Rally Review

Polish Rally

1st: R. Aaltonen / T. Ambrose (Cooper S I275)
2nd: S. Zazada / K. Osinski (Steyr Puch 650)
3rd: E. Carlsson / T. Aman (Saab Sport)
4th: R. Trautmann / Mme. C. Bouchet (Lancia Flavia)
5th: Pat Moss / Liz Nystrom (Saab Sport)
6th: C-M. Skogh / L. Berggren (Volvo I22S)

In motoring competition, it seems that at any given time one man and one car will dominate any given branch of the sport. I doubt whether our Continental Correspondent would argue with me if I said that at present Jim Clark and the Lotus-Climax dominate Grand Prix racing for Formula One cars in the way that men like Nuvolari and Fangio and cars like Mercedes and Vanwall have in the past. Rallying too has its kings, both crowned and uncrowned, and in the 1960s Erik Carlsson and his Saab proved invincible all over the European continent from Jyvaskala in Finland to the Greek capital of Athens to make him the best-known rally driver the world has ever known. In the same way, Eugen Bohringer for Mercedes, Rene Trautmann and Lucien Bianchi for Citroen and Gunnar Andersson and Tom Trana for Volvo have become well-known and successful combinations.

No one car has emerged, however, to dominate the rally scene in the hands of several drivers at once in quite the same way as the Cooper S which, since winning the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally with Paddy Hopkirk in a 1,071-c.c. version, has gone from strength to strength. In 1965 with the 1,275-c.c. engine, this little British car has conquered all opposition in some of the toughest rallies in the calendar and it would appear that at least the undisputed speed and manoeuvrability of the Cooper S have been allied to strength and reliability by the team of mechanics from Abingdon. So far this year, Cooper Ss have won something like eight international rallies, including the Monte Carlo and the Geneva, and the biggest individual scorer in terms of actual wins has been the Finnish works driver, Rauno Aaltonen. His year did not start well with a minor electrical fault causing his retirement on the Monte Carlo Rally, but before the first six months were out he had rectified this by winning the Geneva Rally with Tony Ambrose. His next rally was the Czechoslovakian Rally Vltava, for which B.M.C. sent two Cooper Ss, and he won this too, but on the Alpine Rally where he had been unpenalised for two years in succession, a navigational error lost him any chance of success and a hat-trick.

However, on the Polish Rally, where he was up against the very same crews that had defeated him on the Alpine, he and Tony Ambrose made no mistakes and by virtue of being the only car to finish the rally unpenalised on the road section won the rally outright. His victory here and subsequent second place overall on the Rally of the 1000 Lakes has brought him to within only a few marks of the current leader of the European Rally Championship, Rene Trautmann, so that it is to be expected that there will be an exciting end to the championship with both drivers entering the last two events, the Munich-Vienna-Budapest Rally and our own R.A.C. Rally of Great Britain.

The Polish Rally was very much like the Czech rally that I went to see two months ago in that the local laws allow very high average speeds to be set on public roads at night and that, over these sections, the smallest cars have a slightly more generous time allowance than bigger cars. In the more conventional European rallies, the time allowed to complete the road sections is the same for all cars from a Ferrari to a Steyr-Puch and it is quite rare that competitors should lose time on these road sections so that the rally is decided either on special stages or hill-climbs on closed roads. This is brought about because the more crowded roads of the west European countries preclude any out and out road racing which is what rallying becomes when you race against the clock for long distances over main roads. Both the Polish and the Czech rallies also used closed roads for special stages, but there was no doubt that, in both cases, the road sections were the most important part of the rally and any failure to drive quickly on them would entail failure to do well on the rally. It may be that in the years to come if rallying cannot continue to use its old playgrounds of the French Alps, the Dolomites and the Cevennes because of more crowded traffic conditions, then these rallies run by east European countries may become the classic events of the sport. It is thus a very comforting sign that they are already well-organised events with a real idea of what-goes to make an enjoyable and tough rally.

1000 Lakes Rally

1st: T. Makinen / P. Keskitalo (Cooper S 1275)
2nd: R. Aaltonen / A. Jarvi (Cooper S 1275)
3rd: P. Toivonen / K. Leivo (VW 1500S)
4th: S. Lampinen / J Ahava (Saab Sport)
5th: J. Lusenius / S. Koskinen (Cooper S 1275)
6th: P. Hopkirk / K. Ruutsalo (Cooper S 1275)
7th: B. Janson / E. Petterson (Renault R8 Gordini)
8th: E. Keinanen / K Sohlberg (Cortina GT)
9th: A. Erola / E. Nyman (Volvo PV554)
10th: K. Bremer / R. Hartto (Cooper S 970)

Most Scandinavian rallies are rather parochial affairs with 99% of the entries coming from Finland and Sweden and the Rally of the 1000 Lakes, which is run every year by the Finnish Automobile Club at Jyvaskyla, is normally no exception. Occasionally one or two English drivers, a German or a Dane will make the pilgrimage into the far north, but such journeys are few and far between, for while the Finnish drivers are hard enough to beat when they rally outside Scandinavia, on their home ground the task is almost impossible. I say almost, for only a few years ago Erik Carlsson became the only Swedish driver ever to win the Rally of the 1000 lakes but, after his retirement this year, the highest placed Swedish driver was Berndt Jansson who finished seventh overall behind five Finns and an Irishman, Paddy Hopkirk.

