Remembering grass roots rally
- 19th September 2007, 11:07am
I dislodged my self from rallying for the last 17 years ago, having to cope with catching the odd glimpse on Channel 10 during a Saturday or Sunday afternoon of the ARC and WRC, but have recently dived back into it, although at the shallow end.
Many years ago (I am not old, I just started young) we developed three cars, one RX-2 Coupe, an RX-7 and an RX-2 4 door which is still competing today. My job with the team was as service crew. I can’t drive to save myself, but I can engineer things (see note). It was a real friends and family affair with the Mums and Dads having to put up with crap and cars all over their driveways and girlfriends (one of which I am married to) pretending to be interested during cold and late nights.
We were competitive and we had some good sponsors throwing cash and parts our way to a point where we almost forgot what we where there for…which was to have fun. Luckily my good friend and car owner, John Ludlam pulled back and we went back to grass roots racing and had fun again. Eventually the car was sold and I ended my involvement with the sport up until now.
I have been involved in motor sport for as long as I can remember at various levels such as competitor, service crew, committee member and organiser. I first got involved in rallying in a 1976 180B SSS and it was the last years of Group G… the twilight years. We used to see Datsun 1600s with L20s and double Webers; various RX’s barking into scrutineering, hybrids called Dazdas and thumping V8s bubbling away – they were exciting times.
Then there was a class change, Group G was no more and a class called PRC (Production Rally Car) was introduced, and we went faster, but it cost more. It was a lot more technical to get cornering speed out of your car than it was as you could not rely on horsepower.
You hear and read comments about Group G getting out of control with some of the modifications that were allowed which they say is why it came to an end. Honestly, it was exciting but there was a hybrid called a Mazuba which was the brain child of former Australian Rally Champion, Barry Lowe, who was also responsible for the development of the Dazda. The Mazuba was a work of art; it was an R-100 with a monster port 13B with Subaru AWD running gear, so yes, maybe it was getting a little out of hand, but not so dissimilar to the new S2000 series now which no one can afford, but factory backed teams. The Dazda was developed to compete and beat the Ford works teams and their BDA Escorts that no one could afford.
However the original concept of Group G was to allow every one to develop a competitive car for little cost. Buy a 1600 shell, throw in a 2 litre and hang some Webers off it … simple. This was grass roots rallying and pretty much anyone could have a go at it and from this class we saw some greats like Ed Ordynski, Barry Lowe, Neal Bates and many others emerge.
To compete in the Club Class state round now you need FIA this and FIA that and it all has expiry dates on it. What young up-and-coming champ can afford this? It is high time that car clubs started to campaign CAMS to bring back a class that people can afford, such as a type of Group G, or similar to the Group C class that is allowed to run in the Silver Fern Rally in New Zealand, whereby if it is registered and safe, it can run.
Recently we went to lobby a tarmac rally committee to allow us to either compete, or at the very least, allow us to course open in our ex-Group G car. We have all of the attributes and experience to allow us to do this, so this was not the issue. The issue was this was not the type of vehicle that the organisers wanted to be involved in their rally. Needless to say we were very disappointed. The car is well presented, safe and very well engineered and in our mind the car represents what rallying is all about.
I hope the organizers and club committees can cast their minds back to when they got started and think about the future of the sport. I am sure that people would love to see a barking rotary powered hybrid or a Webered 1600 power-sliding around a corner either on tarmac or dirt… I remember a sticker I saw a long time ago on a shed which said “rally drivers do it sideways”.
A rear wheel drive car with 200BHP will do it better than an AWD car… maybe I am just old fashioned.
NOTE: We recently had the car out for a test and tune track day and I managed to beat the owner’s lap time by two seconds, although it was very untidy, but it did look good.
- Leith Packer
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