Rally review, September 1965
Gulf London rally
1st: R. Clark/J. Porter (Cortina GT).
2nd: J. Larsson/Bertil Petersson (Saab Sport).
3rd: B. Melia/G. Davies (Cortina GT).
4th: J. Damberg/F. Sager (Cortina GT).
5th: Pat Moss/Liz Nystrom (Saab Sport).
6th: J. Sprinzel/A. Krauklis (Cooper S).
7th: A. Lobb/P. Valentine (Cortina GT).
8th: A. P. Bengry/B. Hughes (Cortina GT).
9th: J. Huggins/J. Harding (Cortina GT).
10th: K. Power/P. Walker (Corona GT).
11th: D. Thompson/D. Stephenson (Cortina GT).
12th: B. Harper/R. Crellin (Cortina GT).
13th: B. Stevens/S. Bate (Cooper S).
14th: J. Evans/R. Spokes (Hillman Imp).
15th: M. Bailey/R. Ayers (Hillman Husky).
16th: S. Scowen/E. Brown (Hillman Husky).
17th: R. Wilcox/R. Harting (Mini).
18th: D. McIntyre/G. Jones (Mini).
IN this country, as indeed in other countries all over the world the organisers of motor sporting events rely a great deal on the financial support of petrol companies, oil companies and even motoring magazines. Often without such support, there would be very little chance that the major events would be run at all and if they were, entry fees and other participation costs would be so astronomical that only a very small number of people could afford to enter.
If I were to try and compile a list of all those companies and individuals who support events in this way, it would take up at least three pages of this magazine. Basically, there are three ways in which such support is given: it can be in the form of money or goods supplied to the organiser direct; as prize money for the event; or in the form of money or parts supplied to the competitors either as bonus to nominated drivers or as a gratuitous distribution to all those who take part in the event. Examples are not hard to find for in the Mobil Economy Run, the sponsoring company helps in all three ways, while in Canada, Shell actually run their own rally—the Shell 4000—and again help in all three ways.
Such direct sponsorship is a little rarer in Britain than elsewhere or rather was until this June when the London Motor Club ran their International Gulf London Rally. As the name suggests, the Club had been fortunate enough to persuade the Gulf Oil Company to sponsor their event after what might have been termed a trial run on the last National London Rally which was held in 1964. Apart from providing money for prizes and to cover the organisational costs, the special promotional gimmick for this rally was that payment of the entry fee entitled each competitor to free petrol during the rally. As the entry fee was of the order of £25 and most cars on the rally, provided that they lasted the course, would use about £20 worth of petrol, this made it one of the cheapest internationals yet.
The prize money was much larger than anything previously offered on a rally in this country and resulted in a large entry being attracted which included several Scandinavians (Tom Trana, Carl-Magnus Skogh, Jerry Larsson and Jars Damberg) as well as most of the top British drivers (Pat Moss, Vic Elford, Paddy Hopkirk, John Sprinzel, etc.). Despite this array of talent, the retirement rate was extremely high and though the entry list stretched into three figures, only eighteen cars were still running at the finish. As on the Scottish Rally, which he won earlier in the month, Roger Clark was able to keep his Cortina GT running consistently faster than anybody else and at the finish, he won handsomely from Jerry Larsson in his Saab Sport. Saabs might have had a better result had not Pat Moss been heavily penalised on the road sections because she misinterpreted a modification to the rules that was published half-way through the rally in an attempt by the organisers to reduce the likelihood of competitors incurring road penalties due to delay on the special stages. As it was, Cortina GTs dominated the results of this tough but not rough rally with no less than nine of them in the first dozen places.
1st: R. Aaltonen/T. Ambrose (Cooper S).
2nd: R. Trautmann/Mme. C. Bouchet (Lancia Flavia).
3rd: G. Pianta/L. Lombardini (Lancia Flavin).
4th: A. Mark/Z. Cechmanek (Tatra 601).
5th: J. Bobek/L. Hnatevic (Skoda moo/.
6th: A. Vermirovsky/S. Haddusek (Tatra 603).
7th: J. Vidner/J. Vylit (Skoda 1000).
8th: O. Horsak/V. Rieger (Skoda 1000).
9th: J. Chovanec/J. Mohyla (Tatra 603).
10th: A. Doleis/M. Poldauf (Skoda OTS).
11th: O. Kurt/H. Herman (Wartburg).
12th: • • / • • (Trabant).
In direct contrast to the London Rally, the Czechoslovakian contribution to the European Rally Championship had no benevolent petrol company supporting it, but what the organisers may have lacked in cash, they made up for in enthusiasm and the rally turned out to be a great success.
Had I said that it had no connection with a petrol company, that would not have been true, for the original Rallye Vltava started as a small local event run in the valley of the river Vltava by the employees of the Benzina concern. This is the state-owned company that is responsible for distributing and selling petrol throughout Czechoslovakia. For the last two years, the rally has been an international event but has not counted for the European Rally Championship though Louis Chiron has observed it as a representative of the Federation International Automobile. It was because of his recommendation that this year it at last became a qualifier for the championship.
Owing to some internal friction, the rally this year was not run by the Benzina Automotoklub but by the central automobile club in Prague. The change in organiser made very little difference to the rally except in detail and all the crews that competed from foreign countries said that it was one of the best rallies that they had done.
As was to be expected, the competition for an outright win came mainly from the two works Cooper Ss of Timo Makinen/Paut Easter and Rauno Aaltonen/Tony Ambrose, the works Lancia Flavias of Rene Trautmann/Claudine Bouchet and Giorgio Planta/Luciano Lombardini, the Steyr Puch of the Pole, Sobieslaw Zasada, and the lone Swedish entry of Hans Lund/Bjorn Wahlgren in a Saab Sport. The Czech entries were mainly accounted for by works teams from Skoda and Tatra plus a host of private owners in the old front-engined Skodas. The Russians had a team of Moskvitches of which one failed to come to the start line but the other two were quite quick and showed that with a little more time they could become competitive. Four works Wartburgs came from the factory in East Germany, as well as a team of Trabants, and the rest of the entry comprised Polish Mini-Coopers, an Austrian Saab and Volvo, a B.M.W. and a Volvo from Greece and a Chevrolet Stingray from Germany.
The rally was run along straightforward lines with a fast, demanding road section interspersed with special stages but for anyone who had not done a reconnaisance, the navigation was far from simple and it seems likely that when the rally is run next year, a Tulip-type road book will be used to remove any ambiguity. The most unusual aspect of this particular rally was that servicing—long the mainstay of works teams—was not allowed. Each car was inspected at scrutineering and its four wheels plus two spares were marked, using a system which I understand has been developed in connection with motor-bike trials. No other wheels were allowed to be used by that car, but the crew could change tyres if this became necessary. The identifying marks on the wheels and similar marks on the engine and chassis were checked at frequent intervals but apart from that, no attempt appeared to have been made to check whether outside assistance was given, though naturally anyone who had been foolish enough to have mechanics work on the car within sight of officials would have rightly been excluded. The main factor which took charge of what could be done to cars to keep them in the rally was the overall speed of the event which was somewhat higher than is normally found either on a continental event or on our own events in this country. I heard one Czech remark when the rally was over that for next year they would raise the speed by 15% overall and allow as much service as anyone liked to provide as they would certainly not have time to do it.
Although the rally could not have been called rough—in fact the tarmac was often more damaging to suspensions and sumps than the unsurfaced roads—the retirement rate was high with Makinen disappearing on the first night with mechanical trouble, Zasada crashing and Lund’s engine blowing up only a very short distance from home. This left the field clear for Rauno Aaltonen and Tony Ambrose to score their second European Championship win in a row (they had won the Geneva Rally in June) by keeping ahead of the two Lancias who were the only other cars not to incur penalties on the road sections. In all 12 cars qualified as finishers, with the Czechs dominating almost completely. Though a Tatra finished fourth behind the three “Western” cars, it was Skoda who won the team prize by a very consistent performance from their new rear-engined 1000 MBs.