1970 Alpine Rally

Finishing is the thing by Beatty Crawford

This feature was first published in MotorWeek dated 28 May 1970.

After the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland Rally 1970, in which Adrian Boyd proved that he is one of the quickest rally drivers in the British Isles, we decided that since many people believed that our times on the Circuit stages were due to local knowledge, we would have to do a European event to prove our point.

We had a look at the European Rally Calendar, and saw that we had the choice of the Welsh, Tulip, or Austrian Alpine events, all of which took place on the same week, as did the Texaco, which we regretted having to miss. We chose the Austrian Alpine for a number of reasons, firstly, we had heard that the roads were very similar to those used on the “Circuit.” Secondly, Ford were sending two cars for Ove Andersson and Jean Francois Piot, and we would be included in the team if we competed. This would ensure us of full works service, and to a lesser extent, Goodyear tyre service, without which it is now almost impossible to rally on the continent. Thirdly, it was a World Manufacturers Championship qualifier, so most of the works teams would be competing, giving us the chance to see how we would compare. Fourthly, Austria has the reputation be being cheap to live in, and thus our expenses wouldn’t be too high.

We crossed from Harwich to the Hook of Holland on a Wednesday night, and when we disembarked at 6.30 am on Thursday morning, we hoped to be in Austria, 600 miles downn the Autobahn, by evening. We would have achieved this aim had We not been held up by five traffic jams. These appeared to have been caused by accidents, and in one of them we didn’t move for an hour!

We arrived at the rally start, the tiny Alpine village of Menichkirchen, which is 100 kilometres South of Vienna, on Friday afternoon, and decided to stay the night before setting off on a three day recce of the Special Stages.

Next morning, we were on the road by 8 am, the Austrians had already been working for two hours, and were just two miles down the road, when we heard a grinding noise coming from the rear axle. It transpired that we had broken a half shaft. As the Ford service crews, who were due to arrive two days later were carrying our spares, we decided to hire a car.

We were just about to go and collect this when Ove Andersson and Jim Porter arrived at our hotel. They were in the middle of a recce which they had started five days earlier. Ove, who is most friendly, drove Adrian to collect the hire car, while Jim showed me the latest route modifications, of which there were many. The reason for these changes was the very late winter which had affected all Europe. Many of the roads were still blocked with snow, and others were impassable due to mud caused by water from melting snow running into the gravel roads.

Adrian arrived back with an almost new VW 1300 and we set off after an eight hour delay. By the time we arrived at the first special stage it was almost dusk, and we nearly turned for home when we saw the state of the roads. They were almost Safari-like, so deep was the mud. However, we continued, and were halfway along the stage when we met Simo Lampinen and John Davenport in their recce Lancia. As we know John quite well, we arranged to stay together in the nearby town of Bruckle, where Ove Andersson had also arranged to meet us.

By the time we had gone over the stage twice it was dark, and we headed off to the hotel where we met the others, had a most enjoyable meal, and heard many of the secrets of the European rally circus.

Although we made notes on the Special Stages, they weren’t of much value other than for keeping us on the right route, as we discovered that to make notes that the driver can rely on absolutely, one must drive over the stages at almost rally speeds. The works drivers usually do this at night. Our recce did at least give us an idea of what to expect, and this was important as there were no signs on any of the stages. It also gave Adrian time to get accustomed to driving on the right, so that by the time the rally started, he drove so instinctively. On the rally, we were amazed to see a helicopter patrol at the end of a stage in case of an accident.

Next morning, we had a look at some more stages, and we were relieved to find that these were at least smooth, although loose surfaced. We practised on the Osterreichring, a newly built 3.5-mile racetrack near Zeltweg. This is a beautiful circuit, with fast banked bends, and permanent concrete pits. Adrian would have been circulating all day, but for the fact that it costs two shillings (10p in today’s money)per lap. We were both very impressed by the Volkswagen, which must have had the very latest rear suspension, as it held the road impeccably.

Next day we were further taken aback when we saw the final three stages. They all started well, but halfway along the first we hit a mile-long section which resembled a tank testing ground. The second was worse, it was completely blocked by snow, and was only opened the day before the rally. The last was ridiculous. Again it started off well, but suddenly after a mile, we joined a main road, and from there to the finish, another 3.5 miles, it was flat. On the event, the fastest driver averaged almost 100 mph on this stage.

When we returned to the hotel, we found the Ford mechanics busily changing our halfshaft. We were glad to see Bertie Campbell, who had joined the Ford team for the event, since he knew our car best, having prepared it in the first place.

Next day, scrutineering took place, a much more tedious process than on the “Circuit”! This consisted mainly of checking lights, and sealing the engine block, but it seemed to take a long time for some reason. For the first time we could see the opposition, The Porsche team had two “911s” for Ake Andersson and Bjorn Waaldegaard. These were fabulous to behold, and have now flared their wings ‘a la Escort’. They make a fantastic sound, rather like a racing 2-stroke motorbike. There was also a 2.2 911s for local driver Poltinger, and a couple of the rather ugly looking, but highly effective 914/6s, again works prepared for local drivers.

