The Tulip Rally
So far this year. the major International rallies held in Europe have been rather frustrating for the Ford France team. Last year—1963—saw a steady increase in confidence which started with a very near-miss on the Monte Carlo Rally when Bo Ljungfeldt all but won it (he lost 31 minutes on the road replacing a burnt-out clutch), and progressed through successes in French Internationals such as the Routes du Nord and the Picardie to an outright win on the Tulip for Henri Greder and Martial Delalande.
The same pair repeated their success on the Geneva Rally in September, though during the Alpine and the Liège the sun had not shone on their efforts. Also, in the latter part of the year, Jo Schlesser showed that the A.C. Cobra was not entirely unsuitable as a rally car by finishing well up on the Tour de Corse and winning the Criterium des Cevennes.
All this promised very favourably for this season and the opener was to have been an outright win on the Monte Carlo Rally, where they felt certain that a repeat of last year’s dose of Ljungfeldt, plus Falcon with more power and less weight, would prove unbeatable. Just to make sure, the American cheque-book was opened wide and name drivers signed to fill five other Falcons (Graham Hill, Peter Harper, Anne Hall, John Sprinzel, Peter Jopp and Denise McCluggage were among those signed). In addition, the number of service cars was increased manyfold and top drivers who were already tied to Ford (Peter Arundell, Chris Craft and Sir John Whitmore) allotted to drive them.
What happened is ancient history for the patchy ice and snow which, intermingled with dry tarmac on the special stages, rather messed up the big car’s plans, and though Ljungfeldt made fastest time over all the special stages (he tied with Hopkirk on one of them), it was the miniature Cooper S with Paddy Hopkirk at the wheel that won the rally for B.M.C. Since then, the Falcon has not been able to impose its will upon the rally scene as it was beaten by the handicap and Trautmann in the Lancia Flavia on the Lyon-Charbonnières and retired on a couple of other French events.
If there was one rally where Henri Greder must have thought that he stood a really good chance of winning, it was surely the Tulip Rally, which he won the previous year. However, there is many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, and it was to be another Cooper S, but this time a 1,300-c.c.-engined car, that beat the Falcon.
The Tulip is generally reckoned to be a fairly easy rally, in that the total mileage in which the driver has to be trying hard is rather small. This leads to very few retirements amongst the works teams and works entries as the cars are not stressed to the extent that they would be on the Alpine or the Liège, and there is more time to service the cars if this becomes necessary. This is not to say that the Tulip is no test at all; it is just that the final results reflect more upon the power and handling of the car and the skill of the driver than upon the reliability and ruggedness of the manufacturer’s products.
The most controversial point about the Tulip is its system of working out the results, which is usually on some kind of improvement basis. Last year saw the improvement being calculated solely within the separate classes, so that a quick car in an other wise slow class would have a very good class improvement and would stand the best chance of winning outright. This was reckoned to be just the slightest bit unfair and this year saw a change; the improvement was to be calculated with respect to the class winners in the classes directly above and below the class under consideration as well as its own class winner.
In case that sounds a little confused, perhaps it should be explained that to win the rally you must first win your class. Then your total penalty points are compared with the average of the winner’s points in the class above you, your own points and those of the winner in the class below you, and they are expressed as a percentage of this average. The class winner with the lowest percentage wins.
This means that to win you must be faster than the class below you by more than the gap that would be expected by having a more powerful car and almost as quick or quicker than the class above. Greder in the Falcon was unfortunate enough to have Carl-Magnus Skogh in a works Volvo in the class below him and, although on paper the Volvo should be considerably slower than the 4.7-litre Falcon, Skogh was able to go fast enough to keep within range of the Falcon’s times and thus reduce its percentage improvement.
