The Tulip Rally
The Tulip Rally and the R.A.C. Rally of Great Britain are the two events in the European Championship Rally calendar which have always made a special effort to cater for the novice out on his first international. Therefore it was nice to see that the R.A.C. West of Holland under the guidance of president Piet Nortier had only slightly altered the format of this, their 18th Internationale Tulpen-Rallye.
The alteration took place in the marking department. Where previously the overall outright winner had been obtained by marking on a class-improvement basis, this year all the tests were marked on scratch, or simply fastest man wins. To most competitors this proved to be a popular move as it enabled people to see exactly where they stood rather than being kept guessing right up to the finish. It also removed the possibility of a group of people biasing the results by entering a number of support cars in a class to a fast driver. These cars would go slowly on the stages so enabling the fast crew to have a tremendous class-improvement and so perhaps an outright win.
Although one might then think that the Tulip has moved away from the private owner by taking away any chance of an outright win, this is not quite true as all classes and categories are split into works-supported and private-owner, the prizes also emphasising this distinction. The awards for each class win take the form of beautiful silver Tulips and the best private owner in a class wins a tulip, whether he comes eighth behind seven works entries, or whether he comes first.
There are several ways in which rally organisers can make things easy for a beginner, and the Tulip employs most of these. All the formalities at the start take place within yards of each other in the grounds of the Huis ter Duin hotel in Noordwijk Aan Zee. All instructions are in four languages, Dutch, French, German and English, and above all the officials are as friendly and as helpful as can be. Then, of course, there is that now much-copied “Tulip book” route card. This innovation provides the competitor with a series of arrow diagrams of junctions together with intermediate mileages, or should I say kilometreages, which allow him to completely dispense with maps, although it is wise to keep the relevant maps handy in the event of diversions, or freak snowstorms such as the one which created havoc on the 1965 rally.
The route itself is designed around first time rallyists. Long, easy transport sections take crews between a number of short hill-climb tests and over a number of selective sections set at 60 k.p.h. All the time the emphasis is to provide the length and style of an international rally and yet bring home as many finishers as possible.
This year B.P. had virtually bought the event and here was another benefit to competitors in that the first 50 private owners placed had all their petrol paid for.
As is usual on Continental events, most of the stages are in fact sections of public road which have been closed to the public. Unfortunately the number of stages had to be reduced by eight from 26 this year when police proved obstinate in closing some of the roads.
The route ran down from Noordwijk through Belgium and Luxembourg into France. It then wended its way in a S.E. direction through the beautiful and scenic wine-growing areas around the Vosges, to Geneva, then almost exactly retraced its steps back to Noordwijk to make the 2,700 km. route. The 15 hill climbs, two tests on army land at Utrecht and a lap of Zandvoort comprised the 18 eliminating tests, a total of 88 km., while the nine selective sections made 128 km. Seven of the selectives were easy to clean for most crews. The two that proved difficult were the crossing of the Col de Fouchy in both directions; however, this had been set at the slightly more impossible average of 70 k.p.h. Three crews, those that came in the first three places, were the only ones to be clean both ways.
For an event catering mainly for amateurs it was surprising to find so many works entries, however it should be remembered that the Tulip does provide good advertising value.
With the accent on power everyone thought that B.M.C. stood little chance against the Ford-Lotus Cortinas, the Alfa Romeo GTAs, the Porsche 911s, or the lone Sunbeam Tiger of Peter Harper. It was quite a surprise to many therefore to see the flying Finn, Rauno Aaltonen, co-piloted by Henry Liddon, bringing home the Group II 1275 Cooper “S” in first place some 40 sec. ahead of Vic Ellford in the Group II Lotus-Cortina.
Firm favourite Rob Slotemaker took the lead very early on, but retired with a broken drive shaft on his Alfa Romeo GTA. The lead was then contested by the Ford-Lotus Cortina of Simo Lampinen which first of all had electrical trouble, then blew up its back axle and then retired after a brake cylinder burst and the back brakes caught fire. A real hard luck story. After the departure of those two the battle lay between Aaltonen and Elford with Harper’s Tiger a close third.
Both second and third place men had complained throughout the event of fluffing engines, and while Elford’s went better after a cracked jet was changed in one of the twin Webers, Harper’s never did seem to improve.
