Sometimes rallies that are a bit new to the International circus cause rally drivers to be taken aback when it is discovered that not only are the entrants puzzled by the regulations but that the organisers themselves are a bit hazy as to what is meant by them. Several years ago now, the Monte Carlo Rally organisers used to get into arguments of interpretation with its competitors, but since going over to special stages marks on a clear handicap system they have had much less trouble. The Tulip was one of the most famous rallies to use a class handicap system of marking where the top so many in each class set the average for the class and the class winners are then compared with that to give what is called his class improvement percentage. The bigger this class improvement, the better he is considered to have done in the rally.
With such an eminent predecessor, the organisers of the Munich-Vienna-Budapest Rally could scarcely be forgiven for adopting a similar form of marking using this class improvement basis to decide the winner of their rally. The exact working of the system was important as there were only six tests in the whole of the rally and, naturally, the three prime contestants—Sobieslaw Zasada (Steyr Puch), Rene Trautmann (Lancia) and Rauno Aaltonen (B.M.C.-Cooper)—Were anxious to know just where they stood. This was the first time that this rally had formed part of the European Rally Championship and the first time, too, that it had been such a vital round in such a championship. The loosely worded regulations might have been quite adequate for the usual handful of keen German and Austrian entrants, but when the three protagonists turned up at the start and discovered that they had all interpreted them in a slightly different way, the organisers were eventually persuaded that something must be done and they issued an amendment to the regulations where, for the purposes of the European championship, the class improvement would be disregarded if it led to ambiguities and the thing would be decided on a scratch basis.
Fortunately such a decision did not have to be taken, for ‘ Trautmann’s Lancia Havia Zagato, although beating Aaltonen’s Cooper S on the first test on scratch; blew up on the last stages of the rally. The trouble was as in Finland—suspected piston failure—and a very disappointed Rena Trautmann flew out of Budapest at the end of the rally to think what he must do now. All year he has concentrated on gaining points in the European Rally Championship. in much the same way that in the past he concentrated on the French Rally Championship when he was driving for Citroen. Now his hopes have been almost completely shattered by the eleventh-hour intrusion of a diminutive Finn called Aaltonen and a large Oxford graduate called Ambrose who have quite calmly won no less than four championship events in the latter part of the year and finished second in another. He can still reclaim the crown of Champion, for the R.A.C. Rally is to be run this month, but without finishing in the first three and having Aaltonen, retire as well, he cannot possibly beat the young Finn. As this is to be considered unlikely, he may well decide not to enter the R.A.C. at all, and the Championship will pass to Aaltonen quietly and with no last-minute scrapping, which will be rather a pity as personally I think it would create a lot more interest during the rally.
The Polish driver, Zasada, was already several points behind Aaltonen at the beginning of the Munich-Vienna-Budapest and it was his misfortune that during the rally one of the other Steyr Puchs entered in his class defeated him on one of the tests, so that he had to be content with fourth place overall as that single defeat reduced his class improvernent by quite a large margin. He too would need to do well on the R.A.C. and have Aaltonen retire before he could catch Aaltonen and win the Championship, but here the possibility is less remote for the Steyr Puch is a strong little car which lasted out the Acropolis much better than did the works Cooper S entered for Timo Makinen. If the rough roads of central Greece can be tackled with such aplomb it may well find the forest tracks of Great Britain to its liking, while Aaltonen’s Cooper S may be more susceptible to mechanical failure on a long, hard rally like the R.A.C.
To return to the Three Cities, B.M.C. were using three crews in support of Aaltonen, partly as a form of insurance and partly to give them control of the class and the improvement made within it. Steyr Puch and Lancia did the same with their classes by entering masses of ” private owners.” The bright young boy from Bradford who won a coupe des Alpes on his first appearance on the Continent—Tony Fall—was teamed with Ron Crellin, who had often in the past been given the job of going with mad young men to see how suitable they are for the B.M.C. Team, and they went very well to finish second in class to Aaltonen, and with Paul Easter/Henry Liddon and the winning car, B.M.C. also took the team prize. The fourth B.M.C. car was driven by a very mature pair, Geoff Halliwell and Mike Wood, who had the misfortune to invert the car on one of the special stages, fortunately without much damage to themselves.
