1961 RAC RALLY – from the Programme – by Nigel Raeburn.
First published August 2017.
I have in front of me the Official Programme from the 1961 RAC Rally – price one shilling and sixpence. The photo on the cover is of a Sebring Sprite driven by Pat Moss. It has about 40 pages.
The rally started in Blackpool and finished in Brighton, and was held in November. It started on Monday evening in Blackpool and had an overnight halt at Inverness on Tuesday night. It returned to England and Scarborough, before going on via Oulton Park to Wales. Epynt and Prescott were visited before arriving in Brighton on Friday afternoon. So only one proper overnight halt in five days – they believed rallying should be an endurance test then! In total over 2200 miles.
The programme is notable for its formal style (e.g. personnel listed with their initials not first names) and the sheer number of advertisements from major companies mostly connected to the motor industry like Lucas, Lombank, Ferodo and Don, Girling, Rootes, Ford, BMC, National, Shell, Mobil and Regent petrol, Dunlop, Castrol and others confirms the event’s importance. Many of the adverts quote previous rally success using their products. There are messages of welcome from the Chairman of the RAC, the Mayor of Blackpool, the Provost of Inverness and from Jack Kemsley, Chairman of the Organising Committee. Also there’s one from Billy Butlin welcoming competitors and officials to the Ocean Hotel – ‘Butlin Holiday Hotel’ – at Saltdean, Brighton where everyone was invited to stay at the finish. Jack Brabham was recommending both the Sunbeam Alpine and Girling disc brakes.
The programme includes an entry list, which runs to number 169. As initials are used rather than first names it is easy to miss competitors who became famous later – but number 1 was Erik Carlsson with a very young John Brown in a SAAB, number 2 the Morley brothers in a Healey and number 3 Hans Walter and John Sprinzel in a Porsche. Next up was Pat Moss, then I’ll pick out some notables – Paddy Hopkirk in a Sunbeam (Rapier I’d guess), racing driver Paul Hawkins with Vic Elford co-driving in a Healey, Peter Proctor, a very young Adrian Boyd, Roy Fidler co-driving for Mike Sutcliffe, a certain Don Barrow with Reg McBride in a Ford (presumably an Anglia), John Hopwood co-driving for J Ray, Derek Astle (father of David) in an MG, Raymond Baxter with Willy Cave in a Humber, Ken Piper (of Messerschmitt Tiger fame – this time in a DKW), Bill Bengry in a VW and Eric Jackson in a Ford of course. That covers the first 50 seeds.
Later in the list I can pick out others with local connections to the NW or other claims to fame. Phil Simister (one-time Ford dealer in Macclesfield) at 55, John Handley at 66, Sir Peter Moon (remember from the news how his wife cut up his clothes!) at 74, Andrew Cowan at 99 in a Sunbeam, Rosemary Smith at 127, Roger Clark in a Renault at 130 (yes, I’m pretty sure that’s him) and Jimmy Bullough with Tommy Warburton (of the bread family) at 144. Apologies to anyone I’ve missed or got wrong!
There were Manufacturer’s teams from Austin-Healey, Sunbeam, Morris, Ford Zephyr, Skoda, NSU, MG, Ford Anglia and Vauxhall.
Timing used printing clocks and there is an advert from the supplier the National Time Recorder Company explaining how 50 such clocks are used through the event. Separately the special stages were timed by Longines ‘punch-clocks’ and they have an advert also. It was estimated over 2000 people are involved in the running of the rally and a cost of £8000 (seems cheap by today’s standards but a typical salary then was around £1000 pa. A one day club road rally like the Tour of Cheshire today has a bigger budget than £8000).
For the record, I’ve checked the overall results – 1st Carlsson / Brown, 2nd Pat Moss / Ann Wisdom, 3rd Peter Harper / Ian Hall and 4th Paddy Hopkirk / Jack Scott.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey back in time with the aid of the 1961 programme. I think that year I had just got my first Mini and went to watch the final tests on the seafront at Brighton – but memories are quite hazy!
PHOTO – of the cover of the programme.