Sad News of LAC Stalwart

We very sad to impart the news to you all that our very good friend, colleague and companion Alwyn J Davis. MSc. died this morning following a short illness. He would have been 93 later this month.
Many of you will rember Alwyn as the person in charge of signing on at LAC events including 3 Sisters Sprints, Coast to Coast, Fellsman, Manchester to Blackpool and St Georges Day Runs.
He also ran controls on our events as well as providing radio coverage on the Wales Rally GB with David Bell.
He also took a lead role on our Committee being Chairman and President in the past as well as preparing much of the paperwork for our runs and social events.
He was diagnosed with C-19 10 days ago but stayed at home til last night when he suffered a heart arrhythmia , the para medics arrived, he was then. taken to hospital
His family were with him, other than his wife Margaret- who is unwell and also in hospital herself.
Alwyn and Margaret had only recently moved to be near their two daughters Katherine McFarlane and Marianne Dyer, their husbands (both of which are senior RAF Officers) and children.
David Bell added the following:
I last spoke to them both for a while on Christmas Eve and they were both settled in and pretty well ok. We discussed many topics, including Alwyn’s stated goal (on his 90th ) to do a Tiger Moth Wing Walk in 2021.
I got him interested in motorsport, and he joined The Lancashire Automobile Club over 30 years ago.
Having now reached the final control, He is, and will be very sadly missed. With his cheerfully smiley disposition. Sharp wit. Cheeky sense of humour  Wry smile. Knowledge of Welsh and a keen eye for perfection but above all , a man of integrity, honesty and a true friend ( especially in Malt )
Goodbye old chum
David

The 1964 Liege – Another view!

