October 16th 1976

rally logo WSSCC logo

Report from Autosport of 21st October 1976

Russell Brookes

11 miles on punctures during the day, but Russell Brookes managed to find a bit of luck as well as plenty of speed on his way to victory.

Just a little bit of luck

Splendid drive from Tony Pond in revised TR7 brings a significant result for Leyland -Ari Vatanen has another accident while leading-Brookes steals the show from Airikkala -Long stages sort out the 'men' from Castrol the 'boys'-good drives from Faulkner and Rockey -Chrysler win disputed Group One award -Controversial first stage marrs a superb event-

Report: PETER NEWTON - Photography: HUGH BISHOP

Punctures could and did make or break your chances on those long stages. Hannu Mikkola drove 12 miles on a flat front tyre ... Russell Brookes drove over 11 miles on punctures altogether; (even Ari Vatanen had one about three miles from the finish of Hafren!) while Pentti Airikkala did not so much have punctures as not have any tyres at all; his rear sets after those Hafren 'marathons' were indeed a sight to behold. Yet in the end, after Ari Vatanen had performed yet another roll, this time in Dovey forest, the battle was won and lost on the longest test of the day, a daunting 22½ mile combination of loops in Hafren. Brookes started this afternoon stage some ten seconds in arrears of Airikkala. During the course of those miles, he managed to overtake Mikkola, who was struggling with a broken Panhard rod, and post a time 59 seconds quicker than Pentti and over 1½ minutes quicker than anyone else. This manoeuvre was in effect a coup de grace, allowing Russell to take his third win this year, thus consolidating his second place in the national championship and pleasing almost every one of the vast crowds present who have been willing him to victory with such fervour all year.

Autosport page 1

Another result which which was greeted with almost ecstatic enthusiasm was Tony Pond's third overall for Leyland in his TR7. Undoubtedly far more significant than the Manx outcome (satisfying though that was for Leyland Cars) Tony was able to get to grips with his Triumph for the first time on loose surfaces, and in so doing he once again showed his immense talent for the game. Leyland are clearly on the way with their TRs now. A result such as this has worked marvels of morale raising within the camp, and for the first time this year the driver was really enjoying himself, confident that the car had become an ally against the forest, and not merely another hostile element with which to cope. The Triumph looked exciting and sounded superb as it darted and writhed through the twisty forestry loops ... some of that great rapacity for lightning changes of direction was finally being tapped, and the cars were cheered on wherever they appeared ... even die hard cynics were almost touched by a twinge of emotion!

The Castrol '76 was received with universal enthusiasm by competitors who almost to a man, revelled in those long stages, and were it not for one controversial advance arrow and 'gate' on the very first test, the entire event would have been the unqualified success which all the evidence had suggested. As it was, protests and counter protests brought a profound sense of depression and deju vu to the town of Aberystwyth. As the hours ticked by a Stewards meeting was convened, and the decision to cancel or retain the offending stage in the final results was made. One can only sympathise with the Wolverhampton and South Staffs Car Club who once again ran an otherwise almost faultless event. In the final analysis they were robbed of the success they deserved by a stage commander's car which refused to start. That first stage was arrowed hurriedly, and although a number of leading competitors reported no problems whatsoever with the arrowing, about 40 crews took the wrong road, suffering diverse time increments depending upon how far they persevered down the track. The subsequent acrimony and obstinacy (both sides of the fence were almost equally easy with which to sympathise and identify) soured a great day's sport.


Drive of the rally came from Tony Pond in the revised TR7. Third place was a result which pleased everyone, not least himself

It takes brave and confident organisation to run an event with so few stages as the Castrol '76. The rally has always been associated with innovation, and its leading light, Clerk-of-the-Course David Stephenson, has always tried to give competitors what they really wanted and what would really test their skills. A relatively large mileage encompassed by few stages (there were only seven in total and two of these were one-mile spectator thrashes) lays one open to a number of potential hazards, not the least of which is the ever present eventuality of having to nullify a large percentage of your competitive mileage should anything go awry.

