Over the years since 1953 when the European Rally Championship was first inaugurated many different makes have figured in the winning stakes; back in the late ‘fifties it was Alfa-Romeo and Volvo, with the latter making a reappearance in 1964 and 1965; then in the early ‘sixties it was Saab and Mercedes, but from 1962 onwards, and especially in the last two years, the Abingdon-prepared cars have become the cars to beat. The incredible Minis have won more E.R.C. rallies outright in the last four years than any manufacturer has over the last thirteen years, and this over a period of time when competition has never been quite so fierce. In fact, in the late ‘fifties a class win was considered simply tremendous and quite an achievement whereas these days nothing short of an outright win is considered even worth advertising.
No competitions department, however good the team spirit is or however good the drivers are, can hope to be continuously victorious without a leader to draw these two and all the other factors together and keep them at their highest pitch. BMC were lucky they found for themselves just such a person in Stuart Turner, at that time, five and a half years ago, a keen 28-year-old journalist on the staff of our associated publication, Motoring News. He learnt Russian during his National Service but his accountancy studies had to give rallying precedence. Turner could then speak with authority on rallying, for he had been in the works teams of Auto Union, Mercedes, Saab (he won the 1960 RAC Rally with Eric Carlsson), Triumph and B.M.C., competing in most of the major international events.
He has a dedication and interest in his work that few men can claim to have, and although far from being a driving taskmaster, has that rare quality of getting the best from his subordinates. Being an avid reader, he has assimilated a wide knowledge of most diverse subjects yet, apart front odd flashes of gourmetese, is not a great socialiser. The journalistic touch has obviously not been lost, for he has written two excellent books on rallying, while his imagination and inventiveness shows itself in other forms such as designing his house “Penny Farthing.”
Far-sightedness and clear calculated perspective thinking are qualities which have aided his path to success but it should not be overlooked that Marcus Chambers had for years worked at building up the competent workshop which Turner inherited, and that also the Mini has in itself been the motoring miracle of this decade. After the Sebring races in April he will join Castrol as Deputy Publicity Manager and already is planning to move nearer London and build “P.F. II” for his wife Margaret and their recently-arrived offspring Nichola Jane.
To replace him comes Peter Browning, already employed at Abingdon as Assistant Editor of “Safety Fast” and previously the General Secretary of the Austin-Healey Club This 30-year-old ex-organ builder seems to be very much of the Stuart Turner mould, with interests ranging from listening to good music through motor sport and sailing to photography —and driving his ex-works Healey in club events!
His organising ability has already been proved, for example, by his running of the 84-hour-long “Marathon” at the ‘Ring which Andrew Hedges won in an M.G.- B. His interest in motor sport showed itself quite early on and he is one of the youngest people ever to attain an R.A.C. Grade 1 timekeeper’s licence. His job will be both enviable and unenviable but let us only hope that as Stuart Turner had a completely free hand without any interference from above, so Peter Browning will have no interference. Raymond Baxter, the newly appointed Director of Motoring Publicity at B.M.C., is himself a past member of the works team as a driver and, with the right amount of co-operation, there is no reason why the successes should not continue.