All of our ‘regular’ readers will be well aware of Mike Wood and John Wadsworth’s exploits on the 1964 Liege. I posted this story on a Facebook page and recieved a reply of another contestants, Doctor Beatty Crawford, reccollections of this car breaking event.
Our 1964 Spa-Sofia-Liege rally.
The Royal Motor Union Club wanted only one car to finish the Spa-Sofia-Liege rally. In 1964 they almost achieved their objective. Of ninety-seven starters just twenty-one made it to the finish and then only because the organisers extended the maximum lateness by two hours. Today it is difficult to believe just how hard this rally was, a virtually non-stop drive across the worst roads in Europe, from Belgium all the way through Yugoslavia to Bulgaria and back. Average speeds took no consideration of stops for fuel or food. There was virtually no servicing. From the start in Spa the rally went through Austria and into Italy, where the event began in earnest. After reaching Sofia in Bulgaria the rally simply turned around after one hour rest and began the long trek home with the timed runs over the gravel-covered, fearsome Vivione, Gavia and Stelvio Passes. This is from the obituary on the winning co-driver Tony Ambrose: “The 1964 Spa-Sofia-Liege was by general consensus the toughest road rally ever held in Europe, an event of a format that could never be held these days. Rauno Aaltonen still praises Ambrose’s part in their momentous victory in an Austin Healey 3000. Crews faced four days and nights with no scheduled chance to sleep: Tony planned it all, he forced me to sleep even at moments when I wasn’t so tired. He even drove one 77-mile section at night in 52 minutes. We were going at maximum speed, 150 mph, on cobbled roads amid unlit horses and carts, yet he was such a safe driver I slept through it all! He could have been just as good a driver as he was a co-driver.”
Adrian Boyd and I took part in a Humber Sceptre. We were sponsored by Alan Fraser Racing. Alan was a very wealthy, slightly eccentric, Rootes dealer in Hildenborough, Kent and took a liking to Adrian after he had won the Circuit of Ireland in 1958. He basically ran Rootes works prepared cars as a private entrant. We drove for him on the 1964 RAC rally in a Humber Sceptre and finished 21st overall. On the Circuit of Ireland we were given a Sunbeam Tiger but severely blunted its teeth when we aquaplaned off the road into a large rock on Sally’s Gap. Alan had entered two other cars, Bill Bengry and Ian Hall in a Sunbeam Rapier and John La Trobe and David Skeffington in a Humber Super Snipe.
We were like babes in the wood when it came to the Marathon. No recce or Tulips so all the route was on maps and I can tell you that the map in Yugoslavia was no better than a quarter inch to the mile. One of my jobs was to obtain cash for petrol and emergencies. I had envelopes for Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria since there were no credit cards in those days. Our only asset, so we thought, was young age and a slow but reliable car.
The first part of the route was easy. We departed Spa in southern Belgium, home of the F1 track and straight on to the German autobahns. Then off the autobahn onto A roads to Bregenz on the Austrian border. But we never even made it to Bregenz. At about 4.00 am a noise suddenly developed in the gearbox. A few miles later we were dead in the water. The gearbox drain plug had vibrated loose and fallen out. Loctite had been invented yet. Apparently the plug hadn’t been wired to prevent it loosening.
All we could do was sleep and wait until daylight. We were awaked at about 6.00am by German Polizei who had found us parked at the side of the main road. “Oh, oh” we thought we are in trouble, but no, in sign language and broken German we explained that we were “kaput.” The very friendly cops soon produced a rope and towed us to a garage in a village called Wangen. It was still only 7.00am and we waited another hour until the garage owner arrived. His name was Herbert Schek. He spoke English and we told him our story. He asked us where we were from and we said Northern Ireland. “Northern Ireland” he said, “Do you know Sammy Miller?” It turned out that he too was a top trials rider and was a great admirer and friend of Sammy.
From then on we were royally looked after. He took us to his house where we stayed. Herbert and his wife Annaline fed and watered us and he gave us the use of a hoist in his garage where we removed the broken gearbox. It was hard work since the two us had very little knowledge of anything mechanical. Meanwhile Adrian had phoned the bad news to Alan who arranged for a new gearbox to be shipped down by train from somewhere in Germany. It arrived next day and we soon had it installed and on our way again. We decided to meet up with the rally on its way back at a time control at the bottom of the Stelvio Pass.
We had no idea who would be still in the rally but both Bill and John arrived. Bill was from Leominster in Wales and many times “Motoring News Rally Champion” and very much a VW exponent. A bit like Robert McBurney, he was very good driver and an equally good mechanic. One of the major problems on the Marathon was punctures from nails on the roads in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Bill would sit in the back seat while Ian drove and took off the tyre and repaired the puncture while on the move! We tried to help us much as we could in our limited way and I had bought green grapes for the crews. I put a large bunch on the driver’s seat but Bill in his hurry to get going again forgot and jumped in on top of the grapes. I’m sure by the time he got to the top of the Stelvio, the wine was good, if a bit warm.
We followed them to Liege in case they would get into trouble, back through the border at Bregenz. Who was waiting for us with all sorts of food and drinks but Franz and his wife Annalie. Talk about hospitality. Bill and John made it to the finish without any problem and so Alan Fraser had two cars finish out of the 21. A remarkable feat.
I sometimes regret not being able to complete the entire event but the rally was never held again. It had become too dangerous and too anti-social. On the other hand, if ever there was a rally where “It’s like beating your head against a wall, it’s great when you stop” applies, this was it.
This is from an article in Retrospeed.
Exactly forty-five years ago a big red Healey 3000 driven by Rauno Aaltonen and navigated by Englishman, Tony Ambrose won the infamous Liege-Sofia-Liege Rally outright. In fourth place and winner of the Coupe des Dames, driving the diminutive SAAB, was Pat Moss, already a household name, not just for being Stirling’s sister but for also winning the Liege in 1960. Husband-to-be, Eric Carlsson, also driving a SAAB made it into second place behind Rauno.
Today it is difficult to believe just how hard this rally was, a virtually non-stop drive across the worst roads in Europe, from Belgium all the way through Yugoslavia and back. Average speeds took no consideration of stops for fuel, food or routine maintenance. Service crews were anyway pretty useless as the route never passed the same place twice. From the start near Spa the rally led down through Austria into Italy where the event began in earnest. Thirty miles south of Bled, Bo Ljungfeldt rolled his works Mustang and leader Henry Taylor disappeared over the edge and fell one hundred feet into a ravine, luckily without injury. Georges Harris hit a truck in his Lancia Flaminia and was reported as dead but this later proved more than a mild exaggeration. Other well known exponents suffered setbacks including Sydney Allard, Timo Makinen and Roger Clark. All soldiered on albeit running quickly out of time. It really is difficult to describe the conditions, cars were expected to keep going for hours on end over unmade stone-covered roads. All three works Triumph 2000s expired within twenty miles of each other while the inevitable punctures delayed both Roy Fidler and Paddy Hopkirk. Vic Elford retired his Cortina after running head on into a wall near Kotor. After reaching Sofia in Bulgaria the rally simply turned around and began the long trek home with the timed descents of the gravel-covered passes of Vivione, Gavia and, naturally, the Stelvio designed to catch out the tired crews. Stories of hardship abound. Carlsson lost one of his two cylinders after the Gavia, driving the final fourteen hours on 425cc while for the first time ever a Mini, the 1293 Cooper S of John Wadsworth/Mike Wood not only lasted the distance, but finished in 20th position. Citroen, the only manufacturer to have a team finish intact, won the coveted Team Award.

Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER

A word from our Chairman… 

What a year! Who would have thought if I had written this message twelve months ago that 2020 could unfold as it has?

Of course, there has been sadness, I have lost two close relatives to COVID-19 and many other enthusiasts have been affected in a similar way.
But equally many people have learned new skills, how many had heard of Zoom calls at the beginning of the year? These digital means of communication can open new horizons to clubs large, small or clusters of enthusiasts with an interest in a particular model. Many of you dialled in to our virtual AGM and it delivered our directors’ reports into many homes on a Saturday morning. Our President, Lord Steel, wrote to me immediately following the meeting to say he had greatly enjoyed watching the board members’ making their presentations and this will certainly be a facet that we adopt for future meetings even if they are more traditional in format.

What else that is positive has happened? Well, we have heard of many stalled projects being invigorated and we can all look forward to vehicles taking to our roads that we may not have seen before. A couple of weeks ago I ‘taxed’ my 1936 Carter Invalid Carriage for the first time in 24 years. It had been the sole mode of transport for a disabled lady, Elizabeth, for forty years from when she was aged 26 . . . and it is green being powered by a 36-volt electric motor, another addition to my fleet of historic electric vehicles!

Already many people are looking forward to the vaccines being in place and increasing freedom. We sense anticipation in the minds of enthusiasts who are looking forward to making up on lost ground in 2020. I received a Christmas card yesterday with a note saying the club had six race meetings planned next year.

We know Clarion Events are busy planning the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show, with Discovery for November and already taking bookings. They have prudently planned the Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show for June and in these past few days my Inbox has been filling with further announcements from Beaulieu, Goodwood and others. I sense many celebrations in 2021!

The Federation has its own exciting development in 2021 with Drive It Day on Sunday 25th April being held in support of Childline®.  There is no doubt the pandemic has caused angst in the lives of many children and we are pleased the historic vehicle movement is able to contribute to supporting our younger generation. Rally plates are on sale now on driveitday.co.uk and there is an opportunity to list the events you plan.

As I have been typing these words, the news broadcasts are full of the new and much tighter “Tier 4” restrictions now in place over Christmas but we are where we are. There is hope for the New Year and we should celebrate Christmas as best we can. The Federation team sends their best wishes for the holiday and we look forward to meeting you all in 2021!

David Whale
Chairman, FBHVC.

