1969 Welsh Rally

Photo: Hugh Bishop
Ove Andersson and Gunnar Palm cock a wheel in the air on SS8, Myherin, during their drive to victory in the Boreham Group 6 car.

The Welsh: Ford fill first eight places.

This report by John Davenport was published in Autosport magazine, May 16, 1969. Photos by Hugh Bishop.

One Anderson/Gunnar Palm win Welsh Rally in Group 6 Works Escort – Commendable second to Chris Sclater/Martin Holmes (Cortina).

ALMOST right from the beginning, Ove Andersson and Gunnar Palm led last weekend’s Welsh Rally in the Circuit of Ireland-winning 1852 cc Escort Twin Cam. Although they were the only full works entry in the rally, their path to victory was far from smooth, as in the early stages both Roy Fidler/Barry Hughes (BMW 2002Ti) and Colin Malkin/John Davenport (Hillman Imp) gave them very little rope, while in the closing stages a split axle casing gave them plenty of grey hairs.

With Fidler crashing in the second evening and Malkin going out four stages from the end with a broken gearbox, the privately-entered Fords had a hey-day with the leader board, taking the next seven positions after Andersson. Best of them was Chris Sclater/Martin Holmes in the Allard-sponsored, ex-Vic Elford Lotus-Cortina. Third overall were Jimmy Bullough/Don Barrow in the Westune Escort TC, repeating their result of the RAC Rally, and a well deserved fourth went to Mark Ridout/David Stephenson in a similar car, while the Mk 1 GT Cortina of Bob Bean/Paul Stephens took fifth spot despite losing their clutch on the last test.

Of the non-Fords, most had tales of woe and none less so than John Bloxham/Richard Harper in the Jolly Club Lancia, who finished but only after a multitude of troubles. Of the two Imps prepared by Rootes, Colin Malkin was second most of the way until his gearbox said no to being run without oil, while Jenny Nadin/Rob Lyall did a flip on the second morning and shortly afterwards blew up their engine. Fidler’s BMW 2002 was as fast and reliable as ever until an off-centre yump caused him to fly off the road irretrievably on the second evening.

Very tweaked up on the third Epynt forest stage is the Mk1 Cortina of Chris Sclater/Martin Holmes, who followed up an impressive performance on last year’s RAC by annexing a terrific second place.

ORGANISING an international rally is no glamour job, as anyone who has done it will tell you, and today, with the price of forest roads ever going up, it is also expensive and even a club the size of the South Wales Automobile Club cannot do it without help. For the Welsh, Fram Filters stepped in to provide loot, both for prizes and to cover organisational costs, and with their backing John Williams and his men laid on a very praise-worthy event.

In the programme they apologised for not having as many stages as they wanted, but those that there were provided sufficient smooth motoring to sort out any entry, and the fact that stage length was shorter than, say, on the RAC Rally gave the clubman without unlimited service the chance to go flat out over the lot instead of biding his time and waiting for retirements to give him his place. This led to spirited driving from drivers like Sclater, Bullough, Ridout, Bean, Chappell, Pierson, Brown, Adams and McDowell and resulted in good results for most of them.

The rally started from Howells Garage in Cardiff on Friday evening, with local drivers Tony Chappell/Hywel Thomas leading off in their TC Escort, followed by Ove Andersson/Gunnar Palm in the big engined Group 6 Escort, complete with coil-spring rear end, with which Roger Clark had won in Ireland.

On the entry list, but missing at the start, were Tony Fall in a Porsche 911, which Stuttgart had not been able to get ready in time, and Pat Moss in a Jolly Club Lancia, which was still on its way from Italy. The only other change was in Colin Malkin‘s hot seat, occupied by John Davenport as John Brown had been called away to recce the World Cup Rally with John Sprinzel and was leaving for South America the day the Welsh finished.

After a run over the Brecon hills, the first test came at Epynt, where in wet conditions and with jeep-spread mud giving extra hazards, Roy Fidler took the lead with an impressive run on his favourite ground. Chris Sclater had the rare distinction of going off on the second bend of the test, a short distance from what used to be known as Grimshaw’s Bend, but the car came straight back on again and he only lost about 40 secs.

Not so fortunate at the same spot were Ron Hancock/Jimmy Gray, who put their Lotus Cortina on its side and retired. On the descent to the bridge in the middle of the stage Mike Offley/Terry Harrison swept gracefully to the right of the right-hand parapet, narrowly missing Rootes Competitions Manager Des O’Dell who was spectating at that point, and spent two hours recovering the car. Their BMC 1800 was hardly damaged and they eventually drove home north-wards via some of the stages, stopping only to tow Jenny Nadin away from Taliesin.

