Maurice Gatsonides’ Report On The 1956 Great American Mountain Rally

Thanks to Fred Gallagher, Rally Director of the Endurance Rally Association, I have been able to obtain more information about the Great American Mountain Rally.  The Great American Mountain Rally was one of the early major rallies in the USA, attracting some international attention.  The Great American Mountain Rally was first run in 1953.  Today I’m posting the account of the 1956 running of the rally as published in the December 7, 1956 issue of the British magazine “Autosport”.  This account was written by Maurice Gatsonides, a famous rally driver from as far back as the 1930s and frequently identified as the first professional rally driver.  Gatsonides took part in this rally in a Triumph TR3, with Stewart Blodgett, a well-known American rallyist of that era, finishing 7th Overall.  Below is his report.

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The victory by the Saab team at the Great American Mountain Rally was considered a big deal by Saab management.  The win was used to promote Saab in the USA and is frequently referred to as a turning point in written accounts of Saab in the 1950s.  Saab began to get more actively involved in rallying at that time.  Erik Carlsson rose to prominence in rallying after 1956 with the Saab team.

Those of us who are rally navigators might notice that the 9th place car was a MG consisting of the team of Robert Yount driving with Captain H.E. Thomas doing the navigating.  Thomas was the inventor of the “Tommy Box” one of the first automated rally “computers”.

A “Tommy Box” (Photo by Ralph Beckman)

I am still looking for more information on this rally.  If you have any information on this rally or know where I can obtain more information, then please let me know.

If you have any comments or questions regarding this post or the Great American Mountain Rally, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

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The Challenge In The Trans America Challenge Is Starting Already

As some might know, on Sunday I will be leaving for Charleston, South Carolina to begin the recce survey for the 2018 Trans America Challenge.  For this recce survey, I will be joined by Fred Gallagher, Rally Director for the Endurance Rally Association.  The first challenge that we will have is the looming threat of Hurricane Irma.  Nobody knows for sure where the path of Hurricane Irma will lead, but the South Carolina area looks like a likely target.  A recent estimate of Hurricane Irma’s path is shown below.

Potential Hurricane Irma Path

Our “Plan A” was to start the recce survey on Monday morning in Charleston, SC .  Fred and I have been working on “Plans B & C”.  Our plans will keep us on schedule for the recce, but with some modification.  We first thought that the biggest challenge for the recce survey would be the lingering effects of Hurricane Harvey, as the proposed rally route will take us south of Beaumont, Texas and through Galveston, Texas.  This Hurricane Harvey challenge remains along with whatever Hurricane Irma has in store for us.

I am looking forward to the recce survey as the route for the rally will take the participants on interesting roads and to interesting places.  Some places the participants will see are as follows:

  • NASCAR Hall of Fame
  • The famous “Tail Of The Dragon” road
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • The Mississippi River
  • Real southern blues in Memphis and Jackson
  • New Orleans and all that jazz
  • The Gulf of Mexico
  • The Circuit of the Americas
  • Get back to basics of life in Luckenbach, Texas
  • The Cadillac Ranch
  • Sante Fe Style
  • Pikes Peak
  • Upscale Aspen
  • The Rocky Mountains
  • The Bonneville Salt Flats
  • High mountain roads
  • The forests of the Pacific Northwest
  • Overlooks of the Pacific Ocean

As you can see, the Trans America Challenge should be great deal of fun in addition to being a great rally.  We will have more details after the recce survey.

If you want to learn more about the Trans America Challenge check out the website of the Endurance Rally Association at the following location:

I am planning on posting some stories from our recce survey while on the road.

If you have any questions or comments about this post then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net


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More “New” Information About The 1954 Great American Mountain Rally Arrives

Once again Fred Gallagher, Rally Director of the Endurance Rally Association has sent me information about the Great American Mountain Rally.  Today I got copies of the accounts in “Autosport” magazine regarding the 1954 and 1955 runnings of the Great American Mountain Rally.  Further, a fellow with whom I have rallied with in several rallies, Gary Hamilton, sent me some information about the 1956 Great American Mountain Rally.  All of this is great news as I am trying to collect the available information about this major 1950s American rally before it gets completely lost to history.

In order to make everything a little more manageable, I am just posting the information that I got about the 1954 or second running of the Great American Mountain Rally.  Similar to what I posted yesterday, this post in “Autosport” was written by Sheila Van Damm, who took part in the rally as a member of the Rootes Works Rally Team.

