It has long been felt that Swedes and Finns have been the masters of the forests, the only Britisher capable of even getting to grips with them being Roger Clark, who won the RAC Rally against strong Scandinavian opposition in 1972. But in the meantime other British drivers have been improving steadily, at least in the unpractised forest stages of British events, and in early June one such driver scored his most significant victory by winning the Scottish Rally against stiff opposition, including two very good Finnish drivers, and beating Clark into second place by more than three minutes.
Russell Brookes has won rallies in the past but never an important international such as the Scottish. He is a totally disarming fellow and tends unwittingly to give his opponents (at least those who don’t know him) the impression that he isn’t anything like as fast as he really is. He uses a factory-prepared Escort RS backed by Andrews-Heat-for-Hire, and his win in Scotland was all the more meritorious when you consider that he had to make up the time lost by rolling the car on the second special stage.
Both Leyland’s TR7s retired again; Ari Vatanen, winner of the Welsh Rally and leader of the Scottish in its very early stages, retired when his Escort’s transmission failed, and Pentti Airikkala fell back to fourth after two punctures and a rear axle which had to be held in place by a chain. Third place went to Andy Dawson in a Datsun Violet entered by Glovers of Ely and fitted with an extremely potent engine which arrived from Japan only a few days before the event.
A break from tradition was the base at Ayr. In the past, the rally has started at Glasgow and moved into the Highlands to be based at Grantown or Aviemore. Administratively, the move produced better efficiency, but it did mean longer runs in search of special stages and more negotiation of urban areas—Glasgow and Dumfries were each crossed several times.
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“I knew you’d have something to say about it”, was D.S.J.’s grinning comment when I taxed him about including rallies with “other lowly levels of the sport”. He explained that rallying went right down in his estimation when the winning car was thrown out of the Monte Carlo Rally in 1966 because it had the wrong bulbs in its lights. He has a valid point, of course, for clean, honestto-goodness competition without trickery and with no committee-table tactics to change what has been decided at the wheel by the drivers themselves, is the only really worthwhile sort of competition. Equally valid is the point that racing drivers like the friendly atmosphere of rallies, whereas the converse cannot be said. What is more, has not Grand Prix racing long been more circus than sport? To me it’s like table tennis; you get a stiff neck from watching both !—G.P.
[Colour photographs of the Acropolis Rally appear on page 803 and of the Scottish Rally on page 807.]