Over a bridge on the first staged, Epynt 1, goes the Jolly Club Lancia Fulvia of John Bloxham/Richard Harper.

The second Epynt stage was only short and used just part of Crychan forest, but it was sufficient for Andersson to get the lead and for Malkin to start overhauling Fiddler, which he completed two stages later. Crychan followed almost immediately and was on clean for the leading three cars, despite some unexpected hairpins in the middle of a bare patch of felled trees. David Friswell/Keith Wood in the second Jolly Club Lancia were in trouble with a restricted fuel supply caused by a pinched fuel pipe, but a jury-rig of plastic pipe kept them going for a bit, only to retire a little later with a persistent misfire. Mike Brown/Derek Tucker in the Jeff Uren Escort hit Berwyn Williams’ BMC 1800 when he had gone off and not been able to get back in time to flag other cars down. The Escort was not finished by any means, but it did cost them 7 minutes.

On Ystwyth and Llanbed, Malkin got into his stride and both he and Fidler pulled back a bit on Andersson, who at this stage was driving on the Goodyear High Speed radials, which are undoubtedly fast but obviously don’t stick as well sideways as the Ultragrip; later Andersson changed to a set of those and ran on them to the end of the rally. Still getting used to them and the coil spring suspension left him at breakfast in Llandrindod with Malkin only 5 secs behind him, and Fidler, who had a disputed time on Epynt 3, either 3 secs in front of him or 5 secs behind Malkin. Llanbed saw the Lancia of Bloxham take a maximum when it ran out of petrol due to a miscalculation abetted by a faulty petrol gauge.

After breakfast came Myherin, and it was immediately evident that Andersson was not going to be trifled with by Imps and BMWs, and his times reflect the flying mood. Chris Sclater, too, seemed to prefer the daylight, as did his boss Alan Allard, who had spent most of the night with a duff regulator driving on dipped headlights. For Jenny Nadin the light must have been a bit too strong, as she rolled her Imp on – the very last bend of the stage. The car was not badly damaged, despite going end over end, though the front suspension pan was torn. She went two stages further, but then a rod came through the side on Taliesin.

Irishmen Paddy Fay and Frank O’Donoghue provided a little variety from the Ford domination with their Renault R8 Gordini.

Heavy mist and rain was making the going treacherous even at midday, and Hywel Wood/Venetia Sadler opted out at the end of Taliesin with a not-so-neat roll in their Cooper S. The first Coed-y-Brenin stage was easily on, probably as its time was more appropriate to going right the way up to the Youth Hostel instead of using the shorter road. The second Coed-y-Brenin was the classic on the west of the river, while Beddgelert was a real flyer. Bob Benn/Paul Stephens complained that they spent most of the time in the air, but Billy Coleman/Dan O’Sullivan in their weird Escort TC claimed that it was more up their street and that they preferred it to the narrow ones.

Next was Penrnachno, run in an unusual direction, where Roy Fidler and Barry Hughes said goodbye over a bump and crashed 25 yds down to wrap the BMW 2002 round a fairly substantial tree. This unfortunate circumstance left Andersson with only Malkin to harry him, and at Bala the gap was 1m 25s, with Sclater next some 3 mins away.

Before Bala there had been three stages in Clocaenog Forest, where considerable denuding is evident and logs were stacked everywhere. Toney Cox/Norman Salt retired on the second stage here when their Escort TC broke a drive shaft and jammed the differential. Mark Ridout/David Stephenson were also in trouble with their Escort, which had a detached strut in the front suspension, but they got it into Bala and repaired.

Denis Cardell/ Randall Morgan, having recovered from their first night scare when a jack handle shorted out a connection in the back of their 970 Cooper S, were now having clutch problems, only using it on stages.

Going out from supper in Bala, night had fallen, though it was soon to be a little lighter at one place as the Cortina GT of Clive Jenkins/Gareth Jones caught fire just after the exit to the Aberhirnant stage and burnt to a cinder. This blocked the road and the stage had to be cancelled, later numbers being sent back along the stage to rejoin the route. This was a pity for Colin Malkin, who had bent a stub axle on this stage and had to embark on an out-and-out road race to get it fixed at the end of Dyfnant and then double back to actually do the stage and stay in time. All this with a sticking throttle, but he made it to the next control with 2 secs to spare after 70 miles flat out.

Colin Malkin/John Davenport on the Myherin stage in the Imp with which they provided an early challenge until their retirement.

Unfortunately this little performance cooked the oil out of his gearbox, which started giving up the ghost, and he retired almost at the end of the night only four stages from the end when it was no longer possible to select gears.

