IT was said at the end of this year’s Tulip Rally that no matter what the organisers decided, they would be bound to annoy someone and I suppose that almost the same must go for anyone who has to try and explain the chaos of this particular rally.
In order to understand why the Tulip Rally produced the result that it did, it is first necessary to exploits how the marking is done. During the course of the rally, marks can be incurred in two ways; either by losing time on the road sections which counts as 60 marks a minute or on the speed tests where each second taken to perform the test counts as one mark. At the end of the rally, each crew has its penalty marks totalled and the finishers in each class are arranged its order of ascending quantities of penalty marks. In order to arrive at a general classification, for each class a mark is calculated which is the average of the best mark in that class, the best mark in the class above and the best mark in the class below. Each of the marks in the class is then expressed as a percentage of that average mark and the car in the whole rally possessing the lowest percentage is declared the winner. A complicated process but one that is pretty fair and does not rely on pre-conceived formulas to compare the performances of such widely differing cars as a Healey 3000 and a Hillman Imp.
However, the trouble comes when cars lose time on the road for normally the cars which are quick enough to win their class lose no points on the road at all. When road marks lost, as they were this year, by virtue of severe weather conditions, are counted in with the performance on the speed tests the whole result of the rally can become distorted. The purpose of this “average mark” and percentage calculation is to reduce the advantage that a big powerful car may have on the uphill speed tests so that if the road marks had been considered separately and the percentage calculated on the results of the speed tests alone, then this system might have led to a good result. As it was, the result was not completely ridiculous as the two Hillman Imps driven by Rosemary Smith/ Valerie Domleo and Tiny Lewis/David Pollard which finished first and second overall had performed very well to get round the road section clean and had also recorded creditable times on the speed tests. Their team-mates from Rootes, Peter Harper/Ian Hall and Peter Riley/Robin Turvey in the two big Tigers, had been much less fortunate and had both retired on the section which was deeply covered with snow. However, the pre-eminence of the Imps in this rally—or rather in its results—was not purely and simply a result of their own good performance but rather because the cars in the class above them (the Cooper S of Julien Vernaeve and the Cortina GT of Eric Jackson) and the cars in the class below them (the works DM’s) were all quite heavily penalised on the road for being late trudging through the snow.
Having accepted the result as being an unexpected fillip for the Routes Group and British cars in general, a little more must be said about the organisation of the rally and the way it affected those crews who were not on the finishers list. The big natural hazard of this rally was undoubtedly snow and the fact that nearly all the competetors were ill-equipped to ascend icy hills. Only one manufacturer was possessed of sufficient foresight to lay on studded tyres for its two entries and that was B.M.C., while the works Triumphs did have some studded tyres brought out to them from the Triumph agent in Geneva, though these were almost too late to be of any major importance. Most of the other competitors, and this includes works entries front Ford England, Ford France, Rootes, Volvo and Lancia, were running on racing tyres or their touring equivalent. The unfortunate consequences of the organisers not being fully awake to the dangers and near impassibility of the section from Champagnole to Mont Saleve and hack to Champagnole via the Faucille was that while some cars got through—with will and determination almost anything is possible, given luck—others went off the road or got stuck or were turned back at hills that were already blocked. Once the section had been started, it did not matter what decision the organisers took, it was bound to be the wrong one. If the section was cancelled, those that had got round would be highly incensed while if it was not, then those who had turned back to the control on the telephoned advice of the controller or on the direct advice of the police, would be equally annoyed. If some compromise solution whereby competitors who had failed to get round incurred some penalty but were not excluded from the event (penalty for missing any sort of control is exclusion), then those competitors who had gone off the road on this section or who had run out of time (half an hour’s maximum lateness allowed), would have legitimate grounds for complaining that they had not been fairly treated as had they known of this reduced penalty, they could have cut part of the route themselves.
The trouble resides in the fact that the Tulip organisers still rather quaintly look upon themselves as amateurs running a rally for amateurs and that when something like this heavy snowfall occurs, they are unprepared for it. What they must realise is that amateur does not stand for second-class or inferior but is generally taken to mean unpaid with no implication of a reduction in quality. If the organisation cannot produce a rally of the standard expected from a European Championship event, then the Tulip will suffer front reduced entries and loss of works patronage that may eventually spell the end of the Tulip.—J. D. F. D.