FRAM WELSH RALLY
1st: W. Sparrow/N. Raeburn (Cooper S 1340) .. 52 min. 30 sec
2nd: C. Sclater/M. Holmes (Escort TC 1598) .. 55 min. 09 sec.
3rd: C. Knowles-Fitton/C. Nash (Escort TC 1594) .. 56 min. 06 sec.
4th: J. Bullogh/D. Barrow (Escort TC 1598) .. 62 min. 14 sec.
5th: R. Eyre-Maunsell/N. Henderson (imp 998) .. 64 min. 06 sec.
6th: J. Churchill/J. Thomas (Escort TC 1594) .. 64 min. 06 sec.
7th: B. Lee/J. Coles (Escort TC 1550) .. 65 min. 56 sec.
8th: M. Bennett/E. Bamford (Cooper S) .. 66 min. 31 sec.
9th: C. Fisher/D. Spence (Cortina GT 1599) .. 67 min. 49 sec.
10th: W. Coleman/D. O;Sullivan (Escort TC 1558) .. 69 min. 14 sec.
148 starters – 99 finishers
OF THE four Home Internationals (there used to be five until the Gulf London Rally ceased two years ago) the Welsh Rally, with Fram Filters sponsorship, is the least publicised internationally. But that is not to say that it is easy compared with the others. It is based on some 30 special stages—seven on narrow tarmac roads, 22 on forest tracks and one on a racing circuit.
The World Cup Rally had considerable effect on the entries for the Welsh Rally, for the second half of the former started on the same day as the latter. Consequently, the factories had no time to show even a passing interest in the Welsh event. Furthermore, the event was not a qualifier in any international championship, whereas both the Circuit of Ireland and the Scottish Rally figure in the European Drivers’ Championship.
The result was a complete Absence of any overseas entries and a list brimful of enthusiastic British amateurs, of which 148 cars started.
I doubt whether anyone can remember a Welsh Rally taking place in sunny weather at any time during the past decade. In fact, the event has become so closely associated with rain and mist that preparations for such conditions are automatic for anyone contemplating the event. When the day of the start dawned warm and sunny it was most incongruous indeed, but tradition was satisfied later in the day when Cardiff experienced its fiercest thunderstorm for some time, soaking the tarmac roads of Mynydd Epynt—the former motorcycle circuit now an Army range and used frequently for rally stages.
Although some say that rallying is not a spectator sport, presumably because there is never any gate money anywhere, when there are special stages on forest roads those forests are thronged with enthusiastic watchers. In fact, many more people turn out to watch the RAC Rally, for instance, than several Grands Prix put together.
Spectators are a comfort to competitors—provided they do not get in the way—for they are always eager to go to the aid of a stricken car, helping to push it back to the road and acting as impromptu marshals by warning following cars of road obstructions.
Much of the atmosphere of such forest events was missing from this year’s Welsh Rally, because spectators were very thin on the ground indeed. Forest officials, concerned about both fire risk and the danger of irresponsible spectators being injured by passing rally cars, asked that the stage locations he kept as secret as possible and that officials do their best to discourage spectators entering the forests. Naturally this did not please the thousands of enthusiasts, but it is to their credit that there were no unruly scenes, most of them appreciating that the Forestry Commission could, if upset, deny the use of the forest roads as special stages.
Throughout the two days of the rally there were several drivers challenging fcir the lead, victory finally going to two young competitors who have been performing extremely well recently in British Championship events, Will Sparrow and Nigel Raeburn. These two drive a Mini Cooper S, and this must be the first time a Mini has won an international rally since Abingdon’s hey-day some years ago.
* * *
AUSTRIAN ALPINE RALLY
1st: B. Waldegård/L. Nystrӧm (Porsche 911S) .. 9,016.8 pts
2nd: H. Lindberg/S. Andreasson (Saab 4) .. 9,250.0 pts
3rd: J-F. Piot/J. Todt (Ford Escort) .. 9,297.6 pts
4th: A. Boyd/B. Crawford (Ford Escort) .. 10,038.8 pts
5th: B. Darniche/A. Mahe (Alpine-Renault) .. 10,067.3 pts
6th: Lux/Siebert (VW 1500) .. 10,530.1 pts
7th: Wurz/Zogel (Ford Escort) .. 10,563.9 pts
8th: Zelenka/Zelenka (Ford Escort) .. 10,727.7 pts
9th: H. Kӓllstrӧm/G. Hӓggbom (Lancia Fulvia) .. 10,734.4 pts
10th: Russling/Eggenberger (Porsche 911S) .. 10,816.0 pts
51 starters – 20 finishers
THE Austrian Alpine Rally was the fifth of eight qualifying events in the International Rally Championship for Constructors. As such, it attracted works entries from Porsche of Sweden, Alpine-Renault, Lancia, Saab and Ford of Britain—despite the counter attraction of the World Cup Rally.
But the numbers were low and there were only 51 eventual starters, an abysmally low figure for an event of such standing. Competitors were not overjoyed with the running of the event, for although it was efficiently organised its style seemed to vary from a rough special stage rally to a fast road event such as the Coupe des Alpes. Furthermore, the difficult parts were mainly concentrated in the first half, leaving the second half as something of an anti-climax.
