Rally Review, March 1967

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Swedish Rally

Results — General Classification (top five):

Ist: B.Soderstrom/G.Palm (Cortina-Lotus) ….43,726 penalties

2nd: S.Lampinen/T.Palm (Saab V4)…..44,440 penalties

3rd: R.Aaltonen/H.Liddon (1275 Cooper S)…..44,720 penalties

4th: O.Eriksson/H.Johansson (Opel Rekord) ….. 45,700 penalties

5th: I.Nassenius/B.Frodin (Opel Rekord)….. 46,105 penalties.

Sweden is a very long and fairly narrow country which has a terrain rather ” rounded off ” by the ravages of the Ice-Age. One infers by this that there are no great sharp outcrops of mountains except on the Norwegian borders in the north but rather a gently undulating glacial geography, not only that but like Finland the valleys are full of water making the southern third between Gothenberg and Stockholm one vast Lake District. Then there is the enormous inland lake by the name of Vanern, said to be the largest one in Europe, and it is on the northern tip of this in the timber town of Karlstad that the Swedish Rally ’67 started and finished. The forests to the north and west of the town in the province of Varmland and right up to the Norwegian border are owned by the Billerud paper industry concern, and it is mainly in these woods that the Kungligen Automobil Klubben of Sweden ran their third winter-time Swedish Rally. Incidentally the warm welcome extended everywhere one went is typified by the area manager of Billerud at Torsly who invited all competitors out during the official practice weekend before the rally to come to his house for drinks. Actually, the way practising was held was a bit of a sore point for the stages were supposed to be kept secret, but several people are known to have had notes of at least 90% of the route. Still all arguments were soon forgotten in the jovial and friendly atmosphere.

This event then is something akin to the R.A.C. in that most of the stages run through forests but they also have the advantage of being able to close the roads so that many kilometres were on fast minor-class roads. In fact stage mileage at 1,300 km. was nearly half the total road mileage, and all of it covered on ice or snow. This makes the event an extreme test of driver skill and must put it high in the list of top ten rallies in the world. Not only that but one could not wish to meet a nicer or more helpful and friendly set of people both organisers and competitors, and to cap it all the results were prompt and accurate, despite the main organisation being refreshingly haphazard.

Sweden is an intensely motor-sport competition minded country, which could be seen from the excellent press-and TV coverage, as well as from the masses of spectators at each stage. This also shows in the keen spirit of the event among the drivers, and indeed the Swedes and Finns showed us once again how good they are on the slippery stuff—and really no matter which car they were driving. Obviously the most praiseworthy drive was that of Bengt Soderstrom and Gunnar Palm. The chubby lorry driver had a very successful year in 1966 with several fine and steady drives, and with this being his first E.R.C rally this year he’s obviously still in winning form, it also shows what a well developed rally car the Lotus-Cortina has become in its old form—let us only hope that the new shape can do as well. The sometimes much-under-rated Simo Lampinen showed a flash of his skill by a very steady and quick drive in the new Saab V4, he and Ake Andersson never being much apart just as last year when they finished first (Andersson) and second when they were both in two-strokes, but mechanical trouble put Andersson out just as a headgasket put out the fancied Eric Carlsson.

The B.M.C. team have never had much success since, ironically, Bengt Soderstrom won it for them with a 997 Cooper back in the “Midnight Sun” days of 1962. In the last couple of years both Mäkinen and Aaltonen have rarely lasted more than just a few stages, and indeed the picture looked bleak this year when Makinen went out after three stages with the rear brake seals burst. However the wily and coolly driving Rauno Aaltonen together with Henry Liddon came through with a steady drive to take third plate despite having rolled it (a very unusual occurrence for him) just before half-way. The eight road minutes penalty lost in replacing a bent steering arm certainly cost them second place.

Two really outstanding drives came firstly from Bjorn Waldegard, the VW exponent who works for Scania Vabis (Swedish VW importers), and who really showed how to handle the sleek Porsche 911, for three-quarters of the rally showing a clean pair of heels to one and all, and secondly a previously unknown Mini driver by the name of Lasse Jonsson who fairly hurled his 1293S, privately owned and prepared, round the route.

Lancias didn’t have too happy a rally, Cella retiring with a split sump but Toivonen leastways drove steadily to sixth. The five works Renaults were similarly quite unhappy, and funnily enough it was only the young Frenchman Piot who lasted. The G.M. dealer-entered Opel Rekord 1900s with their o.h.c.’s, and 100 b.h.p. in Group 1 trim were a sight to see and went extremely quickly to take fourth and fifth. The secret of their success lies mainly in incredible reliability as well as the fact that loose surfaces are a great equalising factor where great care and concentration are needed constantly, for the slightest moment of inattention, a stray wheel drops into a snow-rut and into the enveloping and fluffy but icy-cold snow bank the car goes.

