Report from AUTOSPORT, MAY 12, 1967
Tony Chappell takes the Star
by Paul Stephens
BRITAIN'S premier National Rally, the Star - or the Express and Star as it is probably better known - took to the forests last weekend and proved to be every bit as rugged and demanding as any of its predecessors. Welshman Tony Chappell, showing some of the form that won him Wales' own International event last year, soundly thrashed a top-class field that, though not including any big international names, boasted a full-house club entry that was by far the biggest for any club rally for a long time. Chappell must be something of a bogey man for Roy Fidler who, starting the defence of his RAC Championship, had to be content with second place once more. Third was John Bloxham, who now heads the Motoring News Rally Championship and who laid claim to his stake as best non-works Mini driver in the country with yet another fine drive.
The restriction on numbers for a night rally in this country is 120, so to get around this Richard Harper, surely supremo among our club rally impresarios, ran the Star as an all special stage event entirely in daylight and was thus able to accommodate no less than 180 crews. Not all of them turned up at Dolgellau for the 7 am start and eventually about 150 cars set off to Coed-y-Brennin for the first of 24 scheduled stages. It wasn't so much the number of non-starters that was a little disappointing as that most of them were crews fancied to do particularly well. Pat Moss and David Stone were down to drive a new V4 Saab but did not appear, like Malcolm Gibbs/Randal Morgan and Bob Freeborough/ David Fawcett, who should have been there in one of the new BMC 1800s. Andrew Cowan/ Brian Coyle could not get an Imp prepared in time after the Tulip.
The route was very cleverly arranged in three loops around Dolgellau, which was used all day as a sort of central control with a results team working full time to keep a leader board up to date so that competitors and spectators alike could follow the rally's progress minute by minute. The first stages were to the north of the start at Coed-y-Brennin and Beddgelert and were exceptionally slippery, so that the extremely high casualty rate that was to be a feature of the event got off to a good start. Bloxham set the ball rolling with fastest on the very first stage, but already the Chappell v Fidler duel was under way. Fidler, however, punctured on Coed-y-Brennin 2 and lost valuable time, though not as much as Bob Bean/Chris Nash, who split a top hose and boiled their new Cortina GT dry, losing them an irretrievable six minutes. Dennis Cardell/Gareth Jones smote their Mini-Cooper S against a rock, giving it a rather lopsided look, but they persevered to, finish 12th.
Chappell won three stages In Succession, only for Fidler to take the next two off him in a group of forests in the Bettwys-y-Coed area. Martin Clark/Paul Stephens were next to join the ranks of the retired with a gearless Cortina GT while Vaughan Bond/Frank Rutter were unable to continue after rolling their similar Ford product.
Back to Dolgcllau, where the leader board showed Chappell already in front with Fidler, Bloxham and Jack Tordoff/Brian Marchant (Cortina GT) occupying the next three places and only 15 of the first 30 starters still running.
The next part of the rally, to the south of Dolgellau, included eight stages, one of which was cancelled to avoid a funeral that was taking place that afternoon, and was far less eventful than the first. Although the leading positions did not change Chappell pulled even further away from Fidler, who was in trouble with two more punctures and weakening front suspension. Toney Cox/Gerry Ryan were out in a brand new works Rover 2000 TC and impressed with some fine stage performances, but they were forced out in Dovey with a broken differential. Dennis Cardell was in further trouble when he destroyed four marker posts in Hafren to tire his already tired Mini even more, and Mike Telford's gallant ran came to an end when he and Keith Wood were forced out by a broken radiator in their V4 Saab. Though still smarting from his circuit crash Colin Malkin was nonetheless driving with his usual verve in a works Hillman Imp Californian. and was ultimately rewarded with a useful fifth place.
It was raining hard as the leading cars returned to Coed-y-Brennin on the first stage of the final leg north to Llandudno. The leading names continued to head the stage time lists, with Bloxham still going like clockwork and Malkin and Bean fighting to make up for their earlier reverse, not giving an inch in their efforts to try to improve on their positions. For many, though, it was just a question of keeping going rather than out and out performance, but in the higher ranks there was drama still to come.
By now the rally had returned to Bettwys-y-Coed for a second go at the same group of stages that were used earlier in the day. First Chappell broke a half-shaft near the end of a stage, but with a locked diff in his Lotus-Cortina he could still drive on one wheel, the other being prevented from falling off by the size of his tyres which are impossible to remove except when the car is jacked up. He certainly would not have been able to attempt any more stages had he not found his service crew at the end of the stage, fortunately carrying the correct replacements. Such is his luck! Jack Tordoff's luck was not so good, and two stages from the end he broke his differential to end a fine drive and give away a certain fourth place. Such was the rate of retirements earlier m the event that it seemed highly likely that the finishers list would look like a Liege roll of honour. Eventually, though, the flood stopped rising and the results team were assured of some work.
Into just 12 hours Richard Harper had crammed as much really competitive motoring as some Internationals manage in two days. In those same 12 hours the Star showed those doubters just why it has a reputation for setting a standard by which most other events are judged. Few will need reminding that Chappell had won again - but who is there to beat him?
RESULTS 1, A. Chappell/H. Thomas (Lotus-Cortina), 774 penalies; 2, R. Fidler/A. Taylor (Triumph 2000), 883; 3, J. Bloxham/M. Holmes (1.3 Mini-Cooper S). 972; 4, C. Offley/R. Lyall (1.3 Mini-Cooper S). 1344; 5, C. Malkin/T. Shanman (1.0 Hillman Imp Californian), 1532; 6, R. Bean/C. Nash (Ford Cortina GT), 1548; 7, M. Butler/G. Phillips (Lotus-Cortina), 1559; 8. A. King/D. Wayward (Ford Cortina GT), 1578; 9. R. Hill/D. Stephenson (Ford Cortina GT). 1651; 10, C. Grewer/J. Honeywell (Ford Cortina GT), 1674; 11, R. Shiner/R. Davis (Lotus-Cortina). 1676; 12, D. Cardell/G. Jones (1.3 Mini-Cooper S), 1722; 13, P. Appleby/D. Shields (1.3 Mini-Cooper S), 1828: 14, I. B. Smith/N. Nelder (1.3 Mini-Cooper S), 1833; 15, D. Lawrence/R. Lawrence (1.3 Mini-Cooper S), 1837. Team award: Bloxham/Holmes and Offley/Lyall.