Matters of moment, June 1962

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The East African Safari Rally

No emphasis can be too great when it comes to the severity and car-testing make-up of the East African Safari Rally, success in which has an enormous impact on car sales not only in East Africa, but around the World, especially in places where the going is tough and cars are judged by reliability and their ability to get through, rather than on pretty lines and gimmickry.

Motor Sport’s critics, in a minority but pernicious, who spend their time writing to tell us we are misguided in our enthusiasm for the Volkswagen, cannot any longer deny the ability of the ubiquitous “beetle” to win the World’s most formidable rally, which, said the experts, was tougher than ever this year. The outright victory of Tom Fjastad and Bernhard Schmider in a Volkswagen was no fluke—VW won the Safari Rally outright on three earlier occasions.

There are really only two things that matter about the Safari results—the outright winner and who gets the Team Prize. VW convincingly showed all other entrants the way, while the Team Prize was won by three Peugeot 404s, with a VW team second, Saab third. This performance of Peugeots is the more creditable because they were entered by the local Concessionaires and not directly by the factory. Out of ten team Peugeots so entered, nine finished the 3,000-mile course.

The overall placings were: 1st: 1,192-cc Volkswagen; 2nd: Peugeot 404; 3rd: Saab 96. Sales of these three makes cannot fail to benefit very materially.

Let us be fair about the Safari results. There will be those people who will point out that Pat Moss’ Saab would have won had it not hit a buck, which damaged the water-cooling arrangements. But a VW does not rely on water to cool its cylinders, so such a collision would probably not have put it out of the running…

“Ifs” and “buts” have no place in current motor racing and rally results, and class wins are of far less moment than Volkswagen’s outright victory, although we are pleased to record that Saab, Ford Anglia, Volkswagen, Hillman Minx, Peugeot 404, Fiat 2300 and Ford Zodiac III came top of their respective classes.

The Police Experiment in Buckinghamshire

We made brief comment last month on the lenient attitude which the Bucks police of all ranks were instructed to adopt towards offending road users, on the instructions or their Chief Constable, Brigadier JN Cheney. This campaign, aimed at building up better feeling between users and the Police, has been in operation for a month and is to continue throughout June.

The Editor of Motor Sport attended the Chief Constable’s Press Conference in Aylesbury and came away very impressed by the fairness, and extent, of Brigadier Cheney’s bold experiment. The Bucks Police will warn motorists of such dangerous misdemeanours as bad driving, bad signalling, overtaking in the wrong place, cutting-in, driving with defective lights and many other things. But this campaign is by no means aimed at motorists alone; pedestrians stepping onto crossings without regard for a vehicle’s ability to stop instantly, or taking chances by walking amongst traffic, cyclists riding more than two abreast or failing to drop to single-file in narrow roads, these, too, would receive equal attention. Moreover, the Chief Constable made it clear that he is not against speed as such, but speed in inappropriate places. “A driver is likely to get into trouble at 28 mph through Slough rather than at higher speeds on deserted roads,” he implied (unlike Anne Edwards of The Sunday Express who, composing a stunt piece of journalism so that she could cash in on Stirling Moss’ crash„ stated dogmatically that “speed is an acknowledged killer and motorists in this country will be checked to 50 mph on most roads for the whole of the summer,” thereby reducing her status as a thoughtful, well-balanced writer in the eyes of all modern-thinking road-users).

The intention, explained Brigadier Cheney, is to advise rather than prosecute during the period of his experiment. Few motorists will dispute the wisdom of the following pronouncements made by this progressive Chief Constable: “The main factors that will lead to a reduction in accidents are more policemen on patrol (in Bucks they tend to favour Jaguars, augmented by more motorcycle patrols) and a better understanding between the public and police. We often hear the word ‘persecution’ used in connection with police action against road-users. This campaign is an effort to disprove these allegations and I am sure that everyone concerned will respond wholeheartedly. Finally, I say quite firmly that the real answer to the reduction of accidents is the construction of better roads”.

To announce the campaign discreet notices have been erected on main roads leading into Buckinghamshire (how much nicer than those “Plain-clothes Police are Patrolling these Roads” notices favoured by the adjacent county of Oxfordshire!) and thousands of posters and leaflets have been prepared, not necessarily by the Police. Every Tuesday morning figures are issued showing the numbers of persons cautioned or advised during the preceding week, and for what infringements, and at the end of each month the number of accidents will be compared with those in the corresponding period of 1961. If the findings are encouraging we hope Brigadier Cheney will be able to extend his experiment or even make it permanent. The only road in his area to which it doesn’t apply is M1, where standard patrolling is the rule.

The AA saw fit to grab some publicity out of this Buckinghamshire Road Courtesy Campaign by issuing their own yellow leaflets, and during the Press Conference an AA spokesman made the childish suggestion that all drivers should tie a length of yellow ribbon to their steering wheels to remind them of good intentions. “Why yellow ribbons? – Why not blue ones?” –  retorted the Editor of Motor Sport, who would hate this very genuine effort to promote better driving and happier relations between motorists and the Police to be swamped in a sea of self-publicity by outside organisations.

Stirling Moss

What can we add to what has already been written about Stirling Moss, still in hospital after his Goodwood crash? Except to join our readers in wishing him the speediest possible recovery to health and happiness…