1st: Rolland/Augoas (Alfa GTA)
2nd: Clark/Melia (Ford Lotus-Cortina)
3rd: Aaltonen/Liddon (B.M.C. Cooper-S)
4th: Piot/Jacob (Renault 1500)
A “Coupe D’Or,” or “Golden Coupe,” the prize for three Coupes in three consecutive years, is the dream of every rallyist, both amateur and professional. The feat of remaining free of road penalties on three consecutive Alpine Rallies has only twice been achieved in the twenty-seven times that the Automobile Club de Marseille et Provence have held their event, the most senior in the French International Calendar. The two people are Ian Appleyard in 1953 and Stirling Moss, 1954, while last year the B.M.C. crew of Rauno Aaltonen and the now-retired Tony Ambrose just missed theirs when a policeman misdirected them for two minutes worth of road penalties.
This year there were seven Coupes, and yet only nineteen cars were classified as finishers. The reason behind this is that a Coupe is basically quite possible with the proviso that there is no trouble with the car. Forty-one selectifs, timed to the minute, covered 1,400 km. of the 3,500 km. 3-part route. Each selectif is set in different times for the various groups, roughly at 40 m.p.h. average, and each one must be done within that stipulated time, e.g. Group 2, or modified saloon cars, have a minute less than Group 1, or standard production saloons, on each selectif. Because of the distance one can see how easy it is to lose a Coupe if trouble develops, yet also how easy it should be to get one. The reason for only nineteen classified finishers out of 80 starters and 22 arrivals at Cannes, is that the route had been tightened up so much that many had fallen by the wayside due to being time-barred after incurring more than thirty minutes’ road penalties on any one leg of the three. The organisers, under the guidance of Max Carcassonne, the Commissaire General, had very craftily split the rally into short sections so that there was little time, if any, for servicing. The only relaxation was the 20 min. allowed before each parc ferme at the two overnight stops in Aix-les-Bains.
Jean Rolland, the Digne garage proprietor who has won twice before, took the honours this year in the Conrero-prepared Alfa Romeo GTA. Strong challenges came from Ford England, for whom Vic Elford was leading the event at the end of the first of the three near-equidistant legs, but he retired when a valve-guide broke up and wrecked the tappet. Bengt Sodersttom couldn’t stop after the flying finish of a-stage and sailed straight on at “T” into a stone wall. Roger Clark, however, held the Ford banner high with his nicely-driven second overall, while the sole remaining works B.M.C. Cooper S finished just behind after 2 min, road time had been lost when the dashboard electrical harness shorted out. Henry Liddon spent most of the last night learning how to be an electrician while Aaltonen held on to the leaders. Of the other B.M.C. cars Timo Makinen retired within two hours of the start with a blown head gasket, while Paddy Hopkirk’s car lasted only a few hours more until the differential casing fractured. Tony Fall, B.M.C.’s “new boy” who showed on the Polish how much he has well and truly arrived, suffered during the rally from wheels falling off, three in all, the final two happening on the descent of Col d’Allos, both due to the steering knuckle joint breaking. Rootes had little luck, for Peter Harper’s Imp retired with the distributor-drive-shaft broken, Andrew Cowan had a drive-shaft break (the other one had already been replaced), and the third Imp of ladies’ crew Rosemary Smith and Valerie (Domleo) Morley holed its sump.
Still, it’s good to see that the two British works cars which finished did so well.
Labaune’s Alfa also did very well to get a Coupe, which in a way shows the reliability of Conrero’s preparation. The works team which did best of all though was Rene Cotton’s Citroen DS21s. Four started, four finished, one Coupe for Lucien Bianchi whose drive in this Group 1 “bus” must be praiseworthy, also the ladies’ prize for Mlles. Pointet/Fougeray and the tears all went to the controversial French team. Monsieur Cotton had a go at the organisers before the start and got them to allow two extra minutes over the Col de Lombarde (the only selectif in Italy) which was impossible for his blue cars.
Dafs nearly achieved their object of merely finishing intact with a team of three cars, which incidentally came straight from the 84 hours Of the “Ring”—Liege style. They were unfortunate that one was time-barred just before the finish.
Renaults attacked the event in their usual quantitative style by sending three 1,134-c.c. R8 Gordinis, two of the new 5-speed 1,300-c.c, cars and three sport-prototype R8-bodied 1,500-c.c. vehicles. It was Piot in a prototype that got the Coupe and he is to be watched next year for a gold, the only one possible,
Also Renault-mounted was Jean-Pierre Hanrioud, the blond young Frenchman who was battling with the best in the 1,300-c.c. Alpine A110 until a hub started to break up and caused drive-shaft failure in the last night. Lancia’s Ove Andersson was also out with rear-end transmission failure, while the Lancia Fulvia mounted mixed-crew of Rene Trautmann and Claudine Bouchet left the road two hours from the end when the brakes (front only!) failed. The rear brakes had been disconnected earlier when a pipe fractured.
There may have been three or four cars from most works teams, but Porsche System Engineering deigned only to send young Gunther Klass. He put up excellent performances on the fifteen Epreuves or tie-deciding hill-climbs, but he lost his Coupe after an accident with a cyclist in Digne. Five minutes with the police —and it was gone, although his innocence was established. Ah well, that’s the Alpine.—AK.