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As evident from the article, Sheila Van Damm praised the organizers for running a much better rally than they did in 1953.  She did however have a problem with route selection and the lack of assistance from other competitors.  I don’t think that this lack of immediate assistance from other competitors should be surprising.  When there are no Time Allowances permitted, then time lost to give assistance to other competitors is time lost against a potential good score.  I have found that those cars who are still are competitive in a rally with no Time Allowances, will not stop and help “wounded” cars.  However, after the still competitive cars pass by, the remaining cars/teams, who have already had some fate befall them that has rendered them noncompetitive in this rally, will stop and lend assistance.  That has been my experience on both sides of this issue.  I accept this as a competition reality and an extra incentive to do well.

I note in the results of the 1954 Great American Mountain Rally, that Leo Rizzo finished fourth.  I had the pleasure of getting an email message and having an enjoyable  subsequent telephone conversation with Leo about this rally.

Famed race/rally driver Stirling Moss was also in this rally as a member of the Rootes Works Rally Team that won the Factory Team Award in this rally.

I certainly enjoyed getting “new to me” information about the Great American Mountain Rally and if you or if you know someone who can add to the collected information about this rally please contact me.  In the upcoming days I will post the other recent information that I have received about the 1955 and 1956 runnings of this rally.

If you have any comments or questions about this post or the Great American Mountain Rally, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

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More Information About The Great American Mountain Rally

People who might have looked at this website before possibly have seen my interest in one of the first major car rallies held in the USA.  This was the Great America Mountain Rally that was first held in November 1953.  For more information on this rally please take a look at the post that I made about the Great American Mountain Rally on January 7, 2015.

One of the things that made this rally famous was the participation of the Rootes Works Factory Team which featured Sheila Van Damm as their most well-known rally driver.  Following the 1953 running of this rally, Van Damm, had her personal account of the rally published in the December 18, 1953 edition of the major British motoring magazine, “Autosport”.

I had not been able to obtain a copy of this account until today.  My partner in the upcoming recce run for the 2018 Trans American Challenge, Fred Gallagher, who is the Rally Director for the Endurance Rally Association, sent me a copy of the Van Damm account from “Autosport”.  I have attached this report below.

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The Van Damm account of the 1953 Great American Mountain Rally is not very flattering.  It sure sounds like her frustration with the event was justified.  As I noted previously, in the early to mid-1950s Sheila Van Damm was the most well-known Rootes driver, but for events like the Alpine Rally, Rootes added Stirling Moss and John Fitch to the team.  As disappointed as Sheila Van Damm was in 1953, the Rootes Works Rally Team was back in 1954 with Stirling Moss on the team.

Sheila Van Damm With Her Sunbeam Alpine Rally Car

I am thankful to Fred Gallagher for adding this major account to my collection of information about the Great American Mountain Rally.  If anyone else out there can add to the accumulated information about this rally, then please forward it to me.

If you have any comments or questions about this post or the Great American Mountain Rally, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

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Might Miss The 2018 Rallye Monte Carlo Historique

This past week I found out that Dan Allven has sold his 1961 Volvo PV544 rally car.  This was the rally car that Dan had entered in the 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo Historique and I had been Dan’s navigator. Dan reports that it has been sold to someone from Holland where it will continue to be rallied in regularity rallies.

Dan Allven & I With His Volvo At The 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo Historique

While this is good for Dan that he was able to sell the car, for me it reduces the possibility that I will be able to participate in the 2018 Rallye Monte Carlo Historique.  While nothing had been confirmed by Dan, I had hoped to be Dan’s navigator once again in the upcoming Rallye Monte Carlo Historique if he decided to take part.  Dan has said that he might get another rally car, but that might not happen.

As a result, unless something comes up, I might miss the chance to compete in the 2018 Rallye Monte Carlo Historique.  I enjoyed this rally and I would like to compete in it again. It is unfortunate that very few American or Canadians take part in this challenging rally.

If you have any questions or comments about this post or the Rallye Monte Carlo Historique, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net



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Mark Holloway’s Mini Rally CarStory

This week I had a story about a Mini 850 rally car sent to me by an occasional reader of this site, Mark Holloway.  I found the story to be interesting and a great follow-up to my recent post about the Works Minis At Abingdon.  The story is quite a bit longer than I normally post, but I decided to post it fully just the way I got it from Mark.  The following is Mark’s story:

March 2017

My history with Mini’s goes back a long way. My Grandfather bought a brand-new Morris Mini-Minor at the start of 1965. Being so early in the year, I’m guessing it was probably built right at the end of 1964. Unfortunately, later in ‘65 he passed away and the car became my Father’s. My Grandfather, and my parents were active members of the Northampton and District Car Club. We have a photo of my Grandfather marshaling on the 1965 Cotswold Rally with that car.