Between Skogh’s class and that of Timo Makinen in the 1,300-c.c. Cooper S was the Cortina GT and Rapier class which, in the absence of works Fords from England (Henry Taylor was driving a Cortina GT with an experimental engine in Group III with the GT cars), was, to say the least of it, not very hotly contested. The only car in it at the start which might have reduced the improvements of both Makinen and Skogh was the Lotus Cortina of John Wadsworth, which crashed on the hillclimb of La Roche quite early in the proceedings. Below Makinen was the class between 850 c.c. and 1,000 c.c., which had Pierre Gelé and Nicholas Koob in works D.K.W. F12S and Peter and Ann Riley in an ex-works 997-c.c. Cooper, but they could not outpace the new “puissant” Cooper S and, quick though their times were, they could not reduce Makinen’s percentage improvement. In the smallest class of all were the D.K.W. Juniors and the Saabs of Erik Carlsson and Pat Moss, who would not have appeared to stand much of a chance in the general classification. However, on most occasions Pfnier in a D.K.W. Junior was actually beating both the F12S, while Pat and Erik, despite being in heavier cars, were not far behind.
In the GT category things were fairly evenly matched right from the start, with quick cars and drivers in every class. There were the Morley brothers’ Healey 3000, the Porsche 904 of Ben Pon, the Porsche Abarth Carrera 1600 of Berndt Jansson, the Group III Cortina GT of Henry Taylor, the Group III Cooper S 1300 of Julien Vernaeve, the 970-c.c. Cooper S of Geoff Mabbs, and the D.K.W. F12 of Peter Ruby. An impressive list and one that, had all the cars finished and realised their potential performance, would have ensured that no GT class winner would have had an unusually good percentage improvement and thus would not have finished well overall.
In fact, what happened was that Geoff Mabbs crashed on La Roche in the most spectacular manner during a rainstorm, and Ben Pon’s Porsche 904 broke a front wishbone while nearing the Nurburgring on the last night and retired. Until then, he had been sharing with the Morleys’ Healey and Greder’s Falcon the distinction of putting up the fastest times over the tests, so that his retirement left a much slower class between that of the Healey and that of Henry Taylor and Berndt Jansson, which gave all three a gratuitous boost to their percentage improvement.
At the end of the rally, as soon as the class winners were announced, together with their marks lost, a quick calculation showed that Makinen, Morley and Greder were confirmed as most likely candidates for the outright win. It turned out to be Timo Makinen and Tony Ambrose in the Cooper S 1300, who had a percentage of 97.23, which compared with the Moneys’ 97.41%, to give the Anglo-Finnish alliance the outright win. Thanks to Skogh, Greder found his percentage to be 98.81, which was only sufficient to place him second in the Touring Category.
Thus, as always, it was difficult to explain who won the Tulip and why without a great deal of mathematical discussion. One thing was abundantly clear from the rally, and that is that the Healey 3000 when driven by Don Morley is still just about the quickest and most sturdy GT car around, and it will be interesting to see whether it can retrieve its Alpine reputation on this year’s Coupe des Alpes in June.
Before leaving the Tulip Rally altogether, perhaps a word should be spared for the Amateurs’ awards and classification. The Tulip still persists in running a private owners’ category, as it is considered to be so difficult for a private owner to win outright in view of the large number of works entries and the low rate of retirement on the Tulip. The only problem is defining a private owner and there were certainly many who ran in this category who were either driving thinly-disguised works cars, their own cars with works engines, or cars on which works money had been spent. It is not the purpose of this article to criticise those people, for they were certainly within the letter of the law as far as actually owning the car went, but it does illustrate the futility of trying to create such a barrier between the works and the private entrants, especially if the winning of the amateurs’ trophy is publicity enough for the works to seek after it.
The only answer to the problem is to enforce Group I regulations as rigidly as possible to restrict the amount of money that the works can spend, or have to spend, in putting an entry into a rally. In any case, as mentioned in the review of the Safari, the works will always be able to afford to do a reconnaissance of the route that the private owner cannot, and can build their cars so much more carefully and to higher standards than those available to the. public.—J. D. F. D.