These great soft snow-banks are the reason why one so often hears of a car rolling yet continuing afterwards virtually unscathed. On the subject of handling it is said that the new Saabs handle better than the old, but still need more tuning as do the Volvos; the Renaults handle very well on the “yumps” for their weight distribution lends itself to good four-wheel landings; the Lancias went very well but Cella isn’t used to the ice, while the Cortinas, Minis and strangely enough the tail-heavy Porsches were all handling beautifully.

One other interesting rallying facet seen only on the Swedish is the great specialist tyre and stud war. For snow and ice a narrow section high profile tyre is favoured, and Goodrich (Saab and Renault), Fulda (Porsche) and Hakkapelliitta (virtually everybody) were the favourites, this of course raised problems for Dunlop who have Saab and B.M.C. in particular under contract. A lot of contract waving ensued but this is a peculiar position which can only happen on this rally and shouldn’t bother anyone much during the rest of the season.

When looking back at the Swedish the thing one most remembers is the colour and the action of the whole thing. Cars plastered with advertising hurtling over stage after icy stage, sometimes in forests over loose snow-rutted icy and freshly ploughed tracks, or along frozen lakes and rivers between dazzling-white car-swallowing snow-banks; or the four-lap four-car races at the Karlstad Travbana (Trotting Ring) where great plumes of ice-spray rose from the starting-straight as 5 mm. studs strove in madly spinning wheels to out-drag others to the advantage-giving first turn. One also recalls the press helicopter following stars up the crazy riverstage, of looking through two inches of clear ice onto the road surface and slithering and sliding in the crisp cold air whenever trying to walk … and perhaps above all the buxom blondes!

***

Monte Carlo Rally

Results — General Classification (top five):

1st: R.Aaltonen/H.Liddon (1275 Cooper S)….11,491.92 penalties

2nd: O.Andersson/J.Davenport (Lancia Fulvia)…..11,503.36 penalties

3rd: V.Elford/D.Stone (Porsche 911S)….. 11,516.16 penalties

4th: L.Cella/L.Lombardini (Lancia Fulvia)…..11,564.08 penalties

5th: S.Munari/G.Harris (Lancia Fulvia) ….. 11.651.20 penalties.

Tyres were the crucial topic on the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally, not so much perhaps for the effect they had on the results but because they highlighted the one real headache of team-managers—cost—and in particular the tremendous cost of doing the Monte. Let us just take a look back to the 1966 rally when tyres were allowed in unlimited quantities. Dunlop, mainly at the expense of Stuart Turner’s B.M.C. competitions budget, had several trucks and a total of over six hundred assorted tyres dotted round the Alpes Maritimes for, the weatherman being the unpredictable person that he is, any conditions could prevail during the event and the correct tyres in enough quantity at the right place had to be available for the three team drivers. With eight types ranging front R7 racers to deep snow and ice “chisels” one can soon see why a limit on tyres can be a blessing far as the manufacturer goes, and in fact B.M.C. only required 420 tyres to be available at Monte Carlo this time.

The organisers of the Monte had however set their limit not with a view to saving costs for the manufacturers but apparently to help team-manager René Cotton with his now very outpaced Citroens. The idea in the first place, back before the R.A.C., had been that any private owner could have a factor of 0.88 (12% advantage) applied to his stage penalties if he elected to use only eight tyres on each of the two loops, the 1,000-kilometre Monaco-Chambery-Monaco circuit and the 600-km. Monaco-Monaco mountain circuit, is an awfully big handicap to beat and it soon became apparent to the Monagesques that several “works” drivers would be entering their “private” cars although there were stipulations about showing logbooks and dated receipts of purchase, etc. The next step was to drop the private-owner idea but to retain the eight-tyre advantage. As it transpired 90% of the entry elected to go in the advantageous Category B, despite the added inducement that only Category A would count for points in the European Rallies Championship. It was little surprise to find two works Citroens in Category A, one in Group 1 trim for Robert Neyret, and the other in Group 2 trim for Jean-Claude Ogier, and had the conditions been really changeable from absolutely dry on the first loop to deep snow on the second these two could have undoubtedly done very well; as it was Neyret took Category A and Ogier won his class.