Outright winners were Bjӧrn Waldegård and Lars Nystrӧm driving a Porsche 911S entered by the Swedish distributors. Waldegård’s regular co-driver, Lars Helmer, had been taken ill during practice and his place was taken by Nystrӧm, who was Waldegard’s regular partner some years ago before he took up driving himself.
Of the five events so far held, one has been won by Alpine-Renault (Sanremo Rally), one by Datsun (East. African Safari) and three by Porsche. In fact, all three victories by the German factory have been scored by Waldegård. This places Porsche in an almost unassailable position in the championship, for there are only three events left and it is very unlikely that Alpine or Datsun will win two of those.
For Ford, Lancia and Saab the championship is pretty well out of reach, and it was disappointing to learn that the Swedish and Italian teams could well give the remaining events a miss. However, Ford has not withdrawn any cars; they have two entered for the Acropolis and we would imagine that both Coupe des Alpes and the RAC Rally will have Boreham cars in their lists. Lancia will probably have just one car in the Acropolis, and we heard that they have entered two for the International Scottish Rally in June, a qualifier in the Drivers’ Championship. For the RAC Rally, they will undoubtedly attempt to repeat their success of last year.
Saabs, too, have been successful over the years in British forest rallies and to have an RAC Rally without the Swedish team would be unthinkable. They plan to have cars in the Scottish Rally, but the date clashes with a rather important Swedish Championship, event, so how they will split their resources remains to be seen.
The Coupe des Alpes, to all intents and purposes France’s premier event, has run into a spot of bother over its date. It used to be a summer event, but moved to early September some years ago in order to avoid heavy tourist traffic in the mountains. September has become as popular as July with holidaymakers and France’s Ministry of the Interior has expressed concern. Postponement for a week or two is out of the question, for then the event would clashwith the Tour de France, and we have heard it said that the AC de Marseille et Provence is considering running the event in December. I must say that it will be strange indeed to have an Alpine Rally taking place in winter, with the strong likelihood of snow.
Alpine-Renault certainly intends tackling the Alpine Rally, if and when it will be held, and there is a very strong possibility that they will be in Britain in November for the RAC Rally. If nothing untowards happens, that event will be one of the most hard fought for years, with Saabs, Lancias, Datsuns, Alpines, Fords, Triumphs and perhaps Porsches all in the fray together. It is some time since so many works teams met in the same event.
* * *
GALLAHER CIRCUIT OF IRELAND
1st: R. Clark/J. Porter (Escort) .. 566.5 pts
2nd: C. Sclater/P. Valentine (Escort) .. 733.7 pts
3rd: J. Henriksson/L. Calstrӧm (Opel RK) .. 741.6
4th: R. McBurney/N. Smith (BMW) .. 786.1
5th: L. Jonsson/A. Quist (Saab) .. 830.9
6th: J. Bloxham/R. Harper (BMW) .. 873.5
7th: A. Boyd/B. Crawford (Escort) .. 878.5
8th: M. Dolan/J. O’Brien (Escort) .. 890.0
9th: A. Fowkes/J. O’Gorman (Lotus-Cortina) .. 896.3
10th: B. Danielsson/S. Johansson (Opel RK) .. 932.5
APART from being a highly competitive and popular rally, the International Gallaher Circuit of Ireland also represents a carefree, island-wide, week-long social occasion. There are plenty of rallies which are tough but dour, or tame but jolly; the Circuit is one of the few which is both tough and jolly and therein perhaps lies its immense popularity.
It starts in the North and spends two night stops in the South, by tradition at Killarney, before returning to the North for the after-rally festivities. The competition is made up of special stage after special stage, a few on forest roads but the majority on asphalt public roads which have been closed to all other traffic for the occasion.
It is always an Eastertime event, starting on Good Friday and finishing on Easter Tuesday. The holiday period enables more private entrants to find the time to take part and more marshals the opportunity to officiate. The great pity, of course, is that there is a direct date clash with the East African Safari which also runs over the Easter weekend, a fact which has kept me and a few others away from the Circuit for several years. The Safari is a Constructors’ Championship qualifier, whilst the Circuit is a new inclusion in the series for the Drivers’ Championship.
The pace of the Circuit of Ireland resembles that of the Alpine Rally. There are other similarities, too, but the closest one is the speed necessary on the special stages. Power and lightness are the two desirables in Ireland, not so much brute strength which a car must have for a long forest rally or something like the Safari which shuns the smoothness of tarmac.
A car which proved to be ideal was the 1.8-litre BDA-engined Escort Twin-Cam driven by Roger Clark and Jim Porter, a single works entry from Ford. Clark and Porter won the rally both in 1968 and in 1969, and they were able to utilise the power of their car to repeat the performance this year. They took the lead in the early stages, forging so far ahead that the only tussle in the rally was between the private entrants for second place, that finally going to young Chris Sclater, a very capable driver who campaigns his own Escort T-C.—G. P.