The Scottish International Rally

Mikkola repeats the performance

Like a repeat performance of the Welsh Rally, the Ford works crew of Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz thoroughly trounced the opposition to win the fourth round of the Sedan Products Open Rally Championship: the Scottish International Rally. Retaining the superb form he showed in Wales, Mikkola’s drive to victory was one of almost nonchalant ease, the quiet Finn (he no longer smokes or drinks, and has dieted to the correct weight for his height) demoralising the opposition with a string of first day fastest special stage times only flawed when a rear wheel puncture intervened after a ten stages out-of-ten performance. Soon after dawn of the following day Mikkola was nearly five minutes ahead of his nearest challengers, Markku Alen and Ilkka Kivimaki (Fiat 13 1 Abarth), and he slackened his pace accordingly. On the final day Mikkola only recorded one fastest time; such was the extent of his control.

As last year, the “Scottish” was based at the purpose-built Cairngorm resort town of Aviemore, a conglomeration of hotels and chalets best known as Scotland’s ski centre, but still busy during the summer months as a tourist stop-over.

There were less than 90 starters for this year’s rally and a dozen of these were Army Land Rovers. The cost of running such an event (the Scottish using only Forestry Commission roads throughout) is becoming alarmingly high and a proportion has to be passed on to competitors in their entry fees. Without the assistance of Esso, Lombard and White Horse Scotch Whisky, there would simply be no rally. One positive side effect is the natural selection this pre-empts: you have to be serious about your rallying to make such an outlay. Fewer competing crews are also much easier to manage, marshals man posts for a shorter duration and the entourage slips through the countryside between stages with equivalently less fuss.

In its formative years as a prestigious loose surface, special stage format, home international, the Scottish was a long draw n out, highly social rally. It still m aintains a pleasant friendly ambiance, but the action is concentrated into one long day-night-day loop, with a further day of stages almost a legacy from bygone days. The rally started on Sunday m orning, June 4th, and looped east and south to Perth for a supper halt before continuing through Fifeshire to the central stages, across to the traditional Argyllshire lap and north, during Monday, up the G reat Glen to Inverness, before returning to Aviemore. Tuesday saw 11 special stages in the north east.

By the time cars arrived back in Aviemore on Monday evening, a predictable (and slightly depressing?) pattern had emerged with Finnish drivers occupying the first three places. Best British drivers were John Taylor and Roger Clark. This continued to the finish, except for Markku Alen retiring the Fiat early on Tuesday afternoon after an electrical fire and a distributor problem.

However, there was one cheering topic of conversation. It concerned the drive of 22-yearold Workington driver, Malcolm Wilson. Wilson was using the Escort RS1800 owned by Stuart Pegg (the car he drove with Pegg on the Welsh). This time Malcolm really got the bit between his teeth and used the night stages most effectively to climb through the field to be challenging Alen for second place by morning. Soon after, Wilson somersaulted off the road and out of the rally. He had started the event with a bent rear axle (only receiving the Escort three days before the start when the Datsun he was earmarked to drive failed to materialize) and on the special stage prior to his accident, Malcolm had clipped a boulder and splayed the front wheels, so it would be no exaggeration to say that his car was not handling well when he crashed.

The occasional accident is all part of the game of learning how to drive at world-class speeds and it is heartening to see a young British driver so closely emulating the Scandinavian style - first you go quickly, then you crash, then you go even more quickly, knowing your limits. For Malcolm Wilson’s Scottish performance, the organisers quite rightly bestowed on him the “Star of the Rally” award.

Although Mikkola and Wilson contrived to outshine all the others, it was pleasing to see that Dealer Team Vauxhall were back in the hunt with Pentti Airikkala quietly working up to a fine second place. Since their homologation refusal of cylinder head and clutch DTV had been burning the midnight oil at their Shepreth headquarters and when team manager Gerry Johnstone arrived with his two cars he correctly anticipated Chevette homolgation problems sorted, Airikkala took his to second overall. that the Chevettes would be “ slower - but reliable.” New, milder, camshafts were installed for this rally and the cars were, indeed, slow in comparison to Escort RS 1800s, but with drivers of the calibre of Airikkala and Jim McRae it was obviously the right choice to provide the team with a morale boosting finish. DTV plans quite literally took a tumble when McRae flew off the track on the first special stage. Clouting a stout pine tree side on, the car was bent like a sausage, and for the remainder of the event it handled in a most strange manner, the engine unfortunately letting go on the penultimate stage.

On the group one front Brian Culcheth once again brought the Dealer Opel Team Kadett GT/E to the front, scoring ninth overall in the process, and with four firsts out of four events he has virtually assured Opel of the standard car category in the championship. Principal opposition came from Henry Inurrieta’s Escort RS2000 and Terry Kaby’s Triumph Dolomite Sprint. In the event Inurrieta retired on the first day after a “ big” accident, and Kaby suffered a total of seven punctures, capped by a slow roll on the penultimate stage (finishing 14th O/A). Apart from Culcheth’s computer-like performance with the Opel, Gretna driver Ivor Clark drove an inspired rally with his 1600 c.c. Chrysler Avenger, taking tenth overall and the private entrant category. His extrovert and thoroughly effective driving is a lesson for many “club” drivers. - I.S.