Finnish driver Hannu Mikkola, in a works Ford Escort, won the British Royal Automobile Club's four-day, seventeen hundred mile (2,735 km) rally on Wednesday (21 November).
Finnish driver Hannu Mikkola, in a works Ford Escort, won the British Royal Automobile Club's four-day, seventeen hundred mile (2,735 km) rally on Wednesday (21 November). Britain's Russell Brookes in another Escort came second. Ford's stranglehold on the top places was broken only by another Finn, Timo Salonen, in a Datsun Violet. But it was the last race for the very successful factory-backed Escort. Ford plans to withdraw the car from production in 1980.
SYNOPSIS: Mikkola started the final day with an eight-minute lead, which he took on Sunday night (18 Nov.) after Markku Alen's Lancia Stratos left the road.
Britain's Russell Brookes in his Escort began the day in third place behind Ari Vatanen of Finland in another Escort.
Salonen's hard driving brought him from behind to start the final stage in fourth place.
Mikkola set the pace throughout most of the rally, with fastest time in 24 of the 59 stages. But it was Brookes who set the fastest time through the Welsh forest. Salonen too pulled out the stops through the ice and the mud.
But the finish in Chester, Mikkola had a ten minute lead over Brookes.
The victors managed to avoid the mechanical failures and hazardous conditions encountered by others. Tony Pond's Sunbeam while in third place slid on an icy bridge and crashed, only to find another car repeating his manoeuvre and landing on top of him. Malcolm Wilson, running fifth in an Escort, also crashed. But Mikkola and co-driver Arne Hertz had a trouble-free rally.
Roger Clark in a Ford Escort suffered from a broken valve spring and another Escort driver Ari Vatanen fell back from second to fourth when he arrived late at a time control check-point. But there was enough strength and depth in the Ford team to give it the laurels and the champagne.
Mikkola later remarked it was a happy ending for the official works Escort rally team.