GOING INTO THE RECORD BOOKS AS SOMEONE WHO missed the start of a world championship rally and caused the rules to be rewritten is one thing, but being persuaded to let someone else win the very next event is quite another. This saga began for Simo Lampinen on the 1973 San Remo. “It was the first world championship outing for the Lancia Stratos, and also the debut for the Beta Coupe. For us, it was an unmitigated disaster. Noone told us that the start time had been brought forward an hour, so we, Henry Liddon and Basil Tye — the international steward from the RAC — all

missed the start. Actually, John [ahem, Davenport] and I were only a few minutes late, but they had that funny Mille Miglia-type rule that said if you could not start on your actual minute, you could not start at all. It was as result of our little problem that the CSI [the sport’s then-governing body] changed the rule. Ever since, if you turn up late, you can start, but you have to get back on schedule at the first control.” Thus Lampinen’s brand-new Beta never turned a wheel in anger, while Sandro Munari’s Stratos went on to win. Both these cars and crews were then due to

compete in the Canadian and American rounds of the world championship. The first of these was the Rideau Lakes Rally, which was based in Smiths Falls, just south of Ottawa. “There was no practice allowed so it was a bit like the RAC Rally, but much nicer roads, more like Finland. Problems came at scrutineering when none of the Lancias were anywhere near quiet enough for the Canadian authorities. In fact, the 16-valve Beta was the worst But Mike Parkes took the cars away and came back some hours later with new silencing arrangements. Ours was a smart Thrush

silencer from a motorbike shop, but nothing would fit the Stratos. So they had welded baffles inside and stuffed the thing with pads of steel wool. We all passed the noise test okay, but the first time Sandra opened that thing up on a stage, the woods were full of steel wool.”

The first part of the rally comprised five stages in the daylight round Smiths Falls to satisfy the curiosity of the townsfolk and the needs of the TV crews. It then headed into a long night of stages around Bancroft, several miles away to the west. Fiat made the initial running, Marldm Alen leading in his 124 Spyder Abarth until he hit a rock and took an early bath. Even then it was not plain sailing for Lancia. “The guy out in front was Alcide Paganelli in another Fiat. We were quite happy to let him go as he did not have a good record for finishing, especially on unseen stages. In any case, Sandro had had a big jump with the Stratos and landed heavily on the nose. This removed a couple of spotlights and this is why he decided to back off a bit “We would have been ahead of him here but for a rear puncture. We had to drive some 10 miles on a flat tyre. The alloy wheel was in two pieces when we got to service, but we had only lost a

minute to the two Italians.”

Then the inevitable happened. Paganelli went off and removed his Fiat’s sump. Thus, going into the second half of the rally, Munari led by just under a minute from Lampinen. Guy Chasseuil was third in an Alpine A110, but was some eight-and-a-half minutes behind the Finn.

“That last night round Smiths Falls was real Scandinavian weather. It was well below zero and there was even some light snow. We had a big advantage in that we had a front-wheel-drive car — and a heater! “Chasseuil was very quick on the first three stages, but then he inverted it and there was no pressure from behind. And we soon found out that Sandro had problems. His engine was not in good health. The oil pressure was low and he was going to be lucky to get the Stratos to the end. On one stage, we caught him up and then stayed behind him, which became a bit embarrassing when we were caught by Walter Boyce in a Toyota Corolla that had started two minutes behind us. To show you how cold it was, Boyce stopped in a garage to weld up his exhaust, and when he went to drive off, he discovered that the water in his radiator had frozen. He lost 10 minutes on the road sorting that one out

“So we were leading, with Sandro second and I the next guy, Boyce, well behind. And then, with just a couple of stages to go, we came into a village r and there was someone waving us down. It was Daniele Audetto, the team manager. In the middle of the night, in the freezing cold, he took me into this telephone box, and on the other end of the line was the Direttore Sportivo of Lancia, Cesare Fiorio.

“To cut things short, he made me an offer that which involved my 1975 season that I could not refuse. The result was that we stopped in the last stage for some four minutes and counted trees.

“Sandro won the event and Lancia went on to win the world championship. The order in which we finished in Canada would not have affected the final points in any way, but Cesare had been very keen to have the Stratos win. He had put so much effort into persuading Lancia to build that car. And Sandro drove it well. He was third a few weeks later on the RAC Rally, and went on to win Monte Carlo three times in a row with it.”

So no regrets then?

Not exactly… “I miss not having a single world championship rally win to my name after scoring all those other victories before the WRC existed.” lI