Thus it is that the European Championship has been virtually decided on the result of this rally, and we can say almost with complete safety that a British-built car has dominated rallying almost entirely in 1965.
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I thought that as this issue is coming out in November, I would say one or two things about the forthcoming R.A.C. Rally of Great Britain, as it will be January before I have another chance.
As far as entries go, the R.A.C. has not yet given any indication of how things are going, but I would imagine that if anything there will be rather less than the 170-odd that they had last year. This is mainly because I think that there will be fewer private owners than in the past two years, with no corresponding increase in the number of works cars entered. The private owner must find that the R.A.C. can be quite expensive, not so much its terms of outlay but because his car may be unserviceable for quite a long period after the rally and may need a lot of money spending on it to put it right. This notwithstanding, the majority of the entry will be comprised of private owners both from this country and the Scandinavian countries. There are hardly ever any Germans, Frenchmen or Italians that come for the R.A.C. Rally these clays as they feel, quite rightly, that they are outclassed on dirt special stages by the Finns, the Swedes and now the British.
There are five main works teams in Britain, of which the two most successful are B.M.C. and Ford. The British Motor Corporation will be concentrating its attention mainly on the Minis with drivers like Paddy Hopkirk, Jorma Lusenius and Raunos Aaltonen driving 1275 Cooper Ss, while Timo Makinen will be taking a lone works Healey 3000 to try for an outright win, which he just missed last year. Forth, on the other hand, will be using exclusively the new Leaf-sprung Lotus Cortina, which will be driven by David Seigle-Morris, Vic Elford, Bo Ljungfelft and Bengt Soderstrom. This latter driver is one of the fastest Swedish drivers rallying today and in the absence of Torn Trana, who is prevented from appearing on the R.A.C. by virtue of legal action still pending from his accident on the Gulf International London Rally, Soderstrom is to be rated as a very likely winner.
Rovers will be using their 2000s, which are virtually unchanged Since the Alpine Rally, and these will be in the hands of Logan Morrison and Anne Hall, who may be joined by Peter Procter who will be driving for Rover next season. Manes will be the only factory to have split their interests between two cars, with entries of both the Sunbeam Tiger and the Hillman Imp. Their drivers will include Andrew Cowan and Rosemary Smith, who will be taking Imps, and Tiny Lewis and Peter Harper, who will have the big-engined Tigers.
Lastly come Standard Triumphs; not for any particular reason, except possibly that your rally correspondent will be accompanying one of their team drivers and is trying to be modest about it. I will be going on the rally with Simo Lampinen in a Group III Triumph 2000, and this will be the first time that either he or I have rallied in one of these cars and it should prove an interesting experience. Also driving for the Triumph team will be Roy Fidler and Jean-Jacques Thuner, and one of these will have a similar Group III car and one will have a Group II version.
With Trana not able to come and make his R.A.C. hat-trick, Volvo will be sending three cars for regular drivers Carl-Magnus Skogh and Sylvia Osterberg as well as a new Finnish discovery, Raimo Kossila. He was very impressive on the 1000 Lakes in his own Volvo, and in much the same way that B.M.C. are experimenting with Lusenius, Volvo have decided to give a car to this fiery young Finn. Saab will probably have a large number of entries as usual with the team headed by Erik Carlsson and Pat Moss and completed by drivers like Ake Andersson, Ove Andersson and 0lle Bromark.
The full and detailed route of the rally has not yet been published but the regulations indicate that alter the West Country the rally will pass through Wales and then go via Yorkshire to Scotland, returning via the Lake District and Wales to the finish at London Airport. It is expected that thousands will turn out to watch the rally and its speed tests, and, unless you live in East Anglia, you should have the chance to watch it yourself.
J. D. F. D.