Contrary to this statement is the Stephenson view that if one has enough confidence in one's organising team, and impresses upon them exactly how one wishes the rally to be run, there will be no problems. With a control at the beginning and end of every stage, double digital watches and diligent arrowing, nothing should go amiss. It was this latter point that proved the stumbling block and it was unfortunate for the club that in attracing the RAC 'professionals' they also attracted all the inherent pressures of intense competition upon which so much seems to depend these days.

As luck would have it, upon the result of the first stage depended the result of the Group One battle (and perhaps the championship) for if it stood, then Jim McRae would win the day for Vauxhall. If it were cancelled Robin Eyre Maunsell would take the prize for Chrysler. Crews had been lured into a 'wrong slot' for varying amounts of time, and the fact that so many others had also visited this 'slot' added weight to the conviction that something was inherently wrong with the stage direction signs — this despite the fact that in a most comprehensive roadbook, the junction in question was clearly and correctly marked.


Chris Sclater crossed up and airborne during a frustrating day with the Avenger

Attitudes vary with regard to the aptitude of today's co-drivers, but it would seem reasonable to expect them to check the route of the stage if it were provided even if only as a supplementary aid in the roadbook. The situation, however, is nevertheless clear cut, for whichever way one regards the contentious issue, it is laid down in 'the book' that a special stage in this country should be accomplished with no navigation whatsoever required from the co-driver; and despite what one may feel about the adequacy of co-drivers, the stage was clearly misleading; (the advance arrow appeared to point straight on at a "Y" fork and the right hand track only was visible as one glimpsed the arrow. The correct route actually veered downhill, slightly left, and was concealed when the advance arrow could first be seen.

One of the greatest problems relating to stage arrowing these days is that it is very easy to underestimate the speeds at which leading competitors will be approaching junctions, brows and forks in the road. Today there is precious little time to assimilate contradictory or ambiguous instructions and what may appear to be a well-sighted arrow from a Landrover may be exactly the opposite from howling rally car, screaming over a crest at 100mph ... there is definitely a case here for a professional '00' rally car driven at competitive speeds.

The result of the wrong turning, which was situated just before the ford towards the end of Myherin, was chaotic, and anarchy reigned as struggling competitors, in trying to regain the track, met their compatriots coming the other way; the latter convinced that they were still on the stage! A potentially lethal situation was thankfully averted although Jayne Neate had a disturbing head-on accident with a Volvo, and many incredibly narrow escapes were performed.


Local man David Grainger finished 22nd overall and won the 1600cc G2 class from Fred Henderson

David Stephenson is loathe to scrub stages on principle, and not merely because it would mean a reduction in mileage. No one is more aware of the time, effort and expense involved from so many loyal sources in the securing and setting-up of just one stage. It is not in Mr Stephenson's nature to throw away all that effort because a proportion of the entrants are unable to find the correct route. A rough consensus of opinion at the finish, including a number of club committee members, deemed that it would have been sensible to have scrubbed the stage at the lunch halt in Machynlleth. In the event it was not.

The club were unfortunate in that a critical set of circumstances meant that any protest from Chrysler virtually presupposed a counter-protest (from Vauxhall). Delays in the posting of results were thus inevitable but eventually, after lengthy interrogation of those concerned, the stewards (who were anxious to establish whether there had been any collusion or attempts to find a short cut, see Hafren 3 where there were three possible short cuts!) were satisfied. They made a decision to cancel and at around 11.30pm, the following statement from the organisers was posted: ". . . The overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that not only were the arrows at this particular junction insufficiently clear to indicate the correct route, but that the organisers had not taken sufficient steps permanently to mark the incorrect route. " (The latter phrase refers to a small amount of brushwood which was rapidly swept away by the first car going down the wrong road. After the offending stage had been scrubbed, Vauxhall were dissuaded from an appeal, for in truth there was little, if anything, to appeal against as the stage commander had admitted that there existed an ambiguity at the junction. At this point, rumours fled around the packed Belle Vue Hotel that Robin had a minute's 'flyer'! Thankfully the protest period was long past....

When does strong, uncompromising organisation become bigotted, reactionary dogma? Last weekend a number of people thought it was after lunch. This writer finds it hard to sympathise with only one view. Perhaps that arrow was moved ... however, it seems that the stage was arrowed in too much of a hurry and faults in the direction signs were not corrected at the proper time. Meanwhile, back at the rally....

Just a month ago, the tinder dry forests were leading the club to suspect the worst. A canellation of the event on fire hazard grounds seemed a strong possibility. Since then it has rained almost every day everywhere — and nowhere more so than the forested hillsides of central and north Wales, which have been deluged with water. the streams trickling off the mountains are now raging torrents and serious doubts were expressed on Friday night over whether the fords in Myherin and Nant-y-Moch would be passable.

Friday was the sort of day which we soft southerners have come to associate with Wales; high winds, driving rain, a miserable grey horizon and cold, scudding clouds fleeing into the gloom over the partially blotted-out hills. It is not always like this, however, and Saturday morning dawned bright, still and crisp. It was an autumn morning to savour a great day for rallying and the breath in one's lungs felt clear and fresh. The streams glittered and shimmered in the crystal sunlight and the rich greens and browns of the hinterland glowed in the autumnal warmth. It was hard to restrain a shiver of delight at the whims of the elements.


Dawson howls over Nant-y-Moch. Not a great day for the Datsun

Water levels oscillate rapidly in this area and an inspection at an early hour revealed that the fords had subsided. Uncurtailed rallying could commence. Despite the conditions of the last month, the stages were in prime condition, almost impossibly smooth and fast. Slippery and hard in parts, the forest of Myherin, Hafren and Dovey boast some of the finest stage miles in the land. It takes more than a month of rain to damage them in any way. The passage of over 300 cars did not even do this. The club's scrutineering arrangements were thwarted on Thursday night when a raging gale tore away the marquee which had been erected for this purpose. A reversion to a rather less convenient garage workshop nevertheless did not seriously interfere with proceedings and most of those expected to turn up did so. There was a capacity entry of 180 cars - a fair yardstick of just how popular this event has now become. It was not, however, going to make a profit, as David Cozens, Secretary-of-the-Meeting, explained: "Much as I love all these entries, they don't make too much difference to the finances -out of the £45 entry fee, £41.04 goes to the Forestry Commission, £1.83 goes to the RAC and the rest goes to us!" (Other parties were to be more successful, particularly the "soda syphon" party in the bar of the Belle Vue Royal which alone over Saturday night/Sunday morning took £800 in exchange for drinks!)


Dotted among the ubiquitous herd of RS1800s were several other makes. Mikkola's Toyota, making its second appearance this year in our rallies, appeared again. Hannu was preparing to gain experience with A2s and Pirelli P7s, neither of which he has driven on; and the team were also keen to experiment with a new gearbox and revised rear springs before the RAC. By the end of the day, Hannu felt he had learnt much about the current British scene, and was particularly impressed with the Dunlop A2 (although he hit the bridge parapet in the first Hafren and punctured just after changing on to them for the first time!) This latter incident cost him 5½ minutes and effectively put him out of contention. A broken throttle cable and a panhard rod further hampered his stage times after lunch.

The Chequered Flag brought their Stratos for Billy Coleman to drive. A misfire in pre-event Welsh testing seemed to have been cured and the 227bhp engine seemed healthy on the way to the start. Alas, the misfire returned on the passage to SS1 and If miles from the finish of the 17.5 mile Hafren test, the engine became too hot to risk creeping any further. Wreathed in tell-tale clouds of steam, Billy parked the car off the stage rather than risk an expensive seizure. Billy and Dan O'Sullivan were then surprised and delighted to find a horde of eager spectators prepared to push the car out of the test (which included a severe incline). A broken head gasket was diagnosed while others retired to commiserate in the Star.

Leyland re-appeared with their two TR7s. Tony Pond's car was in an experimental specification which he had never tried before. The steering rack had been considerably quickened and it now boasted some 2½ turns lock-to-lock and featured an almost Herald-like turning circle. In addition, the top links of the rear suspension had been lengthened in an effort to give the car more traction. Under the bonnet a revised camshaft had been installed (this last item was common to both cars) which was identical to the old G2 "FRW" 'cam' and which gave a smooth flat torque curve from 3000 to 7000rpm with neglig­ible loss of bhp (thanks to TR7 exhaust and inlet modifications. The car was transformed almost beyond belief. Suddenly it looked and sounded a real rally car, sitting down on its rear axle, biting the roads for traction and flicking through the corners with superb agility, and Leyland were delighted with it and he might well have been second but for a rear braking problem on the final long stage. Engines were giving around 215bhp.