My parents went on to road rally with it, and quite successfully judging by the trophies in the dresser at home. Eventually the rallying had to stop because I came along and ruined their social life. When that time arrived, my Father bought that same Mini to take my Mother and I home from the hospital, so my very first car ride was in a Morris Mini. Much later I went on to own two Minis. My first, a 1976 Mini 1000, followed by a 1980 Mini 1000, as well as a 1970 Cox GTM (Mini based sports car). The later Mini 1000 went through a couple of dramatic upgrades to eventually become a 1380cc hillclimb/road rally car. Following in the family footsteps, I too joined the Northampton and District Car Club, and a friend and I enjoyed several club events in it.

I’d visited my Uncle in California several times while I’d owned a Mini in the UK and I’d always thought it would be fun to own one here, especially in the twisty mountain roads up in the Santa Cruz mountains. I finally emigrated to Southern California eighteen years ago. After taking a while to settle, I briefly entertained the idea of buying a Mini, but I was loathed to spend $5000 at the time, considering my last point of reference was the 1980 car which cost me £800 (roughly $1100). However, when my wife and I moved to the Bay Area, the Mini bug got me again. Prices were increasing rapidly and I thought we’d better buy one while they were still affordable. We looked at several cars locally, but found so many which were in really bad shape. That was after weeding out all the re-VINs, which is probably about 2/3 of the cars listed locally. When we did find a good one the prices were ridiculous. We started to look further afield and considered buying a car abroad and importing it. We looked all over Europe at potential rust-free countries. I must to be honest, Finland wasn’t on that list, but when we saw this car there was just something about it. It was a little bit different, and there was enough documentation and photos to reassure me that it was the real deal. We negotiated a reasonable price – even when considering import costs and set about getting it shipped.

So, here’s the interesting stuff. The car is a 1964 Morris Mini-Minor with the original, awe-inspiring, 850cc engine. All 35 horsepower of it. It’s a LHD, export model, built in the Cowley factory in December of ’64, then shipped off to Finland, where it stayed until we purchased it, then had it imported to the USA at the very end of last year.

At some point in its life, which we haven’t yet established, it became a rally car. We have FIA papers for the car from the mid 1990’s, so it’s certainly been at least twenty years. Those papers give a list of the owners from 1965 to 1976, along with a list of registration numbers for the car. There is a name on the FIA papers of the person who filed the paperwork. Presumably he either built the car, or at the very least owned it when it was registered as a historic rally car with the FIA. We’ve found his name linked to several events with a couple of Finnish motor clubs. They list him as competing in a Mini, but it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to tell whether it was this car or another.

The car appears to have been very well prepared. It looks as though the whole shell was taken back to the metal, and repainted in what we think is BMC BU-15, Smoke Grey. According to the Heritage certificate, it left the factory finished in Maroon, with satin beige interior. Of course, the original interior has been stripped out. It has fairly standard rally prep, with all the lines run through the car, bulkheads sealed, a sump guard, and six-point cage. Every mounting point for the cage, the seats, and harnesses are all doubled up with strengthening plates. The entire electrical system has been rewired in a very professional looking manner, and all the relays, fuses, and kill switch are placed on the dashboard in front of the navigator for easy access. As the shell is entirely painted body color, with no underseal or other nastiness, it’s immediately apparent that it’s very sound. A few chips and dings underneath, but nothing of any consequence.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a bold move to buy a 52-year-old car over the internet, sight-unseen, and have it shipped directly to California. However, due to the way it was prepared, the plethora of photos provided by the seller, including at my request close-ups of all those sneaky rust traps peculiar to Minis, combined the honesty of his communication in general, we felt it was a worthwhile gamble. As it turns out, this was a good decision. When we went down to the port just before Christmas of last year, we found the car easily met our expectations.

