Just 14 days after this issue of Motor Sport is published the biggest motor sporting event in this country will get under way, and I say that in spite of the certainty that D.S.J. will take me up on it. The truth is that 360 competitors in 180 cars, their attendant mechanics and trade supporters, many hundreds of officials, the various press, radio and television interests, and the many, many thousands of spectators who throng the forests and time controls each November add up to far more humanity than is ever involved with a Grand Prix.
Without any glamorous side effects, such as sunshine over the Acropolis, wild life in Africa or rolling snow plains in Lapland, the RAC, wet, cold and murky as it usually is, attracts a generous entry every year. This year the attraction is greater than it has ever been. There are full works teams coming from Lancia, Ford, Porsche, Alpine-Renault, Saab, Datsun, Svenska-Opel, Fiat and Wartburg, with a few supported cars from Skoda for good measure.
At the moment Porsche leads the International Championship for Constructors. Only three points behind is Alpine. Naturally both teams are coming in strength to defend and challenge respectively. From Britain the only factory team is from Ford, with three Escorts. The Opel team does not really signify the entry of General Motors into sporting activities. The team is run from Sweden, where the GM Dealer Association has had a competitions department for many years. Nowadays the factory in Germany has an interest and the Swedish team’s manager, Ragnar Ekelund, now has responsibilities throughout Europe on behalf of the factory.
The only time the Swedish Opels have been seen in Britain was in 1966 when a team of Rekords came for the RAC Rally of that year and a private entrant came for the London Rally of that year.
They have learned a lot since then, and the 2-litre Rallye Kadetts which they now use are certainly not sluggards.
The Saab team is the most faithful of all the overseas outfits. Indeed, in the past decade they haven’t missed one—and they have the best success record, too, with three consecutive wins to Carlsson’s credit. The Datsuns are coming for the second year. In 1969 they had three 1600SSS saloons which were lacking in the power necessary for a winning effort, but were so incredibly reliable that they ran faultlessly and picked up the Manufacturers’ Team Prize.
Rather than provide one of their saloons with more power Nissan-Datsun decided this year to send three of their 2.5-litre sports cars, the 240-Z. They are fast and handle in much the same way as the splendid Big Healeys. But their reliability is an unknown quantity, and notwithstanding Datsun’s general reputation for ruggedness their ability must remain to be seen.
The Lancia team has had a pretty bad year, having experienced retirement after retirement, particularly in the early months. But they did win the rally last year with Harry Kallstrom becoming European Champion, so they have a definite goal to aim at. Furthermore their last rally was Portugal’s TAP Rally, and winning that must have blown away the despondency of the past year and put them in the right frame of mind for November.
The Alpine-Renaults, the ultra-lightweight rear-engined cars from Dieppe, represent an unknown quantity just like the Datsuns. In past years they have always been regarded as cars for tarmac rallies and that is how their team administrators treated them. But this year they won both Acropolis and Sanremo rallies, neither of which can be regarded as smooth by any standards. But 20-odd special stages in Greek sunshine do not match up to nearly 80 through the rough, stony tracks of Britain’s State Forests.
The RAC is harder on cars than most events and the speculation at the moment concerns the ability of the Alpines to stay screwed together whilst going fast enough to challenge the Porsches. Alpines have already been across the Channel in order to have experience of rough British roads and their first visit resulted in a few broken pieces here and there. Since then they have made one or two trips back to Dieppe and they now appear to be satisfied that their cars are strong enough. With plastic bodyshells chances can’t he taken.
To assist readers with the identification of factory cars as they travel around the country between November 14th and Novemhei 18th appended below is a list showing cars and drivers entered officially by factories. Of course, last-minute changes are not impossible.—G. P.
HF Squadra Corse Lancia
14: H. Kallstrom/G. Haggboom, 21: S. Lampinen/J. Davenport, 28: S. Munari/T.Nash, 35: S. Barbasio/A.N. Other
Ford of Britain
15: H. Mikkola/G. Palm, 22: R. Clark/J. Porter, 29: T. Makkinen/H. Lidden
Porsche Systems Engineering
16: B. Waldegard/L. Helmer, 23: A. Andersson/B. Thorszelius, 30: G. Larrousse/M. Wood, 37: C. Haldi/G. Chappuis
17: H. Lindberg/A.N. Other, 18: S. Blomqvist/B. Reinicke, 31: C. Orrenius/L. Persson, 38: T. Trana/S. Andreason
18: R. Aaltonen/P.Easter, 25: T. Fall/G. Phillips, 32: E. Herrman/H. Schuller
19: O. Andersson/Mrs. E. Andersson, 26: J-L. Therier/M. Callewaert, 33: J-P. Nicolas/D. Stone
20: O. Eriksson//H. Johansson, 27: A. Kullang/D. Karlsson, 34: J. Henriksson/L-E. Carlstrom, 40: L-B. Nasenius/B. Cederberg, 44: G. Blomqvist/Mrs. L. Blomqvist
(p>Paganelli and Trombotto will each drive a 124 Spider
Three works cars have been entered.