Rosemary Smith’s winning Hillman Imp from the 1965 Rally had been purchased by Nicholas Stuart who halfway through this event discovered why the new Hillman Rally Imps have a certain modification. The drive shaft is splined to the hub, and after a while the splines-become worn to such an extent that “rear wheel steering” occurs. The remedy is to drill and tap the hub so that a permanent joint is made. On the same lines the new modification carried out on the Rally Imps consists of copper plating the splines and then ram fitting them into a permanent joint with a two-ton press. This does mean that half-shaft and hub have to be changed as one unit, however, it prevents the “bogeying” effect. Just goes to show that manufacturers do use knowledge gained from competition to improve the strain.
Rallying lays quite exhausting demands on both mind and body, and sometimes very comical situations can arise through crews being under strain. One such instance which might have arisen from overstrain was that of David Friswell and Alan Taylor in their private Louis Elan. They had spent many hours trying to get their car to run evenly and after running out of petrol on the first night they stopped a competing Porsche and requested fuel. upon receiving a 20-litre can Friswell emptied the contents into the tank and they set off. Lo and behold the car spluttered to a halt some two kilometres further on and the horrified crew found, after much head-scratching, that they had a tank half full of pure water! This brings us to the point of whether it was sabotage or do we now know what Dr. Ferry Porsche’s new secret fuel is?
The results showed Category or Group wins for B.M.C. in I and II, Timo Makinen coming ninth overall but taking the Group win from Bengt Soderstrom in the Group I Lotus-Cortina by a mere seven seconds. Harper got his expected Group III win, and Pat Moss her expected Coupe des Dames in the giant Plymouth Barracuda, which was entered by ANA, the Swedish Plymouth and Saab distributors. A plaudable effort was that of first-timers Carolyn Tyler and Sheila Taylor in bringing their Cooper “S” home as first private ladies, while the Best British Private Owners prize went to John Kennerley and Digby Markland in the Shelby American GT350 Mustang.
After-rally scrutineering took the form of spot checks, and so it was Timo Makinen’s Group I Cooper “S”, Jetten’s very quick Opel Rekord and Elford’s Lotus-Cortina. The friendly atmosphere made such a change after the recent mass disqualifications of the Monte and the Italian Rally of the Flowers.
The proceedings were rounded off by the usual Tulip Rally Ball, which some people regard as being reason enough to doing the event. The only blot being the fact that this year it was held on the Saturday night instead of the Friday. We know that the extra day is for the benefit of local traders and hoteliers, but after all rallying still is a sport, and many competitors left feeling that there was no need to spoil a fine event with a Monte-style joke.
The Austrian Alpine
Like the French Alpine Rally the overall placings on this the 37th Osterreichische Alpenfahrt were decided by road penalties first and the results of nine tie-deciding tests next. However, the tie deciding tests were not marked on a scratch basis, i.e. fastest man wins, but on a system of comparison coefficients by Group. Therefore, Paddy Hopkirk is shown with maximum possible marks because he was the fastest Group 2 car on all the nine tests, whereas in fact on scratch he was beaten on the first two tests by Group 3 Porsches. The point about this, then, is that if the Mini had dropped even a single minute it would have lost the outright winners cup although being quickest over 109 km. of special stages. The French Alpine makes up for this anomaly by awarding cash prizes for fastest on each stage, but not the Austrian—they only give awards to class winners !
However, the organisers, the O.A.M.T.C., did make vague promises that changes for next year would include prize money, results decided on special stage performances and a relaxing of the strict no-service rule.
The event itself consists of a two-day 1,700 km. tour of the rough back roads and passes in the scenic south Austrian Tauern Alps and the wildly rugged Dolomites just over the Jugoslav border. Porsche and B.M.C. were the only serious contestants; Fords not entering because only Groups 1 and 3 counted towards the European Rally Championship. They are using the Group 2 Lotuses wherever possible, presumably because the Group 1 Lotus Cortina is not considered competitive enough in its class.
So, anyway, B.M.C. pulled off their seventh international rally win after the formidable opposition from Porsche vanished when Klass broke a drive shaft on his 911 on the second day. Fall in the sister B.M.C. car retired after bending the steering on a pile of logs, while the GT category leading Porsche of Gass was immobilised. after a road accident. —A.E.A.K.