Chrysler brought along their usual two cars for, Chris Sclater and Robin Eyre Maunsell. The more powerful car was the one used on the Manx, but fitted with forestry specification suspension. DTV also brought their two familiar cars for Will Sparrow and (SMT) Jimmy McRae. Jim had had the plaster removed from his wrist the previous Thursday and by the end of the day was regretting the insistence which he had displayed in the surgery to have it removed against medical advice. He was clearly still in considerable pain. Will Sparrow was not well either, but in his case the cause was 'flu. He nosed briefly into the mouth of the SS1 cul de sac but otherwise had a clear, though naturally subdued, run to seventh overall.

Among the herds of Escorts, Russell Brookes brought along the older of his two cars. This one had Est been into a forest on the Granite City and although now fitted with tarmac-style suspension, it had the 'small' valve engine (which has always been quicker than the allegedly more powerful unit. Russell was keener than ever to dethrone Ari Vatanen, even though championship aspirations have expired.

Autosport page 2

Ari's old car (these qualitative terms are all relative!) was fitted with an experimental four speed single rail 2000E-type gearbox with which Ford have recently been experimenting. Group Two homologation in '78, reduction in weight, a quicker change, and reduced power lo s through the transmission all payed a part in the experiments. Ari pronounced himself happy with the gearbox, although unsure of its advantages. He likened the ratios in first and fourth to those of bottom and top in the five speed ZF-type transmission, while the two intermediate cogs were 'longer' and hence offered marginally less acceleration. His co-driver commented that on hairpins the transmission made the car definitely quicker, but in any case, the pros and cons made no difference to the outcome. Ari once again established his early lead despite a slipping clutch before rolling the car (again!) this time in Dovey. Until that point, his driving had been in a class of its own. He was also using compression front struts.

A pleasant surprise was the return of Graham Elsmore at number 18. His pristine RS1800 had not turned a wheel before the evening prior to the event, and in fact the seats arrived Red Star from London at about 9.00pm on Friday evening. He finished 12th overall despite a number of niggling teething troubles and a confession to being "rather rusty" after his enforced lay-off. A notable absentee was Laurie Richards in the Century Oils car. While in Europe on the Century Supreme Marathon with a Ford Granada, Laurie fell seriously ill with 'motion sickness' and was taken to hospital in Vienna before returning to England where he is still unwell, though able to move around.



There were just six 'real' stages on the agenda last Saturday. Six stages which comprised nearly 100 competitive miles. Two Hafrens, two Doveys, Pantperthog and Myherin. The longest stage took place during the afternoon in Hafren, a 22½ mile classic which used a similar route to that taken in the morning but employed a number of different loops. The condition of all the stages was superb and drivers were openly rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a great day ahead. It got off to a bad start.


The ford in Myherin proved a problem for a number of cars including Will Sparrow who spluttered out on three cylinders, Willie Crawford who staggered off in similar fashion, and both George Hill's Magnum and the Simpsons' RS1600 were drowned out completely. There was mayhem further back down the road however. No one seems quite sure who first made the move down the wrong turning, but many cars were set up to take this corner before their crews realised their error. The result was a profusion of misleading wheel tracks and eventually a lemming-like flood began. The junction in question was situated 5.1 miles into Myherin and visitors to this spot included Robin Eyre Maunsell, Barry Lee, Jayne Neale, Chris Field, Jeff Churchill, Fred Henderson and many others. Hair raising incidents were recorded as those crews who had realised their error tried to regain the stage, and met their compatriots coming the other way at full speed, conevinced they were on the stage. Amazingly, serious accidents were few, but Fred Henderson's meeting with Chris Field, and Barry Lee's near accident, will doubtless be remembered by the participants.

Myherin was a positive hive of incident, however. Malcolm Wilson failed to make it as far as "the arch" before sliding wide and clipping a tree which spun him round and over a steep drop, the car tumbling 40 feet down the steep bank into the trees. Malcolm thinks his elbow was caught on the door handle as the car rolled but the bone is apparently not broken or cracked despite his later appearance, in a sling. Exciting stuff ... and even the tractor which pulled out his car rolled on the stage a few minutes later as it went to the aid of the Huxford Fiat further up the track. The farmer was trying to avoid a marshal's car which was on its way out! Peter Russek Manuals had a black day in fact, for while their star, Malcolm Wilson, went off, Steve Ward also rolled and David Hard-castle retired the Capri at the end of Myherin with serious engine maladies.

