Rally review - Raid Polski, September 1964

The Polish Rally is one of the longer established Internationals and has been held twenty-four times since its instigation in 1921. The past four years at least have seen the German team of Mercedes carrying off top honours, with Schock and Moll winning in 1960, Böhringer and Aaltonen in 1961, Böhringer again in 1962, and Glemser and Braungart in 1963. However, a Polish gentleman by the name of Zasada has always done well, finishing third overall in both 1961 and 1963 in a B.M.W. 700 and a Fiat 600, respectively.

This year, too, he and his wife (who always acts as navigator for him) might well have finished third again for, in the absence of a Mercedes entry, the two red Saabs of Erik Carlsson and Pat Moss were leading until half a day from the end, when they both lost considerable time looking for fuel. As can be imagined, the supply of high octane fuel behind the Iron Curtain does not have the commercial distribution network that it has here, and most of the works teams were relying on their service cars to act as bowsers for them. Sad to relate, the Saab service car had an excursion into a river at one point and could not be extricated in time to keep its appointment with Pat and Erik, who spent the best part of a quarter of an hour detouring to pick up petrol. In a rally which is decided on special stages and speed tests, together with some very tight road sections in the mountainous south of Poland, such loss of time on the liaison sections could not be annulled by any amount of fast driving, and the two Saabs had to be content with second and third places.

Unfortunate that this was, it was overshadowed by the accident that occurred when the car in which Gunnar Andersson, Volvo’s Competition Manager and a first-class driver in his own right, having been European Rally Champion on more than one occasion, was being driven by a Polish driver as part of Volvo service, was crashed. Gunnar was thrown from the car and badly injured. He is now in hospital in Sweden suffering from almost total paralysis, from which it is hoped he will soon recover. If he is forced to retire from rallying, it will be a great loss. Thus, for the first time in many years, the Polish Rally was won by a Pole who was driving a car of Italian design built in Austria, with an engine originally designed, I think I am correct in saying, by a Hungarian firm. What else but a Steyr-Puch. These fantastic little cars first really came to the notice of the Western half of the European rally world eighteen months ago when two of them contrived to finish the toughest Monte Carlo Rally for many years, only to be excluded at the finish when someone discovered that they were not homologated. This year they have appeared on the Monte and the Acropolis’ and very nearly won the Austrian Alpine Rally in the hands of Johann Ortner. Now they have actually added a European Championship to their laurels, and it will be interesting to see if they can progress any further.