Before each loop Category B crews had to guesstimate the weather and then choose eight tyres accordingly. The seven Routes Complementaires had been virtually snow-free except for the Athens crews who had a fair bit of digging to do, but if anything most people were over-cautious and took too many studs with them, this showing in the results—particularly for the Renault and Lancia drivers. On this first loop the Porsche 911S of Vic Elford and David Stone showed its tremendous potential by coming in first, but Turner’s mighty Minis were magnificently lying second, third and fourth, the order being Hopkirk, Aaltonen and Makinen. After a night’s sleep the crew had once again to make their choice and then go through the tedious business of getting yellow daubs of paint put on the side-walls (incidentally this paint soon cracked and flaked off under hard cornering), into which the competition numbers were then branded by converted soldering irons!

Herein lies the secret of Aaltonen’s success, for the wily Finn seeing that spots of rain had begun to spit in Monte recalled the old saying that rain in Monaco meant snow in the mountains and so took six studded Dunlop SP44 Weathermasters and only two non-studded ones. Also he had the studs set extra deep in the rubber so that when first used they acted virtually as dry tyres, yet had a fair showing of metal for the later snows. Hopkirk and Mäkinen both chose four dry and four half-studded. Timo Makinen with Paul Easter proceeded to rocket into the lead over the first three stages of the mountain circuit but they were promptly eliminated by a rolling boulder, while the unfortunate almost studless Hopkirk/Crellin car had to drop back when the snows came as was also the plight of Elford’s Porsche. It was the turn of the Lancia Fulvias, and Ove Andersson with John Davenport running on well-studded Finnish Hakkapelliittas made fastest going of all over the six Monaco-Monaco stages, while the young Frenchman Jean-Francois Piot fairly hurled his bright-blue works 1300 Renault Gordini into second fastest over this loop. However it should also be remembered that running with low numbers they did each stage about ninety minutes before Aaltonen/Liddon running at No. 177 and so of course had respectively less snow on each section. Anyway the Finn held on to a slender lead and the final result showed him only thirteen seconds ahead of the Lancia driver with Elford third only fifty-three seconds behind that. Incredibly three minutes only cover the first six places!

To return to our original point about costs, the idea of tyre limitation is basically a step in the right direction. However those journalists who cried “foolish” and “dangerous” are also quite right, for a Mini putting down 95 b.h.p. needs more than three sets of fronts to last the demanding mountain circuit. So why not make a stipulation that the choice of tyres must be made at the time of closure of entry, also just allowing any two types to be chosen. Let each car carry just six tyres but let them be changed each 309 km. or thereabouts. For argument’s sake this would be at Gap on the way out on the Monaco-Chambery-Monaco leg and for the same argument it could be at Gap on the way back again. On the shorter mountain circuit crews could have just one change for six fresh tyres at St. Sauveur, roughly halfway. The safety aspect is well looked after then, but so is the cost side for the maximum any one car could have would be five changes or thirty tyres, multiplied by two for the alternative choice, this makes only sixty in total. For example then the B.M.C. team would need a complete total of 180 tyres and a reduced number of rims so making a considerable saving!

Mind you, the basic cost of days of tyre testing in the Alps and other development work would still go on, which one feels is a necessary happening anyway, but the result might well be an extremely good all-round lightly studded compromise winter tyre. This suggestion is being put to the Monte organisers as an idea for next year, and seeing that elderly Jacques Taffe is rumoured soon to be retiring, the new and younger (but not that much younger!) generation of Monte-Carlo Rally organisers might be a little more amenable to suggestions than the very patriotic commissaire général.

Much talk has also been bandied about as to the future of this classic event. Many say that if anything it should be turned into something like a winter Alpine for at the moment the result is decided on six special stages per loop making only a total of 250 kilometres of decisive motoring. However there is much to be said for having the seven or eight run-ins, for I would like to hazard a guess that much of the Monte’s remaining popularity lies in the local starts; one only has to consider the popular reception Paddy received in Athens, and how nice it would be to have a British start in Birmingham—the heart of our motor industry! In the not so distant past of days when rallies like the Sestriere ran it was quite the done thing to have several starting points—and let us not forget that generally speaking entry lists in those days were far larger than they are today. Not only that but the crews have to get to Monte somehow anyway, and running around Europe with rally plates adds something of a romantic touch. Something for the privateers in fact.

Probably one of the many reasons why so many people had something to say against this ’67 Monte was that if there is no-snow then the first loop in particular becomes extremely easy and quite boring for the works drivers, and the second loop is not so difficult either. However one should remember that time schedules have to be set with the worst in mind and that if the snows and blizzards of 1965 had been repeated then a similar quantity of finishers (twenty-seven in all) would have been more the order of the day, and incidentally one didn’t hear many voices calling for a tougher route then. Still perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if another 250 km. of stages or even of some form of selectif were introduced, but above all the Monte has an image which gives manufacturers a forum from which to blare about and otherwise publicise their wares for a week or so, and for that advertising reason alone we should consider always keeping the Monte in roughly its present format.—A. E. A. K.

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