Robin Eyre Maunsell lost some 4½ minutes down the cul de sac and by lunchtime was considering stern measures against the Scotsman in the Magnum The plotting surrounded Jim's injured hand, Robin mentioning that "we thought of edging him up to the bar and slamming a pint down on it!" Gavin Waugh lost only a minute less than Robin in the cul de sac and by lunchtime it began to look as though the stage might be cancelled although few competitors seriously expected it would be, knowing David Stephenson of old.

There were just the two stages scheduled before a leisurely halt back in the nostalgic rally town of Machynlleth. At this point it was possible to gauge the extent of the carnage these two demanding forest tests had wrought. Among the leaders it was all question of tyres. Mikkola suffered most but both Russell and Ari sustained flat tyres, the former some 5½ miles from the finish, the latter about three miles. Vatanen led from Pentti Airikkala with Russell Brookes and Tony Pond in third and fourth positions: Vatanen 35.42; Airikkala 36.10; Brookes 36.16; Pond 36.45. The Avon tyres on Pentti's car were wearing savagely and by the middle of Hafren were almost completely bald, giving the crew a number of exciting moments.

Vatanen was clearly in trouble with a slipping clutch (a single plate, four pad type was fitted) and did not expect it to hold up all afternoon, while Brookes was also experiencing some clutch 'drag'. Pond, however, was very happy with life. Having completed the first two stages on M&S tyres, the TR7s rapidly changed to A2s and apart from the drum rear brakes becoming unpredictable during the long stages, the cars were performing perfectly.

Such were the number of incidents in Hafren before lunch that it would require the space of a large encyclopedia to record them all. Chris Lord suffered a monumental accident near the finish of the stage on a very tricky adverse camber downhill lefthander. The corner tightened dramatically and the Vauxhall slid wide. The rear wheels went over the edge and Chris could not find enough power to pull the car back from the brink. "El Gam" careered over the edge into some stout tree trunks which pounded the shell to scrap. (He is determined to repair it though!) It was almost a year to the day since he wrote off his old G2 Vauxhall on the Scarborough Stages. Castrol/Autosport G1 contenders also meeting their "Valhalla" on this test included Henry Inurrieta who parked the RS2000 on the side of the road with no oil pressure and sky high water temperature. It did not take a mechanic to diagnose the situation as serious. Graham Elsmore's throttle cable jammed at 7500rpm and refused to go below it (his seat collapsed during the same afternoon stage!) and Andy Dawson in his usual Sanyo Datsun (Barry Lee was using the Kallstrom Acropolis car) had the crown wheel and pinion go out of mesh soon after the start. The differential was changed before lunch but it was only the prelude of a very difficult day for Andy, as on Dovey 1 during the afternoon he got a front wheel puncture just as he prepared to turn in for a square right corner. The Datsun failed to answer the helm and ploughed on down a fortuitously positioned firebreak where he spent a frustrating 1½ minutes. Chris Sclater too had a most frustrating day with the Avenger. Besides a brake bias which refused to remain constant for any length of time. Chris found the engine very flat and lacking power. Despite the team's best efforts the engine died intermittently and refused to rev beyond about 7500rpm all day, finally cutting out completely on the last forest stage. In view of all his troubles, sixth overall was a good result. broken head gasket seems to have been the most likely cause.

Vatanen was driving superbly although, despite his lead, severely hampered by the slipping clutch. The APG car was once again visibly quicker through the stages than its rivals, but four miles into Dovey 1, the second stage aft lunch, Ari clipped a high bank with the tail of the car in a fast left hand bend which flicked the RS1800 across the road and into the ditch when it came to rest on its side. Three spectators eventually helped the crew put the car back or its wheels and they eventually continued, with surprisingly singly light damage, to finish 117th, looking carefully at the stages with the RAC Rally in mind.