On this year's 1000 Lakes there was a respectable entry from outside the Scandinavian countries that normally provide all the entries, Sweden and Finland. To start with, the Lancia team from Italy were almost forced to send Rene Trautmann and Claudine Bouchet as they are in the lead in the European Championship at the moment and with so few rounds left it would have been crazy to miss the chance of even just a few points in Finland. As things turned out, Trautmann came away without points as his Lancia, which had come straight from hard work on the Alpine practice, burnt out a piston at the halfway point in the rally, which is the only occasion this year when he has been let down by mechanical failure, with the possible exception of the Monte Carlo Rally when a spark plug failed. As they were already committed to sending one car, Lancias also sent their other works driver, Giorgio Pianta, in a Flavia Zagato as well as supporting several other Italian crews in assorted Lancia Flavias and Fulvias. Pianta eventually finished 36th overall which is a pretty fair comment upon the difference in ability to drive on loose surfaced roads between Scandinavians and Italian and French drivers generally, though with their increased participation in events like this and the two Iron Curtain events their prowess is bound to improve. The other largest foreign entry came from Russia, who on this rally had concentrated their efforts on entering seven of the big Volga M-21m. These cars are without any doubt technically inferior to the cars driven on this side of the Iron Curtain, but two things are pretty clear, and that is that their drivers are not slow and although they are hampered by heavy, awkward cars, they are evidently learning and should Russia turn her attention to producing cars the equal of those produced in the West (and surely no one can doubt her technical ability to do so) then it is quite conceivable that she could become a force to be reckoned with in rallying—and perhaps racing too.

The 1000 Lakes is a rally very much like our own R.A.C. Rally of Great Britain in that the whole essence of the rally lies in driving as fast as possible over several hundred miles of special stages on unsurfaced roads from which the public—in their cars at any rate—have been strictly excluded. These special stages are linked by easy road sections with very few time controls, so that there is little need to hurry when encountering other cars on the road. The only differences as such are that these stages are run over public roads closed by consent of Parliament and the local authorities for the purpose of the rally, and that nothing.quite like these roads exists in England. This last point is one well worth making, as it is not just the driving on loose surfaced roads that makes this Finnish rally difficult for foreigners but the fact that most of the roads used for special stages resemble nothing more than the switchbacks of Battersea Fun Fair, though there is no predictability about which way they will swing and twist next as you hurtle up to the constant succession of blind brows. Naturally, the fact that the route is made known well in advance of the rally and that the special stages can be pin-pointed by referring to the notices of road closure in local papers means that full-scale practising takes place in the weeks before the rally. Generally speaking, the amount of practice that a driver does is reflected in his performance of the rally but when so many hundreds of kilometres of road have to be committed to memory or to pace notes, the ultimate test of driving remains.

For the past two years, Finland's young driving prodigy, Simo Lampinen, has won this rally outright, driving a Saab Sport, which as well as representing a triumph over a childhood attack of polio which almost robbed him of the power to walk let alone drive a car, is also something of a triumph for Saab who, as the manufacturer of the classic rally car of the late 'fifties and early 'sixties, could look upon this as confirmation of their car's potential. This year's victory for Timo Makinen driving the new classic rally car, a Cooper S. 1275, and the fact that there were five such cars (one admittedly was a Cooper S 970) in the first ten places overall, indicates now that in the matter of power-to-weight ratio, handling and reliability the Cooper S is the car to beat.

Perhaps the most interesting sidelight on the emergence of the Cooper S is the consideration of the two Finnish drivers, Timo Makinen and Rauno Aaltonen, who have done more than anyone else this season to promote the success of the B.M.C. team, with the possible exception of Stuart Turner, the team manager. These two drivers make an interesting comparison and whenever rallyists get together, these two are discussed in much the same way as one might compare Clark and Moss. Without any doubt, Makinen's image is a much more easily projectible one as he is large and happy, drives so as to give the impression that life and limb are not precious to him and has a genial way of supplying useful quotes to the daily newspapers. It is this character that has enabled him to become much better known amongst people not directly connected with rallying while Rauno Aaltonen, who is every bit as successful as a rally driver and has often proved to be a pillar of strength in both the Mercedes and B.M.C. teams, is far less highly regarded by people who do not know of his skill at first hand. Makinen's achievement in winning the Monte Carlo Rally this year was no greater than Aaltonen's in winning the Spa-Sofia-Liege last year, but because the Monte attracts the interest of jaded journalists anxious to see the Riviera in January, then headlines accompany Makinen's victory while five-line paragraphs suffice for Aaltonen's.

It is not just this chance which makes Makinen ascendant in our minds for I am sure that had Aaltonen won the Monte Carlo Rally, he would still be in relative obscurity as far as the average English reader is concerned. His approach is not extrovert: he is a Jim Clark as opposed to an Innes Ireland. His interest in rally driving is technical and the language that he uses to talk about his sport is technical so that there is rarely anything catchy for the reporters to latch on to. Makinen on the other hand is a natural driver who loves the spirit of competition and is never happier than when he is behind the wheel of a car and the tougher the conditions then the more he enjoys himself. When you think of his drives on the Monte and then on the Scottish Rally this year I think it could be said that running at a disadvantage is the best stimulant Makinen can ever have.

In any case the two drivers are as close in driving ability as two drivers can ever be, despite the fact that they are approaching the same problem from two different attitudes. There is little doubt that Aaltonen started the 1000 Lakes as a firm favourite with most people, though those same people would probably have subscribed to the view that while he lasted, Makinen would be faster. However, anyone who had seen the fanaticism with which Makinen prepared for this rally, determined to show his own countrymen that he was the top, could have realised that it was going to be a very close run match indeed. These two drivers are now only a few points apart in the European Rally Championship and only a few behind Trautmann so that, if Aaltonen and Trautmann do not settle the matter on the Munich-Vienna-Budapest Rally in October in the absence of Makinen, the R.A.C. Rally could be the biggest battle royal that the rally world has seen for some time. —J. D. F. D.