Miss Betty Haig makes a suggestion
We have recently heard the news that the next Olympic Games are to be held in London in the summer of 1948. Two years seems a fairly long time to look ahead, but by then we can hope that some of the upheavals of peace may have settled down and we will have begun to enjoy returning prosperity. As a car owner, it is nice to look forward, at last, to petrol and tyres off the ration, new models off the drawing boards, and with the coming of the International Olympic Games, the final thawing of the paralysing foreign travel restrictions. This will seem to some of us like the end of the Great Ice Age!
What a unique opportunity for Great Britain to attract to this country the youth of other nations and to display to the citizens of the future our products of craftsmanship. Foremost among these, and of great interest to our foreign visitors, will be our new cars. In the old pre-war days, the superior finish of our coachwork, upholstery and shining accessories, always had a certain appeal for the young continental; possibly by 1948 we shall have something to show them that will he really worthy of British engineering ability.
One of the finest ways to attract to this country the motoring enthusiasts of the world and to show them our latest models in action, would be by the organisation of an International Olympic Rally. Before the war, British rallies did not attract foreign entries, though many British drivers crossed the Channel to drive in the Continental events. A well-organised and amusing Olympic rally might bring the limelight to this country, and in future the three big R.A.C. rallies would, in turn, attract some of the Continental drivers. Those of us who drove much on the Continent during the 1930s, saw something sadly resembling the rise and fall of the popularity and prestige of British motor-cars. In the early days what wonderful publicity all those M.G. successes gave us in Continental races, hill-climbs and speed trials! Here was a car very much like the model which could be bought by the ordinary driver of limited means, and many M.G.s, Singers and other popular cars were to be seen with foreign number plates. In those days, to own a small British car was just the last word in glamour and chic!
Then, somehow, after about 1936, the evolution of British car design seemed to stand still, or even to regress. Possibly in this country the 30 m.p.h. limit regulation was, among other evils to progress, beginning to make its influence felt. British firms ceased to take any active interest in competitions, and our new models began to appear faintly out of date. Possibly they looked a little old-fashioned, with their functional lack of streamlining; perhaps they were a little heavy, with a 950-c.c. sports two-seater weighing nearly 16 cwt. Sometimes their cooling arrangements were inadequate for long climbs in the Alps. Their suspension, too, was not as modern as it might have been for either comfort or speed, by the standards of the new Continental cars. In any case, we just dropped back, while B.M.W.s, Lancia “Aprilias” and various Fiats just forged ahead in popular favour.
In 1986, when the last Olympic Games were held at Berlin, the Germans organised an event which was known as the “Olympia Automobil Sternfaht.” In this, competitors started from controls situated all over the world, converging upon Germany, where they all followed routes of their own choosing, checking in at set controls at certain hours. A reasonable average speed was set and points were given for the number of controls covered within the time of the rally, which was from the 22nd to the 30th of July. Competitors were thus encouraged to visit every part of the country. The event attracted 125 entries, drivers coming even from America. The many experienced British trials and rally organisers could, with a little official co-operation, improve on the last Olympic rally. The controls should be situated in many parts of England, Scotland and Wales, thus giving competitors a wide personal choice of any towns that they might wish to visit. At the finish, where the routes converge, there would be a reception of welcome for the foreign drivers, after the final speed and acceleration tests.
In the German rally, the finishing control was on the Avus track. This made a fine spectacular point for the arrival, in a few hours, of cars from all over the world. The whole thing was well staged, with officials who spoke many languages to welcome the drivers and give advice and directions, beneath the great banners with the five coloured Olympic Rings (and other well-known devices!).
The British Rally could include a few tests to improve it from a sporting point of view, possibly a speed hill climb, as well as some acceleration tests on a class handicap. If well advertised abroad, the rally should collect some very interesting entries from other countries.
As a final attraction, what a great thing it would be if, by 1948, we should be able to show the world a new, modern race-track, which would stand out as the finest in existence and a worthy successor to the traditional Brooklands! Here would be a magnificent finishing control for the International Olympic Rally of Great Britain.