Rallye du Maroc
Whilst Championship rallies tend to get talked about far more than any other, there are quite a number of worthwhile events of International status which are not in any championship, both in Europe and elsewhere. One of these is the Rallye du Maroc.
Although there is considerable French influence in Morocco, the country has very few rallies compared with France, but its one International event of the year gets tremendous support from governmental departments and is one of the very few rallies (perhaps the only one) which pay starting money—the equivalent of £200, in fact, to each competing car.
This event took place during the week before the Tulip Rally and this doubtless took away a few entries from the Dutch event. Renault sent three works cars, and there was also a full team of five Citroëns from the factory. The latter team, having realised that they were not endowed with a power/weight ratio necessary for the pace of the smoother Championship events, have been looking around for rougher events, and Morocco was their first choice.
That they decided rightly is in no doubt, for some of the special stages used on the Maroc were so diabolically rough that a car got as much pounding on one of them as during three R.A.C. Rallies put together. Some were in excess of 200 miles long, and in such desolate, barren country that a breakdown was not merely a predicament, it was a near disaster.
Of 73 cars which started the rally, amid all the ceremonial magnificence that the Government could provide, only seven finished—five Citroëns and two Renaults. The winners were Robert Neyret and Jacques Terramorsi, Neyret being the factory driver who drove the ungainly "DS Original" on the Alpine Rally in 1968.
Despite the distance involved, three private entrants made their way to Casablanca from Britain, Cooper/Griffiths in a Cooper S. Heppenstall/Thomas in an Escort Twin-Cam and Martin-Hurst/Jopp in an Escort fitted with a Buick V8 engine lifted straight out of a Rover 3.5. That they didn't finish is not really to their discredit, for conditions on the Moroccan special stages were both severe and unexpected. Perhaps next year a larger British contingent, armed with the knowledge imparted by the 1968 party, will be more able to show the French how tenacious British rallymen are.
A person whose presence in Morocco during the rally was rather significant was Mr. Henry Treu, Secretary of the C.S.I. of the F.I.A. Will the event one day become part of an International Championship?
Fram International Welsh Rally
If anyone had asked me at the beginning of the year whether the Welsh Rally would be held on its appointed dates in early May, Welshman though I am, I would have voiced the opinion that it would not. So many were the difficulties facing the organisers in their search for roads suitable for special stages that regulations were late appearing and other pre-rally publicity was meagre indeed.
The last Welsh Rally was in 1966, the intervening years being missed firstly owing to foot and mouth disease and secondly to a dispute concerning road reinstatement which has since been settled.
After a slow start, the 1969 event materialised and surprised everyone by its quality and by the ferocity of the competition both among the few professionals and the masses of amateurs taking part.
Held over two days and nights, the rally used 27 special stages, some on the military roads on Mynydd Epynt in Breconshire and the majority on the rough tracks of the Forestry Commission. The final stage was a 10-lap "race" on the 1.1-mile Llandow Circuit, but results from this test were discounted owing to a timing discrepancy.
Three drivers were outstanding during the rally. The Swede Ove Andersson, in a 1,852-c.c. Escort Twin-Cam entered and supported by the factory, young Colin Malkin, one of the Marathon winners, in an 1,140-c.c. Hillman Imp, and the experienced Roy Fidler in a B.M.W. 2002TI entered by Autoextra of London. These three were in a class of their own, but one feels that much praise should be accorded Malkin for urging his diminutive Imp to stay with the more powerful cars of Andersson and Fidler. When Fidler retired crashing, and Malkin when a leaking oil seal caused gearbox seizure, Andersson won easily, his co-driver being Gunnar Palm, the experienced Swede who partnered Carlsson and Söderström many times.
The amateur drivers, some partly supported by local garages, could again be divided into two categories. A dozen or so stood out, fighting hard to be in a position to take the lead should the three fast men drop out. Most prominent among these was a relative newcomer called Chris Sclater, who started rallying little over a year ago and who has since displayed such a degree of natural talent that perhaps one day he might find a place in a factory team. Co-driven by Martin Holmes, Sclater stayed ahead of northerners Jim Bullough and Don Barrow to take second place behind Andersson.
Sponsored by Fram, the American filter company with factories in Wales, the Welsh Rally served to bring comments of relief from countless rallyists who were beginning to fear that forest rallying was coming to an end. Whilst overseas drivers get a high degree of governmental co-operation, and organisers have a pretty free hand in selecting forest tracks for rally routes, Britain's Forestry Commission must not be allowed to sprag the wheel of rallying and block the vital practice which British drivers need to challenge Scandinavians and others. Until now, the Commission has been co-operative, but the writing is beginning to appear on the wall. Whilst we still have a Minister for Sport, perhaps the more people who write to him on this matter, the better.—G. P.
The Tulip Rally
For many years the Tulip Rally has been looked upon as a weaning ground for International aspirants eager to cut their teeth on the Continent. It has probably attracted more private entrants from Britain than any other International rally—with the exception of the Monte, perhaps. The helpful organisers and the traditional hospitality of the Dutch have been largely responsible, not forgetting the financial help which was given to the rally and its participants by B.P.
Over the years, the Tulip Rally has come to be regarded as the preserve of private entrants, but the factories have always sent cars, mainly because the event has been a European Championship qualifier and valuable points were at stake.
But Holland is not a country which lends itself to rallying, and the organisers have always had to use neighbouring countries to find special stages and the like. Consequently, the long run down through France to the region around Annecy has tended to become somewhat boring. This year, the only real works entries were from Porsche (one car), Lancia (one car), Daf (three cars) and Ford of Belgium (one car). The British contingent (so strong in previous years that the London Motor Club always sent out a party of marshals to help the organisers) numbered only 16 cars, and it is rather sad to record that none of them really put up a striking performance, except perhaps Leo Bertorelli who tried pretty hard.
Amateurism has always been something which the Tulip's organisers have encouraged, and in previous years this has been reflected in the awards list. There were never any cash prizes; instead, award winners went away with delightful silver tulips. This year, cash awards were given instead, presumably in an effort to attract entries, and since the sponsors were Rotterdam-based, the rally moved its headquarters to that city from the usual base at Noordwijk-an-Zee.
Two years ago, the rally suffered a blow when B.P. withdrew its sponsorship and the resulting increase in costs affected the number of entries. This year, a Dutch newspaper and various business and municipal interests in Rotterdam financed the rally to a great extent, and thus it was able to be held at all. Unlike racing, rallying is very much a self-supported sport, and each event (not having gate money, etc., to rely on) has to seek the necessary finance from somewhere.
The falling off of interest in the Tulip is rather sad, particularly as it has given its name to a diagrammatic method of navigation which has been, and will be, copied by rally organisers the world over. If they can liven the long runs through France, and increase the ratio of special stage distance to road distance, attracting more entries will be that much easier. After all, rallyists all over Europe still have a soft spot for the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the Tulip.