Mike Wood’s 1963 Monte Carlo Rally

With this years world rally championship now wrapped up it’s time to look forward to the first event of 2021 the Monte Carlo Rally.
Thought this article by Mike Wood about the 1963 event would add to your interest.
1963 MONTE CARLO RALLY
By
Mike Wood
This is my story of the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally, my third Monte that I entered with the late great Geoff Mabbs, a good driver, and a true friend.
I had competed on the event for the first time in 1958 with John Waddington in a works Triumph TR3A. On the 1959 event I was in a privately entered Jaguar 3.4 with two Yorkshiremen, Brian Waddilove and Greg Wood, and In 1963 I was invited by Geoff to co-drive with him in his privately entered Mini Cooper, albeit with some works support. Geoff was one of the nicest rally guys around at that time and was considered a highly competitive driver, particularly at international level. He never became a regular full works driver but nearly always attracted some degree of factory support, probably due to his outright win on the 1961 Tulip Rally beating all the established works teams in his own Triumph Herald Coupe.
We knew that our start control would be Paris and Geoff let me know that the Paris starters had been allocated the early numbers, our own competition number was 28. I remember making a joke at the time, saying that with a little bit of luck, we could be the first car into Monte Carlo. Little did I know how true that joke would turn out to be?
In 1963 Monte was made up of three segments. The first segment was the concentration run which terminated from every starting point in the town of Chambery. The second segment was the combined route which every competitor went over, lasting about 9 hours and interspersed with various classification tests (special stages). The third segment was a race around the Monaco Grand Prix race circuit. Cars were to be divided into various groups and were then required to complete 3 laps per group. Two years on, the infamous mountain circuit would replace this fascinating part of the rally.
At the start of the rally we drove out of France into Belgium and then on into Holland. I remember this as we had a control at The Hague. I also remember that on the way to the Hague control I was doing my stint of driving on a stretch of Dutch autobahn. There was plenty of snow on the road and for some reason I must have lifted my foot off the pedal quickly and, for no reason at all, the car spun completely around crossing the centre strip. There was no barrier in those days, and I finished up on the opposite carriageway. Geoff had been sleeping and of course woke up with all the commotion going on. When I told him what had happened and that we were now going in the opposite direction, he simply said that I had better get it back through the gap I had caused and get on my way. With that comment he duly went back to sleep. I think the only damage sustained was a bent number plate, which remained bent throughout the event.
From Holland we meandered our way through France towards Chambery. Now came the important part of the event, over 9 hours of hard driving from Chambery to Monte Carlo over the southern French Alps, via many special stages and difficult road sections. With light snow falling in Chambery, and in the darkness of late afternoon, we left the time control 28 minutes after competitor No.1. We headed for the mountains and the first special stage which started about 7 kms. out of Chambery.
This first stage was probably the longest on the whole event, about 45 kms in distance, rising and descending over three high Cols, the Col du Granier, the Col du Cucheron and the Col du Porte. The weather was atrocious with the snow coming down quite heavily, but Geoff was brilliant, nochance of driving flat out, but he kept a good speed up and, more importantly, kept the car on the road. Eventually we reached the end of the stage unscathed with the town of Grenoble shimmering in the valley below us.
After this stage, we had to find our way across Grenoble to the next stage, the Chamrousse. We were using the marvellous BMC route notes which had been excellently prepared and checked by one of the full-time rally crews, without these notes life would have been difficult. The Chamrousse test was about 39 kms, again going quite high with the snow continuing to fall. Geoff was again at his best and we got to the end going quite well with no excursions off the road.
After the Chamrousse test and continuing along the route, there were fewer tyre tracks being left in the snow from the competing cars that should have been running in front of us. With a few more stages to drive I remember asking about competitors running in front of us. It was not until we arrived in Gap that we got a positive answer to this question. Gap was the first point since leaving Chambery that we had some time in hand, we had not lost any time on the way. BMC had arranged a large service prior to the control area, along with all the other big teams, and with the few extra minutes we had in hand we managed to give the car a thorough check over. The Gap control was about half-way from Chambery to Monte Carlo and there was plenty of hectic mileage still left, so it was essential to make sure the car was in good order.
At the time control and with a couple of minutes in hand I was able to ask the marshal in charge how many cars were running in front of us. His answer was very French; non, we were the first car in the rally to check in, indeed my signature on his check sheet confirmed this. As we were now the first car running in the event, our tyres were leaving tracks for others to follow. Whilst it was still dark, I can remember looking back several times to see if I could see any headlights following, but I never could. We were having a lonely rally.
The last special stage was the infamous Col du Turini and there we had the usual efficient BMC service prior to the test. I remember this well as we were offered special Dunlop studded tyres for the stage. This was the advent of studded tyres and these Dunlop ones were crude at that time. I think from memory that they did not have more than about 40 studs per tyre and even these were screwed in from the inside of the tyre. We gladly accepted the tyres, but I cannot honestly say that they made any difference to our stage times, in any case by now we could smell the Mediterranean and were more concerned in getting through the last few kilometres in one piece.
The final approach to Monte Carlo ran from the back of Nice, through the village of La Trinite and up to La Turbie which is on the top corniche overlooking Monte. We bobbed over the top into the village and there below us was one of the greatest sights in the world, Monte Carlo and the blue Med shimmering in the sunshine. At the next junction out of La Turbie on the road down to Monaco we were immediately confronted by two gendarmes on their BMW motorcycles who started to flag us down. We wondered what we had done wrong, but without stopping us they gesticulated that we should follow them. There then started one of the fastest parts of the rally and we realised that, because we were the first rally car on the road, we were getting a typical French high-speed escort to the final control.
I remember arriving on to the promenade in Monte with veteran GP driver and past rally winner Louis Chiron standing by the control waving the chequered flag at us. The world’s press was also there, and we got a huge reception. We knew we had crossed the finishing line first but knew that the rest would soon be following. We did allow ourselves the thought however, that there might have been a large avalanche behind us and that we might be the only finishers. We would have won everything then, including the Coup des Dames!
We enjoyed our moment of glory for a short while but of course the other competitors started to arrive. I cannot remember how many made it to Monte Carlo, I suspect quite a few were off the road or out of time. The leader of the rally after the road section was Eric Carlsson in a works SAAB, in second place was Pauli Toivonen in a works Citroen and in third place was Rauno Aaltonen in a works Mini Cooper.
There now only remained the race around the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. This was divided up into various groups of cars each doing three laps. It was quite an enjoyable test for the co-drivers as we did not have to accompany our drivers. It was very relaxing for us all to sit enjoying a beer or two, watching our drivers perform on their own for a change. The outcome of the races did not alter the leading places, however. Eric Carlsson and Gunnar Palm in the SAAB won the rally. Pauli Toivonen in the Citroen was second and Rauno Aaltonen and Tony Ambrose in the Mini Cooper were third. Paddy Hopkirk in a works Mini Cooper was 6th overall.
Finally, what position did we finish the event? Well we were classified a very creditable 18th overall and took away the Autosport Trophy for the best placed British private entry.
The 1963 Monte Carlo Rally may not have been my most successful Monte but it was probably my most enjoyable one and I have always been proud of our final 18th overall position as a private entry. Not only was Geoff Mabbs an extremely good driver, he was one of the nicest guys rallying during the 60’s. He had a wonderful sense of humour and he never let anything worry him for long. He never quite became a full works driver, but he could nearly always command some sort of factory support from the various team managers of that era. Sadly, Geoff died at a young age in the late 1970’s, he is still much missed by those who remember him from that wonderful “Golden Age of Rallying”.
If you like Mikes article don’t forget he has written a book ‘The Last Liege’ which goes into some detail about the Liege event ran and how he and John Wadsworth were the only crew to get a Mini to the finish of this car breaqking event. Ring Mike on 01282 771563 for details.

