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GP Week : Issue 166
RALLY >>> PREVIEW It was 80 years ago that the Rally GB series started, but it was in an unrecognisable form! There were eight events held before the second world war, the character following the Monte Carlo Rally with a series of concentration runs from locations around Britain to a central location. Curiously, the over-all winning car in 1932 won by gaining the ‘best’ time on a slow driving test in which the winning driver’s chauffeur was at the wheel! In those years there were driving tests, slaloms and a heavy emphasis on performances within specific classes. The series was revived in 1951; in 1952 speed tests were introduced for the first time but still basically the long distance driving was the main character. In 1954 night-time road rallying was introduced. In 1960 the first orthodox special stages were introduced, but only in Scotland, and the event had its first foreign winner, Erik Carlsson in a Saab. From that moment on the format of the event changed completely. 1961 was the last time that night-time navigation on open public roads was included but the event still toured round a substantial part of Britain. From the early sixties through to 1985 the new format was consistent and extremely popular. From 1986 there was no all-night rallying; in 1987 there was an introduction to recceing. In 1997 the route became far more localised, with spectator stages in central England and the forest stages in Wales. The event title had already started to change. From 1974 till 1992 it was titled the Lombard RAC Rally; from 1993 to 2002 it was the Network Q Rally. 1997 was the last time it was called the RAC Rally – since then it has became the Rally of Great Britain. In 2003 it became Wales Rally GB for the first time. From 2000 onwards the rally has remained in Wales. The popularity of the event especially in the early days was astounding. In 1934 there were 384 starters. The RAC Rally was one of the founder events in the FIA’s European championship when this was introduced in 1953 and of the world championship when it was launched in 1973. There were three especially famous cliff-hangers. The 1959 event was particularly snowy and the German driver Wolfgang Levy, who would other wise have easily won the event, was very late reaching the Braemar control in the Scottish highlands because the road was blocked. Levy was told he had incurred penalties and did not win the event. It wasn’t until weeks after wards that Levy’s entrant Auto Union finally stopped the legal appeal processes after their hopes of winning the European championship had meanwhile evaporated anyway. In 1970 the FIA’s International Championship for Makes (forerunner of the WRC) was decided when Therier’s Renault Alpine was stuck with a broken driveshaft on the final stage, the muddy conditions of which were so bad that the stage was then cancelled, and the title suddenly went instead to Porsche. Then on the 1998 event third placed Carlos Sainz’s Toyota expired within sight of the finish of the final stage and as a result the Makes title passed from Toyota to Mitsubishi and Tommi Makinen, who had already retired, PIC: Erik Carlsson(Saab 96) on the 1963 RAC Rally – not a lot of spectators to be seen ... 80 years of the RAC 40 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: