Markku in the murk
When all Europe seemed to be enduring wind and rain in place of the customary winter cold, and predominantly dry conditions had characterised the Monte Carlo Rally, it was hardly surprising that Sweden’s Varmland should have far less than its usual coating of snow in February.
When the Swedish Rally set out from Karlstad on February 4, dark clouds and murk merged with the colour of the countryside, and forest roads were covered in ice and slush rather than the usual crisp, clean, packed snow. Snowfalls had been light, and it had not been sufficiently cold for long enough to produce a thick enough layer of ice to withstand attack by studded tyres. In many places the ice had worn through to the gravel, damaging studs as a result.
Lancia sent two Deltas to this 1062-mile three-day event, one for Markku Alen and the other for Mikael Ericsson. The latter went off on the very first of the 36 special stages, and later retired when a burst water hose led to cylinder head-gasket failure. However, his Finnish team-mate Alen had no trouble getting into the lead, where he stayed comfortably to finish a minute and a half ahead of Stig Blomqvist in a privately-entered Ford Sierra 4WD.
Mazda’s challenge came to nothing again, as it has in every outing since Sweden last year, when Salonen won. Both cars retired with what was explained as head-gasket failure.
There were 67 finishers from 157 starters, and among the leading ten at the finish were Englishmen Malcolm Wilson and Ian Grindrod, who were eighth in a two-litre Vauxall Astra GTE entered by GM Euro Sport.
The Group N category was won by Soren Nilsson who was twelfth in a Lancia Delta, and it was significant that among the leading dozen there were only three two-wheel drive cars, Wilson’s Vauxhall and the similar Opel Kadetts of Eriksson and Johansson. GP