A Classic Highland Tour

Well the Lancashire Automobile Club regulars have missed out on their dose of Highlands magic this year. So we thought a little video of what you have missed would hit the right note.
Prize for anyone who spots a fleeting glimpse of Mike Raven!
Please click on link
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTAxHICtqj8&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR3qOPSYByrTY2Rrv-XDUFTXtIPOexnGnYqsvb2I_r9vcEk3horQOKn4ors

Americana

Some great pictures of ‘Woodies’ mainly from the States plus a Quiz for you to enjoy:

Americana Quiz starts with the pictures of Woodies then goes on to an interesting quiz on American cars.

Americana Quiz

Americana Answers gives you, strangely, the answrs to the quiz.

Americana Answers

Many thanks to Mike Hanson for this one.

Rise of the Sidevalves

We have been contacted by Tom Fryars about a great new book on the early days of motorsport which includes some interesting snippets of LAC history.

This is a n Edwardian motor sport book that tells a story, a book which is of particular interest to members of the Lancashire Automobile Club and how their events amongst others help to shape the history of British motorsport before the Great War.

This book for the first time explains the Rise of The Sidevalves to consign the Monster Edwardian cars to history, and the resulting emergence of the iconic Vauxhall 30-98 and 25 hp Talbots.

This untold story follows week by week the Crossley Motors works competition cars and their participation in period English hill climb and sprint events from 1910 to 1914 seen through period press reports. The reports describe how a Crossley 20hp competition touring car beat the two Sunbeam GP winning races cars of Louis Coatalen and Bird and dominated the British motorsport scene by securing an unprecedented 34 Fastest Times of the Day in a 3 year period.

