The Good Old Days – how the RAC Rally used to be (in 1973)

First published March 2015.

The Good Old Days – how the RAC Rally used to be (in 1973) – by Nigel Raeburn.

Sifting through my cupboards I came across the Road Book for the RAC Rally in 1973 and I thought it would be interesting to extract some key points about the event in those good old days.  Although today’s Wales Rally GB has shown signs of returning to a real rally we will see it still has a long way to go to return to the challenge of earlier years.

In 1973 the RAC was sponsored by the Daily Mirror (showing how much higher a profile it had in those times) and ran in mid-November over 5 days.  It was based at York.  In the 2000 mile route there were 80 planned special stages and 26 time controls.  It started at 0900 on the first day and ran virtually non-stop until 2000 on day 2 back at York.  In this time there were two halts of just over an hour, both at Llandrindod Wells.  On day 3 the restart at York was at 0800 and ran until 1900 on day 4, with just two halts of just over an hour at Carlisle and at Erskine in Scotland.  Finally, on day 5, the restart was from York at 0700 with the final finish back in York at about 1300.

Day 1 went via stages in Clipstone and Sutton Park to Llandrindod, then a circular route through the night in Wales took in stages in Hafren, Myherin, Dovey, Penmachno and Clocaenog forests before returning to Llandrindod for the breakfast halt.  There were 19 special stages in this Welsh loop.   A route via 8 stages in the Midlands took the rally back to York for the overnight halt.

Day 3 headed via Esholt (the infamous sewage works stage) to the Lake District forests and on to Carlisle for the tea stop.  Then through the night in Scottish forests – Castle O’er, Ae, Drumjohn, Rest and be Thankful and other famous locations – through to breakfast at Erskine.  Day 4 included 7 stages in Kielder Forest before the return via Stang to York for a further overnight halt.

Day 5 ventured onto the North Yorkshire Moors and stages including Broxa, Langdale, Dalby and Cropton.

It really was a rally of ‘Great Britain’.  A number of stages were cancelled but still about 70 must have run.  In fact a loop of stages north of Glasgow were deliberately cancelled as a ‘PR’ move in response to the country’s fuel crisis and the government’s request for a 10% cut in petrol consumption.  The two longest stages were Dovey 1 and Dalby South – each with a target time of 15 minutes (my pencil notes show we took 18 mins 40 secs for Dovey 1).  Servicing was mostly done at the roadside – there were no organised Service Areas.

The winner was Timo Makinen, with Roger Clark second and Marku Alen third – all in Ford Escorts.  There were 241 entrants including a Clubmans section of 38 crews.  There were 115 finishers, showing the toughness of the event.  What happened to me?  I was with Will Sparrow in a DTV Vauxhall Firenza and we retired in north Wales after stage 19 with an engine problem.  I think I was back at work on Day 3 of the rally!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *