Coupe des Alpes

Category A—Touring:

1st: R. Trautmann/C. Bouchet (Lancia Flavia).
2nd: T. Makinen/. P. Easter (Cooper S).
3rd: H. Taylor/B. Melia (Cortina-Lotus).
4th: P. Hopkirk/H. Liddon (Copper).
5th: J. F. Piot/F. Jacob (R8-Gordini).
6th: J. Vinatier/H. Melot (R8-Gordini).
7th: J. C. Ogier/B. Ogier (DS19).
8th: A. Fall/J. Wood (Morris-Cooper).
9th: R. Neyret/J. P. Vehrilac (DS19).
10th: R. Clark/A. Porter (Rover 2000).
11th: L. Vincent/R. Chabas (Morris-Cooper.
12th: P. Orsini/J. B. Canonichi (R8-Gordini).
13th: P. Mayman/V. Domleo (Cooper S).
14th: R. Aaltonen/A. Ambrose (Cooper S).
15th: J. I. Marnet/B. Pompanon (Cooper S).
16th: L. Morrison/J. Syer (Rover 2000).
17th: C. Laurent; J. Marche (Daffodil).
18th: H. Lund/B. Wahlgren (Saab Sport).
19th: D. Seigle-Morris/A. Nash (Cortina-Lotus).
20th: A. Ransy/N. Mosbeux (Daffodil).
21st: V. Elford/D. Stone (Cortina-Lotus).
22nd: Mrs. A. Hall/Miss P. Spencer (Rover 2000).

Category B—Grand Touring:
1st: B. Consten/J. Hebert (Alfa Romeo).
2nd: D. Morley/E. Morley (Austin Healey 3000).
3rd: A. Cowan/13. Coyle (Rover z000).
4th: J. P. Hanrioud/J. Sage (Alpine).
5th: Miss R. Smith/Miss S. Taylor (Hillman).
6th: J. Behra/P. Conso (N.S.U.)
7th: P. Toivonen/A. Jarvi (Porsche 904).

1st: S. Lampinen/J. Ahava (Spitfire).
2nd: J. J. Thuner/J. Gretener (Spitfire).

Every sport has its big events and just as the Derby is to flat racing, the Cup Final to soccer and the Olympics to athletics, then so is the Coupe des Alpes to rallying. True, this may only be because the Spa-Sofia-Liége and the Tour de France have gone into a temporary eclipse this year, but a large proportion of rally drivers will always put this rally at the head of any list of events if asked to give them in order of importance.

This year in particular, the Coupe des Alpes—or the Alpine as it is more simply known in Britain—had reached a critical stage in its development, for rallying is not the most socially acceptable of sports, especially in a crowded country like France. Past Alpines have nearly always been marred by some incident or other involving other users of the road and it was expected that this year would be exception, especially so as it was being run one month later than usual, at the end of July when there would be more tourists on the Alpine roads. However, the Automobile Club de Marseille et Provence realised that this year would be decisive as far as the police and local authorities were concerned as they met with more opposition than normal in getting the route cleared with these bodies. As a result, they made quite sure that the roads used by the competitors were very effectively policed and adequate warning was given to the people living on or near the route. No incident of the kind feared took place during the rally, even over such favourite tourist spots as the Col d’Allos and the Col de la Cayolle, although both these were used in broad daylight.

As if to reward the organisers for their hard work, the Alpine received its biggest entry for many years and though some of these not actually arrive to start the rally, there was still a large entry of almost 90 cars to take the starter’s flag. This year, too, the entry was divided into three separate categories for on the Alpine, as on the Tour de France, there is no overall winner and the cars compete entirely within their own categories. These were the normal Touring and Grand Touring categories plus an additional one for Prototypes and Sports cars. Undoubtedly, the organisers were trying to attract entries from Ferrari, either private owners in LMs or works cars such as the 330 P2, or from Ford France, who are in possession of some Ford GTs and have been entering them in French National events for drivers such as Greder and Ligier. In this respect they were to be disappointed. The only Ferrari that entered was the Belgian GTB of Mairesse that finished third at Le Mans and that did not come to the start. The prototype category was thus disputed between Eugen Böhringer in a works Porsche 904 fitted with a 6-cylinder engine derived from that supplied in the 911, four works Triumph Spitfires equipped with 1,300-c.c. engines and a lone privately entered Alfa Romeo Tubolare GTZ with an overbored engine.

This rather poor entry in a category which was, after all, not provided with prize money, rather reduced the visual effect that is so much a part of events like the Tour de France, when four or five GTOs come piling through the main street of some French town. The big GT cars were represented by a single works Healey 3000 for the Morley brothers, three works Sunbeam Tigers, two works Porsche 904s and two privately-entered 904s, and a handful of Alfa Romeo Tubolare GTZs entered by such drivers as Jean Rolland and Bernard Consten.