Approximately fifty percent of all English hill climbs and sprints in the three years up to 1913 are covered in detailed event reports. Each report identifies the main motor manufacturers and competitors to give a flavour of what it was like to spectate at Edwardian hill climbs

The Lancashire Automobile Club events from 1909, 1912 are covered in detail and why the dramatic 1913 LAC Waddington Fell hill climb proved to be a watershed for both Crossley Motors and Vauxhall.

We are also taken through the application of many technical developments which happened in this period, including an explanation of the first use of dynamic balancing for engine parts, along with the origins and reasons for failure of Edwardian front wheel brakes on production cars. (picture right is Rivington Pike in 1912)

Short life stories of Bianchi and Woods, the two works drivers are chronicled, with their involvement in events such as the 1903 Paris Madrid race and the 1904 Blackpool Speed trials.

A final chapter with a few short period stories which feature the works drivers is also included.

All in all, a good read which chronicles the untold success story of a local car manufacturer which will lift the corvid blues.

More information    https://www.facebook.com/EdwardianMotorSport

200 pages.

Many unseen images

Limited Edition Hardback

Price at £35, plus £5 carriage within the UK

Preferred Payment Method is PayPal via website:             https://www.edwardianmotorsport.co.uk/

Overseas orders or payment by bank transfer & cheque.

Please contact Tom Fryars directly at:                                     edwardianmotorsport@gmail.com

The Liege Rally

There is a great article in this months Historic Car Register Newsletter (Northants and Bedford area) which we have reproduced with the kind permission of Andrew Bodman.

The Liège Rally

from Andrew Bodman

The Royal Motor Union of Liège used to organise the Marathon de la Route, to give it its official title. It was also known as the Liège-Rome-Liège Rally, which ran between 1931 and 1960. For the next four years it became the Liège-Sofia- Liège Rally, as the route turning point was relocated to Bulgaria. Commentators described it as a very well organised and run rally.

It was also considered to be the toughest round of the European Rally Championship, which was the top rally series prior to the introduction of the World Rally Championship in 1973.

During the last five years of its existence, the average number of finishers was 16, with a low of 8 in 1961, from an average number of 97 starters. This was a seriously high rate of attrition. It was reported that Maurice Garot, the clerk of the course, considered that, ideally, there should be just one finisher. He never quite achieved his aim although he got close.

Picture right 1953 A Renault 750 ascends the Gavia pass. The drops are much deeper than shown in this photo, and the only protection here is a wooden rail. Elsewhere on this pass there was even less protection. (Photo credit McKlein)

So, what made the event so tough? There were many factors which I will endeavour to explain. The route usually covered 3,200 miles or more, making it the longest round of the championship. There would generally be one hour of rest at the halfway point and other than that, the driving was non-stop for 92 hours (four days). “Wakey-Wakey” pills (Benzedrine) were taken by many competitors to stay awake, and to achieve a competitive result the codriver needed to be a seriously good driver as well to share the load with the driver. Some team managers paired two drivers in the same car: for example Roger Clark/Brian Culcheth in a Rover 2000 and also Peter Procter/Peter Harper in a Ford Mustang both in 1964. The lack of sleep caused mistakes to be made by extremely tired crew members, whether that was drivers leaving the road or codrivers making navigational errors.

Here are two examples of tiredness/exhaustion on this event. Tony Ambrose was reading pace notes to Rauno Aaltonen after leaving Sofia on the ’64 event and then the notes stopped coming. Tony had fallen asleep exhausted. Rauno slipped a pillow between Tony’s helmet and the rollover bar to stop his head from banging into it, and he also roped Tony’s chest to the rollover bar to stop him from being thrown forward in the event of a sudden stop. Presumably the Healey 3000 did not have seat belts. In 1962 Paddy Hopkirk, also in a Healey 3000, had a problem with a broken rear spring, which was trying to work its way into the cockpit beneath his seat. Paddy admitted afterwards that he was praying that the mechanics would not be able to repair his car as he was so desperately tired.

