Gone are the days when cars went out on rally routes and officials were content to tally their scores only when they returned. Nowadays organisers must have a base which is in contact with various parts of the roule so that they can always be aware of progress and remain in control.
The effectiveness of the means of communication which organisers employ for this purpose has become almost a hallmark of an efficient event.
The first prerequisite for a good rally is obviously a suitable network of roads. After that comes the manner in which that network is divided, where controls are sited and a number of other features which are largely dependent on individual and collective experience.
But no matter how good an organising team, if they do not have good communications then they stand to Jose control of their rally, and competitors will not thank them for that.
The best communications system we have ever seen – with the exception of one · using radio-teleprinters which has long since ceased to run – is that used by the Cyprus Rally, and it easily beats anything in the World Championship.
The rally is backed by Rothmans, although the expertise for the event itself and its communications is that of the organisers, not.the sponsors (which is more than we can say of the Safari).
VHF radio gives excellent clarity but since it needs a line of sight between transmitter and receiver it is totally defeated by mountains. Rally teams have used aircraft as airborne repeater stations to overcome this problem, but in Cyprus they use three automatic repeater sets installed on mountain tops. These have been home built at low cost and each is basically two transceivers mounted back-to-back. The result is constant contact between rally HQ and every control and stage in the rally, and that is an ideal which most other events have not achieved.
This, plus the speed, accuracy and totally comprehensive nature of the computer programme employed for results, elevates the Cyprus Rally to among the best in the world. Indeed, its place is not in the European Championship, but the World Championship.
The route uses twisty rough, dusty tracks all over the mountains and coastal area of Cyprus, and they are as demanding as we have seen anywhere, and yet are never far from rally headquarters at the Cyprus AA building in Nicosia.
Unfortunately, this year the event attracted very few competitors of international standing, and the outcome was a certain Jack of overseas interest which was not at all in keeping with the calibre of the rally.
When Malcolm Wilson, driving an Escort for the Rothmans Team, retired, it was left to local drivers to fight it out, and the winner was Vahan Terzian in a Mitsubishi Lancer, ahead of London resident Dimi Mavropoulos in a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus built by Spooner in Essex.
FISA’s administration is unfortunately primed by personal and political ambition rather than any regard for the sport which it is supposed to promote, and we hardly think that anyone in Paris will take note of where the Cyprus Rally really belongs. It is unquestionably among the world’s best. – G.P.