were also going very well but Jopp was forced to retire with ignition failure while Pianta lost time after crashing on the very last special stage.
In all, the Acropolis Rally was an excellent event enjoyed by all who did it and there can be no doubt whatsoever that this is now one of the prime events in the calendar.