Almost too close for comfort after the Morocco Rally came the Acropolis, the two week intervening period straining car-building and recceing programmes to the full. Alpine managed to get through the complicated timetable and indeed came away from the pair of events with 40 extra points in the World Championship table, Darniche having picked up twenty in Morocco and Jean-Luc Thérier doing the same thing in Greece by winning the Acropolis.
With tracks decidedly on the rough side, but not Morocco's scale of course, the Acropolis is always a car-consumer, and since the time schedules on the inter-stage link sections were quite tight this year there was very little time indeed for servicing. The result was a finishers' list only eleven strong, and that from 83 starters.
The second Alpine suffered clutch failure and lost considerable time but managed to pick it up sufficiently to take third place behind the Fiat Abarth of Rauno Aaltonen and ahead of the similar car of Hakan Lindberg. The third Alpine was an also-ran from the start, for Bernard Darniche was in such pain from an attack of sciatica that he was unable to drive. Co-driver Vial drove in the first two tests but Darniche was in constant agony so they had to turn for home.
Two factory-entered BMW 2002 Tls (with differential cooler pumps driven by belts from pulleys fitted to their drive shafts) retired very early, one with a blown head gasket and the other when it was put on its side after its suspension had gone soft. Toyota sent one Celica from Japan, with service crews from Sweden and Japan, but it went out early in the event with a blown head gasket.
A very strong team indeed was that of Volkswagen 1303Ss entered by Porsche-VW-Austria, the cars beautifully prepared and all with dry sump engines. Alas they were not without their problems, but Tony Fall managed to get his car up to third place when it retired with a blown engine on the last night.
A works Ford Escort RS was provided for Will Sparrow as part of his prize for winning the 1973 Escort Rally Championship, but it retired early when the fan-belt came off and became entangled in the camshaft drive belt. He and Henry Liddon then joined the mechanics to look after the similar car of Chris Sclater, who was taking part in the car which he had used in Morocco two weeks Scholarship award. Despite a variety of troubles Sclater finished seventh.
A remarkable result was achieved by Austrian Richard Rochnicek. His Group 2 car blew up on the way to the start so he and his mechanics hurriedly prepared the car which he had used in Morocco two weeks before (and which was to be used for service in Greece) and took it to sixth place, proof that reliability is no idle Citroën boast.
The 47-stage event was as tough as it always has been, but little shortcomings in the timekeeping, communications and results departments still have to be ironed out. These matters were dealt with in a far better manner than last year, and had it not been necessary to verify the suspect offerings of an underpowered computer we feel that the delay in results publication (throughout the rally) would have been obviated.—G. P.
General Classification – Acropolis Rally
1st: J-L. Thérier/C. Delferrier (Alpine-Renault) (4) ..... 7 hr. 17 min. 58 sec.
2nd: R. Aaltonen/R. Turvey (Fiat 124 Abarth) (4) ..... 7 hr. 44 min. 59 sec.
3rd: J-P. Nicolas/M. Vial (Alpine-Renault (4) ..... 7 hr. 45 min. 56 sec.
4th: H. Lindberg/A. Hertz (Fiat 124 Abarth) (4) ..... 7 hr. 57 min. 21 sec.
5th: G. Fischer/H. Siebert (Volkswagen 1303S) (2) ..... 8 hr. 34 min. 57 sec.
6th: R. Rochnicek/D. Kernmayer (Citroën DS21) (1) ..... 8 hr. 40 min. 14 sec.
7th: C. Sclater/B. de Jong (Ford escort RS) (2) ..... 8 hr. 43 min. 36 sec.
8th: H. Dopplereiter/O. Schurek (Volkswagen 1303S) (1) ..... 9 hr. 40 min. 01 sec.
9th: J. Psihas/A. Papatriandaf (Toyota Corolla 1.6) (2) ..... 9 hr. 43 min. 47 sec.
10th: J. Bardopolous/T. Carelas (Audi 80GL) (1) ..... 10 hr. 16 min. 59 sec.
11th: T. Hansson/M. Andersson (Opel Ascona) (2) ..... 11 hr. 15 min. 11 sec.
83 starters – 11 finishers