The Renault Alpines look more like racing cars, which they are, virtually, and appear much too fragile for rallying. They weigh only 9cwt, and produce about 145 bhp. There were three entered by the works to be driven by Jean Therier, winner of the San Remo Rally, Bernard Darniche, a French newcomer to the team, and Walter Roser, a local driver. David Stone was to have co-driven Andruet, but the French driver broke his foot during the recce, and Stone didn’t get a drive.

Saab had two cars for Hakan Lindberg and Calle Orrenius, and their V4 engines are now fuel injected. Lancia has two 1.6 litre Fulvias for Simo Lampinen and Harry Kallstrom. The works Fords had five speed gearboxes, Taunas rear axles with disc brakes, and 170 bhp Group Two engines. There were also a couple of Fiat 124 Spyders, which looked rather dangerous, as they had soft tops. A team of works Skodas was there as well, and the rest of the 54 starters were local drivers.

The rally started at midnight, and for the rest of the day we made final preparations. We made up a set of chains in case we got stuck in the snow, since Goodyear had no spare studded tyres for us. We found we had made a bad decision with regard to tyres. We had been told that the roads would be either tarred, or else hard packed gravel, so we had brought only racing tyres and Goodyear “High Speeds”. We found that Ultragrips were the ideal tyre and made the car handle much more predictably.

The first half of the rally lasted 26 hours, and included nine special stages. Using Jim Porters excellent route notes, we soon found that most of the road sections, with one or two exceptions, were easily “on”. After a a couple of hours we arrived at the first special stage and a few kilometres in we saw the Therein Alpine parked at the side of the road. Apparently the transmission had broken. By the time we reached the second Special Section, at about 3.00 am, it was daylight, and Ake Andersson was out with a bent valve.

The Porsche team was further depleted when Poltinger’s 911S went off the road. He was quickly followed by one of the Fiats, when the driver, waving at Poltinger, discovered too late that he was in the middle of a hairpin bend.

On the next stage, one of the very muddy ones, we came across Roser’s Alpine upside down. This had caused a bit of trouble, since it blocked the road. Due to this our team mates had lost time, Piot 2 mins, and Andersson 3 mins. When we arrived, the road had just been cleared, and we got through without any loss.

There was more drama at the Osterreichring, and this time it was our own team which suffered. The thermostat on Ove Andersson’s car stuck in the closed position, and the car soon overheated, causing it to retire. When the mechanics took off the head, they found the plug electrodes melted, and the
pistons bowled!

When Adrian came off the track, we found that both rear axle oil seals were leaking, and that the differential was making a noise. We thought it was only a matter of time before we would have to retire, but decided to press on although at a reduced pace as the rear brakes were now useless, having had a soaking in oil.

During this section we had little more in the way of excitement except when We arrived at the steepest part of a 6.000 foot mountain pass to find the snow covered road blocked by a Lancia. As this was one of the few tight road sections, we were sure we would lose time. When the works Saabs
arrived, we were able to shift the Lancia with our combined efforts, and were able to get on our Way. The run down the other side was exciting!

When we arrived back at Menichkirchen, which, as well as being the start and finish, was also the intermediate halt, we discovered to our surprise, that we were lying sixth! We hadn’t been going as fast as the works cars, but were generally quicker than anyone else. It was obvious that the only way to drive the remaining 12 hours was as before, and hope for more Works retirements.

The second half was mainly road sections, with three special stages. As we were just trying to finish, hoping that our whining diff’ wouldn’t pack up, we didn’t have much excitement. Our only “moment” of drama arose when we passed a time control by mistake, and by the time we had turned round and found it had lost a minute. Hakan Lindberg almost did the same, the reason being that there was a large Renault service van parked in front of the control. This penalty was annoying more than anything else as it meant that We received a silver replica, rather than a gold one. However, we did have the” satisfaction of knowing in our own minds, that we were one of the very few cars clean on the road.

When we passed Harry Kallstrom’s Lancia being feverishly worked on, we realised that we might have gained a place, and so we had, as Kallstrom had lost 15 minutes with a burst oil pipe.

The other Lancia had retired earlier on, when the front suspension had come adrift from the body. When only a couple of hours from the finish, we moved up a further spot when the propeller shaft broke on Orrenius’ Saab on the last but one Special stage. When We arrived at the finish, We had the
unexpected happen when Rico Steinemann, the Porsche Team Manager, came and asked us our times. This was because the Alpine of Darniche had lost time earlier and was catching up. As Porsche and Alpine are chief competitors in the manufacturers, Steinemann was naturally keen to see how many points Alpine had gained. Thankfully we had been able to hold off the Alpine, but only by 29 secs.

Many people have asked me how it compared with the Circuit, and in my opinion, the Circuit is very far superior. Only in two aspects is the Alpine better, in its results and press service. At the prizegiving we were given the full results in booklet form.

My impression of European rallying in general, after this event, is that it isn’t quite as awe-inspiring as it appears from a distance. Any good Irish driver would put up a good show if he had service, the biggest problem being one of finance. It is much more difficult to get sponsorship for foreign events, than those at home. Anyone like to sponsor a car in the Scottish?

Beatty Crawford