The Rally of the Thousand Lakes

The Rally of the Thousand Lakes

WHEN Peugeot took its new rally car, the four-wheel-drive, rear-engined, two-seat 205 Turbo 16, to Corsica in early May for its first World Championship appearance there were but few people who predicted more than a token performance from the car. The same was true of opinions before its second outing in Greece later the same month, but on both occasions the car proved to be quite outstanding.

True, it did not score a significant result but, until difficulties were encountered, the potential of the car was displayed quite dramatically and many began to predict that it would scores major victory before the end of the year.

But no-one could have expected that victory to be on the Rally of the Thousand Lakes, even though the driver was a Finn, An Vatanen. In Finland, the special stages arena dramatically undulating that cars leap into the air and crash to the ground with fearsome, suspension-smashing violence. The surfaces are smooth, but the punishment is nevertheless severe.

The short wheelbase of the Peugeot suggested that its nose could be prone to over-dipping in the air, making it necessary for Vatanen to jump at speeds somewhat less than that of longer cars such as the Audi Quattro. Indeed, if ever there was a case for a car fitted with elevators, this was it. But all this was just theory, albeit founded

on experience, and what we saw was not at all what we expected. The little Peugeot jumped remarkably well — due as much to Vatanen's skill as to that of the car's designers, of course — and he was able to stay among the leading group, take over the lead and keep it to the end against determined opposition from Lancia and, in the early stages at least, from Audi.

A field of 144 starters is a mark of popularity in any grade of event, and although the speeds are frantically high, the roads almost destructively punishing and the opposition of such high quality that no completely private crew can hope for much more than a place among the finishers, it says much for the rally that it attracted many privateers from outside Finland. We have often said that British private drivers do not have the same spirit of adventure and the urge to travel as their compatriots of a few decades ago, but for this event there were five crews from Britain and one from Ireland, not to mention three co-drivers among the works teams.

The professional teams were those of Audi, Lancia, Peugeot, Toyota, Nissan, Citroen, Volkswagen, Wartburg and the combined Lads / Moskvich outfit, with a privately entered Renault 5 Turbo having factory support. Audi, planning to replace the successful Quattro with the shorter Sport model,

RELAXED? and more ccmfident than we have ewer seen him, An Vatanen chats to TV num us mechanics check on the stiffness of his Peugeot's front suspennon.

brought one of the old cars for Blomqvist and two Sports for Mikkola and Mouton, although there were several of the longer versions in the hands of privateers. There were two supercharged Lancias for Alen and Toivonen, and a solitary Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 for Vatanen.

Two Celicas came from Toyota Europe for Waldegird and Kankkunen, whilst the Nissan entry seemed to be divided between various overseers; Nissan Europe had one car for Airikkala, who was called in when regular man Salonen needed surgery correct spinal compression which has been troubling him for some time, and.,a combination of Nissan Finland and Britain s Freeborough Motorsport were looking after the three cars of Finns Pitkanen and Geitel, and Englishman Kaby.

Based as usual at Jyvaskylit in Central Finland, where the Sandpiper Ho., provides spacious headquarters accommodation and all manner of other facilities, the rally ran in a cloverleaf pattern, two short loops fairly close to base and a longer one the south. It was compressed between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, what it loses in distance it makes up /or sheer pace and the need for concentrauon the most intense kind. Although there was considerable Is during the practice period, the clou

TRY /15 he might, Markku Alen could not get withm striking distance of Vatanen, and Lancia had to be content with second place.

became much whiter for the rally itself, and there were even periods of sunshine, for which the huge crowds of spectators were grateful. Had it not been fine, they would have been just as numerous, for it takes more than rain to keep Finns from the forests and we have often seen them standing for hours among the trees, drenched but happy.

From the start it was Blomqvist who took the lead, but within a very short time Alin had overtaken him after the Swede had been plagued by a constant misfire which could not be traced. Vatanen, not having been able to put in more than a token period of high speed testing over jumps, spent much time having his Peugeot's suspension adjusted and readjusted to stiffen it up, whilst both Toyotas needed loose propshafts put right. Mouton didn't like the steering of her Quatro Sport very much, the car being very sensitive and twitchy indeed.

Lampi got no further that the first stage after his Quattro lost all its oil pressure, whilst Geitel was having some trouble getting the front / rear brake balance right on his Nissan. Grundell put his Golf GTi off the road and Toivonen had a pipe come off Ins supercharger.

Early in the second leg, Vatanen, his suspension by then more to his liking, went marginally into the lead, but the gap was made wider when, not long after, Alen ditched his Lancia and found himself with a gearbox jammed in top, a condition which he had to endure for another stage before mechanics had time to change the box. Both Mikkola and Mouton had been having various troubles, and neither was able to make any impression on the leaders, Vatanen and Alen. Eventually, Mouton spun and rolled, not losing much time on the stage but spending so much time having her car repaired afterwards that she exceeded her maximum lateness allowance. Mikkola also found the Quattro Sport's handling difficult, and it seemed that it was Prone to lose its front wheel alignment very easdY. He stopped after one stage on which the splay-out had become very prominent, and mechanics changed a track control arm. Alas, they did not change both, and on the nest stage the unchanged one broke on a heavy landing and the car went off the road and out of the rally. Up front, Alen strove to catch up with Vatanen but was not making much headway and he eventually resigned himself to second Place. Behind, Toivonen and Blomqvist were duelling for third place, but it did seem that Blomqvist although seriously after the champio h; p this year, was more content to stick to fourth than risk everything for the sake of just one place. He was passed by Toivonen who stuck to his position even r/IR as speed and traction were concerned, the 33.7<;171tru:idata'snsZairiZeedrlifilc7lacbeift

though he lost about half a minute by putting his car into a ditch.

Right at the end, Alen had to drive some five miles with a puncture, whilst Eklund's Quattro developed a transmission fault which left him with just rear wheel drive. He nevertheless made it to sixth place, behind Kankkunen's Toyota. Waldegard's Celica had stopped with a cracked block. The World Championship for Makes is settled in favour of Audi, although there is still a very slim chance that Lancia, by winning both the remaining rounds, in Italy and Great Britain, can achieve a score equalling Audi's. In the Drivers' Championship the situation is not at all settled, for although Stig Blomqvist has 113 points to Markku Alen's 90, both have seven scores to their credit and that is the maximum which can be taken into account from the 12 qualifying

events. If Blomqvist wins the next round, for example, he will gain 20 points but will lose his lowest existing score which is eight. The next round, qualifying for both championships, is the Sanremo Rally during the first week of October. — G.P. 5th : 6th 7th : 10th Kio Resutts 14t Aisnr,r1.4J,i 2nd: 6/11. 'Alen t. Kivimaki (SF/ nr " sec . H(.11oiXeriliY)J Ptirone„ tSFi 'I' in "II" 4th : Cederberri ?SI 4 12 "In " tAudi Mauro, s 4 hr 14 min 01 sec en F Gallagher ota ,ctitlioccak TrGod, 4 hr 19 min 39 sec 4 hr 20 min 111 sec Fauchiito .. 4 hr 33 min 59 sec ,F) 4 hr 35 olin ISF1 (Opel min n sec . 4 hr 36 min 37 sec ale ,(SFI (Opel 4 hr 36 min 51 sec All above cars were in Group 8 144 starters. 74 finishers