After a very uneventful Dyfnant stage came Dovey, where a lot always seems to happen. Tony Chappell suffered a loose dynamo lead and lost 3 minutes fixing it, while Mark Ridout clouted a slower competitor while trying to round a hairpin at full chat with said competitor stopped in the middle of it. Then Peter Hall/Ian Bendall broke a star wheel in their Lotus CorLina’s differential and retired.

Various other cars were showing signs of wear and tear, including Mike Telford’s Cooper S, which was on top of a rally-long battle with Richard Hud- son-Evans’ similar car. Telford was driving to the constant accompaniment of bearing rattle, while his adversary had had stops to change alternator and wiper rack. Several Escort TCs had clutch problems, among which Tony Maslen/ Graham Marlow’s probably took the highest penalties, but Bruce Wilkinson/Robin Machachlan were also delayed with the same trouble.

Even the leading Escort was not without its problems, as on Dovey the differential had split owing to the torque transmitted through it by the pairs of radius arms associated with the coil springs, and despite welding, this leaked to the end of the rally. At times Andersson was stopping and borrowing ordinary GTX from spectators, which he poured in using a paper funnel, while on the last two Epynt tests the differential was running absolutely dry.

The Westune Escort of Jimmy Bullough/Don Barrow on SS4, Brechfa, on its way to third place.

The last forest test was Radnor, where Alan Allard/Tom Fisk, once more without lights, clobbered some logs within sight of the end of the stage and were forced to retire, as not only was the suspension bent but they could not get the engine going again with the battery flat. Chris Sclater also went off in Radnor, but only just front wheels over, and he lost practically no time. The two Epynt tests which finished ofi the rally proper were both very foggy for the first cars, which explains the times a little, but they are commendable none the less.

Poor John Bloxham collected another maximum here when his gearbox started to play up, while David Sutton/Martin Giles (Escort TC) became one of the last retirements when they disappeared over the edge and couldn’t find anyone to get them back up again.

The final test was Llandow, where everyone was meant to do ten laps and be timed for ten laps, and perhaps it is just best to record that that was not what happened and that the test was scrubbed from the results.

Unfortunately there were a few protests, which delayed the publication of the results, but the overall result was never in any doubt, and Mr Burnell, managing director of Fram, eventually had the pleasure of presenting the top award to Ove Andersson and Gunnar Palm, who later thanked him and hoped that their success would sell him a lot of filters. The whole presentation was over by 6 pm on Sunday, so despite the weather the whole rally had kept well on schedule.

FRAM International Welsh Rally,
May 9-11 1969

  1. O. Andersson/G. Palm (1.8 Ford Escort TC), 19 m 44s;
  2. C. Sclater/M. Holmes (1.6 Ford Lotus Cortina), 27m 01s;
  3. J. Bullough/D. Barrow (1.6 Fond Escort TC), 28m 14s;
  4. M. Ridout/D. Shephenson (1.6 Ford Escort TC), 30m 06s;
  5. R. M. Bean/P. Stephens (1.6 Ford Cortina GT), 31m 47s;
  6. A. Chappell/H. Thomas (1.6 Ford Escort TC), 33m 13s;
  7. A. F. Pierson/C. Francis (1.6 Ford Cortina GT t/c), 35m 26s;
  8. J. P. McDowell/T. Yoward (1.3 Ford Escort GT), 36m 20s;
  9. P. F. Hughes/J. Jones (1.9 Opel Rallye Kadett), 36m 20s;
  10. P. Davies/D. Davidson (2.5 Triumph 2.5 Pi), 37m 17s;
  11. J. A. Booth/G. H. Booth (1.6 Ford Lotus Cortina), 37m 44s;
  12. P. Muddiman/R. Lawrence (1.6 Ford Lotus Cortina), 38m 17s;
  13. M. Telford/J. A. Taylor (1.3 Mini—Cooper S), 40m 02s;
  14. R. Young/T. Leete (1.6 Ford Escort TC), 40m 02s;
  15. M. Brown/D. Tucker (1.6 Ford Escort TC), 40 m 31 s.

Private owner award: Bullough/Barrow.

Class awards:

D. G. Bone/J. L. Bone (1.0 Mini-Cooper);
Sclater/Holmes (1.6 Ford Lotus Cortina);
R. Brookes/A. Christopher (850 Mini);
Ridout/Stephenson (1.6 Ford Escort TC);
Andersson/Palm (1.8 Ford Escort TC).

Ladies’ award: Miss Jill Robinson/Miss Sally Gould (1.6 Ford Lotus Cortina).