In the Touring category, Ford of Great Britain had placed their faith in the new Lotus-Cortina which sports a leaf-sprung rear axle with a limited-slip differential and the twin-cam engine up front to provide the urge. B.M.C. were using their very successful 1275 Cooper S, of which there were four examples from the works, while their big rival in the European Championship chase, Lancia, had collared three of the lightweight Zagato-bodied Flavias from the racing fraternity to use for this event instead of the more normal Flavia Coupé. Rover had entered four 2000s, of which only one was running in GT this year. Ford France had Henri Greder in a Mustang, while Citroen had entered five DS19s for various of their contracted drivers but, strangely, omitted to use Lucien Bianchi although he must have been free for he did not drive in the Spa 24-hour race. The biggest display from a French team came, of course, from Regie Renault, who had three works drivers in Renault RS Gordinis and about another half-dozen favoured drivers in similar cars. Add to all these, five works DAFs, a couple of N.S.U.s, some Saabs and a B.M.W., and the cast is about complete.

The Alpine is always a punishing event and as only half an hour’s lateness means exclusion, if anything goes wrong with your car that is more than just changing the plugs, it is very unlikely that you will be able to continue. The result is a very heavy rate of retirements, especially in the first dozen hours when any fault the car may possess is being sounded out. It is very pleasing to note, therefore, that both the B.M.C. team and the Rover team ran intact this year, for both had suffered quite heavy losses in previous years, and it is to be assumed that they have succeeded in developing out the troubles that beset them then when both the 1275 Cooper S and the Rover 2000 were somewhat new to rallying.

With retirements depleting the entry quite quickly in the early stages, some sort of pattern emerged even before the cars reached the end of the first stage of the rally in Grenoble. On the test times—i.e., the times up the specially timed hill-climbs as opposed to the road sections—Vic Elford (Lotus-Cortina) was comfortably ahead of his nearest challengers in the Touring category, who were Rauno Aaltonen (Cooper S), Timo Makinen (Cooper S) and Rene Trautmann (Lancia Flavia). In fact, Elford’s times on the tests were so good that he was often in the five fastest cars on the rally—this against GT cars like the Porsche 904, Healey 3090 and Sunbeam Tiger with what is supposed to be a “touring” car!

In the GT category, where the times for the difficult parts of the road section (which are termed selectif by the organisers) are minutes less than those allowed in the Touring Category, many more cars had lost time on the road, and in the final stages only two cars had managed to retain a penalty-free card. These were the Sunbeam Tiger of Peter Harper and the diminutive Renault-based Alpine of Jean-Pierre Hanrioud, and, naturally enough, Harper was beating the smaller car on the hill-climbs and taus. leading the category. The prototypes started as a game of ” Jack the giant killer with the Spitfires struggling against Böhringer’s Porsche after the Alfa had dropped out, but the ace German driver did not seem to hit top form and, even before the Porsche retired, the smaller cars had defeated it on the road sections.

Right up until the end, as Elford and Harper increased their stranglehold on their respective categories, it looked like a triple win for British cars but fate was not to have it that way and decided to hand over two to the Italians. As far as the Touring category was concerned, Elford had won, so that when Trautmann and Makinen started sparring for second place they didn’t take it all that seriously, though it became all too serious when Elford came to a halt on the very last selectif when his Lucas distributor broke its cam-follower. That was just plain bad luck to have a mechanical failure so near to home, and it let Trautmann sail home the winner by 1.7 sec. after six days of motoring. For Peter Harper the situation was even worse, for he finished the rally unpenalised on the road—something unique this year in GT— and was thus quite certain of victory until the technical examination, which revealed that his car was fitted with a different cylinder head to that shown on the homologation form as the one on the car had smaller valves. Remonstration by Rootes proved fruitless and thus, through a small point ignored by their competition department, a fine drive had been wasted and the place that should have been theirs went to Bernard Consten in an Alfa GTZ, for the young Hanrioud had lost time changing plugs on the last night.

The Alpine Rally is probably the best rally because not only is it a way of comparing drivers’ talents over some of the most demanding tarmac roads in the world but because it always seems to bring out the best in them. Performances on the Alpine always have something of the epic in them: take Andrew Cowan’s performance in finishing third in the GT category with a Rover 2000; or Simo Lampinen’s 40-kilometre sprint on the tightest selectif of all with no brakes in his Spitfire; or Pauli Toivonea who came practically straight from the forests of Finland with no reputation as a tarmac hill-climb exponent and beat everyone by margins of 30 sec. on nearly all the hills with the works Porsche 904; or Jean-Francois Piot who finished first amongst the Renault RS Gordinis though his is not a works car; or Claude Laurent who finished 17th overall with a DAF; or Tony Fall who went to France for the first time and won a coupe for an unpenalised run with his 1275 Cooper S; or . . One could go on but brevity is supposed to be a virtue. Suffice it to say that this was an excellent Alpine and that the way it was run bodes well for future years.

J. D. F. D.