Picture left 1961 Winners Lucien Bianchi/George Harris Citroën DS19. A rare success for this marque, in the year that there were only eight finishers. Photo credit Autosport

The average speeds, set by the organisers for each section, were created to make the event “acceptable” to the authorities of the countries through which the rally passed. But they bore little relation to reality. Graham Robson explains the system well in the “History of Rallying”. “The organisers introduced whimsical timing methods which demanded great intelligence and foresight from codrivers and team managers. The cunning system they introduced, theoretically allowed a sensible average speed between individual controls; the Road Book, however, also specified a precise period during which each control was open to a particular competitor. As the event progressed these periods were moved gradually and persistently forward in relation to the theoretical average speed. This meant that a complacent (and unsuspecting) competitor, content merely to achieve target times, would eventually arrive at some control in the depths of Yugoslavia to find it closed, and the officials on their way back to Belgium. Indeed, had he persisted at this rate, he would have arrived back at Liège 24 hours after the winner had received his garlands!”

Picture right 1963 Winners Eugen Böhringer/Klaus Kaiser Mercedes-Benz 230 SL, which had only been launched at the Geneva show that year. Eugen also won the previous year in a Mercedes-Benz 220SE. Photo credit Autosport

The Italian authorities, having become familiar with the rate at which Liège competitors travelled through their country, requested that the rally organisers slowed down the competitors in some parts of Italy. The Royal Motor Union of Liège obliged; by setting minimum times (equating to average speeds significantly less than 50 kph) over road sections between timed climbs of the great passes. However, the overall average across the combined road sections and climbs (such as the Croce Domini, Vivione, Gavia and Stelvio) remained at 50 kph. That had the effect of upping the average speed required on each of the timed climbs.

It should be remembered that in those days most of the mountain passes would have been unsurfaced narrow “roads” with no armco barriers and major drops over the edge. Yugoslav “roads” will be discussed later.

The maximum permitted lateness for each competing crew started as 1 hour and gradually increased until it became 3 hours when crews reached Yugoslavia. It remained at that level through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Shortly before crews left Yugoslavia, the maximum lateness was gradually wound back in 15 minute increments, so that by the time crews reached the final night in Italy the maximum permitted lateness had returned to one hour. So imagine being say two and a half hours into your maximum lateness when you leave Yugoslavia; you not only have to keep up with the organisers high average speeds, you also need to gain one and half hours on the schedule in the course of approximately 12 hours driving to avoid exclusion, with, in all likelihood, a car that was no longer at its best. Ideally competitors would try and stay as close as possible to their earliest reporting time at each control. It should be noted that the earliest and latest reporting times for each control had been handwritten (!) onto the competitors’ carnet de passage (time card book) before they were first issued.

The petrol available in several of the countries traversed was of poor quality so it was essential to fill up with “Super”. There might however be only one Super pump in a petrol station and competitors could not afford to wait in a queue. So works service crews would transport their own petrol and hand pump it into their competing cars.

Picture Right 1964—BMC’s Mk 3 refuelling rig for supplying petrol to their team cars. It was towed behind their service barges, and had a capacity of 100 gallons.

Service crews were spread very thinly due to the extremely large distances involved. Service points were usually situated (by BMC) just after time controls. In some places there might be just one individual deposited in a remote village with a pile of new tyres (mounted on wheels), some petrol and tools. He might be left there for a day or more.

Picture Below 1964 At approximately 10:07pm we have a Mercedes-Benz 300SE, a Humber Sceptre and a Ford Cortina GT lined up across the main street in Spa. They were all to be released on the same minute, but Henry Taylor/Brian Melia are a bit more eager to get started in their Cortina. Photo credit  McKlein

There were many other causes of delays, which competitors had to deal with whilst trying to achieve the organisers’ (real) time schedule. The rally usually ran between the evening of the last Wednesday in August and the evening of the last Sunday in August. Therefore, there was extra holiday traffic particularly on the return run to Belgium. There were often accidents between noncompeting cars on major roads which caused significant delays. There would be up to ten border crossings between countries subject to the whims (and delays) of local officials. There was no Schengen group of countries in those days. There could be road works, closed level crossings and crews were sometimes held up while blasting took place in quarries close to the road. Some competitors in sports cars such as MGAs and Porsches discovered they could get over the level crossings before the trains arrived by lifting the barrier slightly. The organisers themselves sometimes introduced lengthy diversions and additional time was not always granted for these.