Pentti Airikkala was also scheduled for an afternoon of drama. The four bolts which retain the gearbox turret, came loose in Pantperthog, as Pentti abruptly arrived at a corner with a 'box full of neutrals. The car rose up on two wheels as he casually remarked to his neighbour that the car was going over. Luckily it sank back on four wheels and Pentti finished the stage having found just third gear only. Hurrying out of the stage a service halt, the car picked up a puncture just mile from the test on the road section. Pentti was already late and when he arrived for service, the David Sutton crew were nowhere to be see Boreham mechanics came to the rescue, however and in five minutes they had replaced the entire mechanism, found him three gears and refilled the transmission with oil. Pentti shot off into Dovey where he was now running well down the field. With the lower three ratios only, he completed the two Doveys before the entire gearbox was changed prior to the daunting 22½ mile Hafren 2. This feat was achieved by Sutton and Boreham mechanics in an amazing 14 minutes, surely an unofficial record for this job.

Autosport page 3

The Castrol championship leaders were also having their dramas. Drummond, with a relatively excitement-free first two stages (selection of first rather than reverse would have been more appropriate at the cul de sac!), contracted a flat tyre in Pantperthog. He was forced to drive five miles in such a fashion. Two Doveys were thankfully traversed without punctures but in the final six miles of Hafren 2 the Drummond-style scored another flat tyre and the flailing carcase ripped a hole clean through into the boot. The Esso/Johnsons cars finished the rally in a very sorry state, for not only had the halfshafts twisted on their splines, but the differential and gearbox were useless and the engine, which had been producing large quantities of oil smoke throughout the day, may well require re-ringing. A possible fourth overall thus evaporated into a rather fortunate ninth.

David Stokes, his principal opponent, also had a day fraught with drama. The morning was spent with rear brakes jamming on and before lunch his service crew fitted "Fred Karno" spacers between the brake cylinders and the pedal box to help cure the trouble. A clear afternoon dissolved into trouble on the very next stage however, when David went to engage second and the lever slid between the selector rods and became hopelessly jammed. The Castrol/Avon Tyres RS1600 gulled off the road where his good friend Terry Brown assisted in pulling the offending lever free. As if that were not enough drama for one stage, a front strut broke clean in half just a few hundred yards further on when David hit the brakes, and he had to drive both Doveys at a crawl so as not to unseat theThe gearbox malady cost him 1½ minutes but the broken strut was much more serious and he continued courtesy of Paul Faulkner (having an excellent trouble-free run to fifth overall) who just happened to have a fully prepared front strut ready to bolt on. David finally finished a distant 18th. Russell Brookes was lying third overall, just four seconds behind Pentti, at lunch. He was two seconds up after Pantperthog but in Dovey 1, at approximately the place where the leader rolled, he acquired his second puncture of the day, being forced to drive 5.2 miles on the rim. The flailing tyre severely damaged the nearside rear three-quarter panel and a halfshaft. Together with the 6.3 miles he had driven on another flat over Hafren that morning, luck did not appear to be with him again. However, thanks to Pentti's gearbox troubles, there was only 10 seconds between them at the start of Hafren 2.

Autosport page 4

Brookes took off. The long stage was the decider and Russell made the rally his own -chopping nearly a minute from Airikkala who had been dropping back into Tony Pond's clutches in third place. During the course of this long stage, Russell managed to catch Hannu Mikkola who was struggling with a broken Panhard rod, and he amazed spectators with some most determined driving. In this mood, Brookes is a most ruthless competitor and no one found the answer to his crushing victory time of 28m 42s for the 22½ mile Hafren spectacular.

Having lost a minute in the ford back at Myherin, George Hill had once again been experiencing trouble with his triple plate clutch. This unit has given nothing but trouble since its installation (although it works, perfectly on the DTV car) and he retired the Martins Magnum in disgust at lunchtime rather then risk abandoning it in the sticks.