I’m really happy to have a car which could well have rolled down the Cowley production line a few cars away from my Grandfather’s Mini. When my parents visited us in January I took my father out in it and let him have a drive. Admittedly the steering wheel was on the ‘wrong’ side, but he said the feel, the sound, and the smells were instantly familiar. It was amazing how driving it bought back forty-plus year-old memories of the old car like it was yesterday. Isn’t it wonderful how visceral memories of a car can bring things back like that.

Hold on, I think I have something in my eye . . .

Moving on, I’d really like to try to find out more about its competition history, but that may prove to be very difficult. I mean, the fact that the events were probably with a fairly obscure local car club, in Finland, and in the relatively early days of the internet. Hmm well, I’ll see what I can dig up.

April 2017

I’ve been doing a little digging on the history of my car and have found some of the Finnish events in which it competed. I even found some video of the final event listed – not very flattering, and possibly running into the snow bank / tree was the reason for the ‘Mechanical’. No major harm done by the look of it though.

8th January 2000 – XV OP- Ralli – Teppo Lindberg / Eino Romppanen – Morris Mini-Minor, Car #3 45th Overall, 5th Class

29th January 2000 – Prisma Ralli – Teppo Lindberg / Eino Romppanen – Morris Mini-Minor, Car #4 42nd Overall, 6th Class

11th March 2000 – IX Kangasniemi Ralli – Teppo Lindberg / Ari Pekka Nieminen – Morris Mini-Minor, Car #7 57th Overall, 6th Class

26th August 2000 – Sparco Ralli – Teppo Lindberg / Ari Pekka Nieminen – Morris Mini, Car #8 53rd Overall, 7th Class

27th January 2001 – Orimattila Ralli – Kim Forsman / Kai Forsman – Morris Mini-Minor, Car #5 60th Overall, 9th Class

25th May 2002 – XXXL Kaakkois Ralli – Kim Forsman / Kai Forsman – Morris Mini-Minor, Car #2 – 56th Overall, 6th in Class

4th January 2003 – IX Peurunkarally – Kim Forsman / Kai Forsman – Morris Mini-Minor, Car #6 – DNF – Mechanical (Made it to end of 3rd Stage)

Link to YouTube video here (first few seconds of the clip);

Six months after its last listed event, the car was sold to Markuu Juntunen. From what I was told, he didn’t use it for competition and I can find no record of him doing so. I’m now trying to find ways to get in touch with Teppo Lindberg and Kim Forsman to see if they can provide more information, or have any photos or history they would share.

On another note, the car will be returning to ‘rallying’ this weekend. My wife and I have entered a two-day road rally in Northern California. The Snowball Rally ( is more of a social rally / motor tour than a competitive event, but it will be the first time my wife has done anything even remotely like this. Still, I’m sure the little 850 is going to be given a good workout as we’re going to be up in the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lake Tahoe and trying to keep up with considerably more powerful cars. I’ll try to take photos as I’m sure there will be several interesting cars. Right now, I have a last-minute weepy water pump to replace, but otherwise we’re good to go. We even have ‘Monte Carlo’ style door numbers with our competitor number courtesy of a generous co-worker with a vinyl cutter.

May 2017

Snowball Rally, Friday Evening

Well, what an amazing weekend!
The Snowball Rally is a two-day event, with an optional ‘night stage’ on the Friday evening. The event is strictly for classic cars, the only criteria is they must be pre-1980, and the more interesting the better.

We started off late Friday afternoon meeting up with some of our fellow entrants on the Marin headlands, at the North end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The assortment of cars was pretty amazing. Among them were a few Porsche 911’s and a 356, a handful of TR3’s and TR4’s, several interesting Alfa Romeos, a pair of Datsun 1600 Roadsters, a Dinalpine (Mexican built Renault-Alpine A110) and a 1950’s Rolls Royce Silver Cloud – you get the picture. The collection of people was equally diverse. There were three Minis, a decidedly NOT pre-1980 Mini which the owner either thought, or was pretending, was a 1968, the 1971 Australian built Mini 1000, and our 1964. We could safely make the claim of having the smallest engine of all the cars there.

Early evening, after the bay area traffic had calmed down a little, we were given our road books and a quick driver’s briefing (basically “Please be careful, courteous, and don’t crash”), and we were dispatched off towards Sacramento – our Friday night destination. The route took us out of the bay area, and North through Napa wine country. It was an absolutely gorgeous evening, and quite a spectacle driving along with the other classic cars. As we passed through picturesque small towns as the sun set, there were plenty of pedestrians stopping in their tracks on their evening stroll to watch, wave, and take photos as the cars drove through.