Marcus Chambers (BMC Competitions Manager 1955-61) reported in his book “Seven Year Twitch” that Austin A50 crew John Gott/Bill Shepherd had driven for 25 hours without eating on the ’55 Liège, as they found the time allowances were so challenging even though their car had a “Le Mans” engine. Marcus learnt from this, and in future years endeavoured to provide food and drinks at some service points on the Liège. Competitors also had to travel quickly enough to generate time for service work and, even then, it would usually be very brief.

One of the quirks of the event was the manner in which cars were started. The real start of the rally was in the town of Spa some 6 miles from Liege. Cars were lined up three abreast across the road and started simultaneously. Three minutes later the process was repeated.

The organisers’ route instructions consisted of a list of controls, so no tulip diagrams to assist; the maps available, particularly for Yugoslavia were of poor quality. With a frequent absence of signposts in remote areas, navigational skills were at a premium. Some of the works crews did carry out reconnaissance runs when they made pace notes and/or navigational instructions.

Maurice Garot first included Yugoslavia in the Liège route in ’56. In the following years, the mileage used in this country increased and the roads chosen became more challenging— narrow, extremely rough, twisty, very dusty and mountainous. Competitors were known to unfavourably compare some sections with goat tracks. The most challenging sections in this country were usually included after the mid-rally “rest” point. The average speed set might well be between 60 and 70 kph. These rough sections caused many mechanical failures, multiple punctures and caused numerous crews to go over their maximum lateness. In 1960 the time spread separating the top 10 crews going into Yugoslavia was 2 minutes 50 seconds. On leaving this country, the top 10 spread had increased to 36 minutes. In 1961, the year of the fewest finishers, Yugoslavia had a dramatic effect on the number of competitors: 76 cars went into the country but only 12 cars were running when they left Yugoslavia.

Tough cars were needed to win this event. Between ’55 and ’64 Mercedes-Benz won four times (300SL twice, 220SE and 230SL) while Austin Healey 3000 and Porsche 356 Carrera both won twice. Citroën DS19 and ID19 models were entered many times from ’59 onwards. Some ran with light weight body panels (fibreglass or aluminium) and gained the lead several times through their performances on the roughest sections in Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, they were let down on occasions by suspension or gearbox problems and, consequently, took only one outright win.

Rover, perhaps trying to change their image, entered a team of (largely showroom specification) 3 litres in ’62 and ’63 and 2000s in ’64; they managed to bring two of their cars to the finish at the first two attempts but no 2000s made it to the finish in ’64. Rules on homologation were considerably more relaxed on the Liège. So, for instance, two Morris 1100s were entered in 1962 just two weeks after the model had been launched; neither finished although the new Hydrolastic suspension was not the cause of the retirements. Ford entered two Corsairs with Lotus twin cam engines in ’64 although such a car was never put into production.

Picture Left 1964—David Seigle-Morris/Tony Nash, Ford Corsair Twin Cam prototype. Retired in Bulgaria due to an accident.

There were some notable achievements amongst some of the smaller-engined cars. When there were only eight finishers in ’61, one of those was an Anglia 105E driven by a privateer Belgian crew—a very tenacious performance. Perhaps even more creditable was another Belgian crew bringing their Daf Daffodil (750cc, Variomatic transmission) to the finish in ’63.

Getting permission to pass through some of the intended countries for the ’65 rally proved to be impossible. So, the event was reformatted into an 84-hour endurance race at the Nurburgring.

The ’70 London Mexico World Cup Rally held its first two Primes (stages) in Yugoslavia which was a nod of the rigours of earlier Liège rallies. The first Prime ran from Titograd to Kotor and the second from Glamoc to Bos Krupa.

Next month I plan to provide a synopsis of the trials and tribulations of John Wadsworth/Mike Wood on the ’64 event. They drove the only Mini (Cooper S) to finish any of the Liège rallies.

Andrew

(Of course if you want to read Mike Wood’s memories of the event his book is now available for the a mere £8.00. Ring Mike on 01282 771563 for full details.)