Despite a wrong slot with the others on the Myherin cul de sac, Pat Ryan was back in his accustomed position at the head of the G1 field by the finish of Pantperthog. He was leading McRae by about 30 seconds when he went off briefly on Dovey 2. Oil had been seeping onto the rear brakes, aiding him in missing a corner. The Dolomite was stuck in the ditch for over 40 seconds and Pat arrived at the 1-mile Nant-y-Moch dam stage some 13 seconds behind Jimmy and determined to pull it back in a scant two miles of tarmac. Most thought he was crazy, but the Leyland crew almost made it, taking six seconds off the Vauxhall on both stages, leaving them just a second in arrears! Post-event wrangles made it all totally irrelevant, however. Leyland's team captain had a rather more difficult day than either of his two team mates. Without the experimental and very successful modifications made to Tony Pond's car, Brian's TR7 was visibly far slower and he suffered six grinding miles on a flat tyre


This shot of Brian Culcheth in full cry epitomises the superb charecter of the central Wales stages

in Hafren, following this up by a brief visit to the woods for half-a-minute at a slippery left hander in the same stage during the afternoon. Nevertheless, the cars were encouragingly reliable and had Tony's machine not developed rear brake problems in the final forest stage, he would undoubtedly have finished closer to Airikkala. The rear drums locked on repeatedly and for the final two tests Tony had to have the rear servo clamped over to temporarily cure the problem.

As a chapter of relentless incident, the Castrol '76 has been almost without peer in any championships this year. Undoubtedly the long stages highlited the talents of the more experienced and accomplished drivers but it was most unfortunate that the dramas did not cease when the rally did, for the post-event wranglings soured proceedings somewhat and marred most people considered to be the best national of the year.

1976 Castrol 76 - 16th October
RAC Round 13 - Castrol/Autosport Round 9


  1. R. Brookes/J. Brown (RS1800) 93.06;
  2. P. Airikkala/M. Greasley (RS1800)93.49;
  3. T. Pond/D. Richards (Triumph TR7) 94.01;
  4. N. Rockey/D. Tucker (RS1800)94.26;
  5. P. Faulkner/M. Peters (RS1800) 95.55:
  6. C. Sdater/P. White (Chrysler Avenger) 96.51;
  7. W. Sparrow/R. Crellin (Vauxhall Magnum) 96 53;
  8. B. Culcheth/J. Syer (Triumph TR7) 96.53;
  9. T. Drummond/P. Short (RS1800) 97.02;
  10. A. Dawson/A. Marriott (Datsun Violet) 97.37.

Group One



  1. R. Eyre Maunsell/N. Wilson (Chrysler Avenger) 99.26 (14th overall):
  2. P. Ryan/M. Nicholson (Triumph Dolomite Sprint) 99.30 (15th overall);
  3. J. McRae/D. Brown (Vauxhall Magnum) 99.43 (16th overall).

Stage Times SS1 (subsequently scrubbed) Myherin 11.5 miles. 1, Brookes 12.30; 2. Vatanen 12.35; 3. Airikkala 12.44; 4, Mikkola 12.59; 5. Dawson 13.04; SS2 Hafren 1, 17.85 miles 1. Vatanen 23.07; 2. Airikkala 23.26; 3. Pond 23.36; 4, Brookes 23.46: 5. Rockey 23.47. SS3 Pantperthog, 8.5 miles 1. Vatanen 10.14; 2, Brookes 10.18; 3, Airikkala 10.24; 4, Mikkola 10.34: 5, Rockey 10.41. SS4 Dovey Gartheiniog, 10.5 miles 1. Mikkola 12.01; 2, Pond 12.16; 3, Culcheth 12.20; 4, Faulkner 12.24; 5. Drummond 12.26. SS5 Dovey Main, 12.5 miles 1. Brookes 14.14: 2. Mikkola 14.35; 3, Pond 14.55; 4, Culcheth 15.02: 5, Rockey 15.08. SS6 Hafren 2, 22.5 miles 1, Brookes 28.42: 2. Airikkala 29.41; 3, Pond 29.46; 4, Rockey 29.52; 5, Faulkner 30.23. -SS7 Nant-y-Moch 1, 1.0 miles 1. Hine 1.10: 2-Pond and Drummond 1.14; 4--Brookes, Mikkola, Dawson and Ryan 1.15. SS8 Nant-y-Moch 2, 1.0 miles 1. Culcheth 1.12;2. Drummond 1.13; 3=Mikkola, Airikkala and Pond 1.14; 5=Dawson, Elsmore, Rockey, Brookes and Ryan 1.15. (180 starters - 130 finishers)