I will admit, we made an early navigational error. We were assuming the route instructions would take us straight unless told otherwise, but we quickly worked out that we should stay on the road designation unless told otherwise. So, remain following CA-12 even if it turns ninety degrees off the straight road you’re on. Never mind, we quickly corrected the error, got back on track, and learned the thinking process of the guy setting the route.

As darkness fell, we were zipping along a road atop one of the levees on the Sacramento river delta. The cars were well spread out by now, so the road was very quiet. It was a good chance to run our genuine ‘60’s Lucas auxiliary lights. I really don’t know what you Americans are talking about with all your Lucas jokes! Of course, they worked wonderfully and lit up the road up like daylight. A good job, as the road was very unpredictable. It basically followed the edge of the water, but would suddenly dip down off the levee, through a sharp ‘S’ bend, then another ‘S’ back up onto the top again. It was a wonderful drive, along a very interesting piece of road, and obviously the Mini was in its element. We finally pulled in to the restaurant’s crowded parking lot. We were definitely not the first there, but also not the last to arrive. Already the wild tales had started!

Snowball Rally, Day 1

The day started bright and early(ish) in a small square to the south of downtown Sacramento. We pulled in and parked, then watched car after car arrive. Of course, the guys we’d seen the previous night were all there, but then other machinery started pulling in and some of it was breath-taking. Two Jaguar XK-120’s, an XK-140, two big Healeys, an E-type, then a BMW 3.0 CSL. Seriously, how many of those have you seen on the road in recent years, and this guy was going to give it a thrashing through the mountains. That’s so neat! All in all, there were about 65 cars entered, and another dozen or so driven up just to watch. Again, some interesting stuff, including a guy with a 1960’s Renault Floride Gordini. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those before.

After another quick drivers meeting (we were basically told not to crash, and be cool) we set off of the day one route “Snowpocalypse”. Leaving Sacramento as quickly as possible, we set out along more scenic country roads and rolling hillsides. Everything was still beautifully green after our unusually wet winter. Again, cars were reasonably well spaced out, but inevitably small groups form and run together. This is definitely a social tour rather than a frantic competitive event. A quick stop at ” . . . the last gas station for 70 miles”, along with almost every other car on the event had the locals bemused. I was a little concerned with the fuel range on a standard 5.5 gallon Mini fuel tank. Particularly as the tank is foam filled, which slightly reduces its volume, and has no gauge to read inside the car. We have a calibrated sight glass (well, plastic) in the trunk, so know how much fuel we had when stationary. We had to rely on a static measurement and an average mpg figure to calculate available range. Still, we never ran into issues and were getting a fairly consistent 36 – 38 mpg (30mpg US gallons) despite driving everywhere practically flat-out as you have to in an 850 Mini.

Shortly after the fuel stop we ran behind one of the Austin Healeys as we climbed up CA-88 towards the Carson Pass. Admittedly, our little 850 was no match for the big Healey going uphill, and we were frequently running third gear at 40 to 50 mph just to keep moving. As soon as the road got level and twisty, or there was any downhill whatsoever, we could catch up again. It was good entertainment, if a little loud, and before too long we were cresting the 8652 ft pass, crossing the state line into Nevada, and heading towards the lunch stop.

The organizers did a great job with their planning and had made prior arrangements with diners and restaurants in the small town at the designated lunch stop. Pulling up next to the XK-120, or a late 60’s 911, was very pleasant visual treat for us. Other visitors were also keen to stop and talk to crews about the cars, and what we were doing. There was so much interest and appreciation from hikers, cyclists, bikers, and fellow participants who made everyone feel welcome.

The next leg continued along now NV-88 before turning off again through several other small towns heading towards Carson City. The city itself was busy, traffic was slow, but it was really unavoidable. Still, the Mini was getting lots of waves and thumbs-up from other drivers, most of whom were driving pick-up trucks the size of small houses. Before long we were back off the busy roads and heading up towards Virginia City. For those who don’t know, Virginia City is a mining ‘boom town’ that sprang up in 1859 when major silver deposits were discovered nearby. Looking at it, it hasn’t really changed much since then. They have surfaced the road through town, but there are still wooden-fronted stores along a wooden boardwalk just like you see in the westerns. Unfortunately, this has made it a tourist attraction, so everything appears terribly ‘tacky’. Still, it was worth stopping for a photo and another inevitable chat with the bystanders.

From there, we headed down into the Reno valley, but no time to stop before heading back up into the mountains (and the snow) to the West. Mount Rose Pass is the highest point of Highway 431, and the highest pass which is open year-round. Other, higher passes are closed in winter due to the snow. At 8911 ft elevation the little Mini felt a little asthmatic, but we still managed to pull over the summit with more third-gear thrashing before descending to Lake Tahoe. Like the thin air at altitude, the scenery was also breath-taking. Tahoe is an absolutely magical place – one of those ‘looks almost too good to be real’ sort of places. Of course, being Nevada, our overnight was in a hotel-casino. We felt we’d gambled enough all day, so we didn’t touch the tables and headed straight for the steak house and dinner with some new-found friends.


Snowball Rally, Day 2

Our final day was a slightly later start to allow everyone to sleep off the previous night’s festivities. Apparently, not everyone just went for dinner then turned in for the night!

We managed to have an entire parking lot reserved for the rally participants, which made life easy for another pre-run drivers meeting. This was the usual “don’t crash” and a warning about some towns to take very cautiously due to over enthusiastic local police, and general warnings about road conditions. Still, everyone was anxious to head out. Then stop down the road for breakfast.

Driving along the shores of Lake Tahoe in the early morning was sublime. Several other classic car owners, not participating in the rally, had come out to have a look and follow along for a while. We followed a lovely white 911 out of town and up the Donner Pass road. As we turned off to head cross-country through undulating pine forest, we were followed by a British Racing Green XK-120 and a TR-3. I thought we’d be passed in no time, yet as soon as we got to some bendy roads we lost them. It wasn’t like we were going particularly fast, it’s an 850 don’t forget, so maybe they were some of the revelers from the previous night.

Pine forests quickly gave way to wide open alpine meadows. Yet again, the organizers had found some stunning scenery and it was too good not to slow down to enjoy.

The lunch stop arrived quickly and, feeling as though we’d only just had breakfast, we made the decision to fill up with gas then drive on. Hopefully we’d get a run at the canyon before everyone else got there. We’d been told by a fellow Mini driver who had done the event previously, that we were very likely to be headed down the Feather River Canyon road. He said it was a road made for a Mini. He wasn’t kidding! It was pretty much an uninterrupted run of 75 miles following the Feather River gorge gently down hill. The road wound back and forth parallel to the river. Sunlight and shadow flickered through the windscreen as we wound our way under lush green trees. It was probably the driving highlight of the weekend and we seriously considered stopping at the bottom, turning around, and doing it all again.

Sadly, we were time limited, and our evening reception dinner was already booked, so we continued on our way. Exiting the canyon, we quickly started the descent down to the Sacramento delta. As the altitude decreased, the temperature increased and it was over 30 degrees centigrade as we got back to the level. Still, the Mini was relatively unfazed, although the temperature gauge was noticeably higher than it was in the cool mountain air. A quick, but boring run along the Interstate was ended when we turned off through a small town and back onto one of the levee roads. It was much more open in the daylight than the tunnel-like feeling we’d had at night, but the coolness of the river fifteen feet below us on the right was definitely helping keep the temperature in the car down. Another beautiful drive, although not quite as exciting as our night-time jaunt, and we were soon back in the city heading towards our final stop.

I have to say, the whole event was an absolute blast – great cars, great people, fantastic scenery, amazing driving roads, and top entertainment. I’m very fortunate that my wife really got the hang of the navigating and on top of that, she thoroughly enjoyed herself. We have agreed that this is something we most definitely want to do again.

Our little rally Mini may not be pounding the forest stages anymore, but she is still giving it a good go and keeping smiles on faces.


Snowball rally – Epilogue

Unfortunately, my wife was feeling a little queasy at the awards banquet. I guess starting at a map in a very hot car all afternoon was not a particularly good thing for her. Anyway, we had to excuse ourselves and leave early to allow her to get some rest back at our hotel. It turns out this was unfortunate as we were nominated the winners of the “Best in Snow” perpetual trophy for having a cool car, and enthusiastic attitude – Yeay!


July 2017

I’ve been doing a little more research on our car and its previous owners and have managed to track down two of the gentlemen who competed with her. Tepo Lindberg spent two years restoring the car, and he sent me a photo of the shell in its epoxy primer. He told me he will send more pictures, but needs to go through his storage files and find them.

Also, I’ve received a message from Kim Forsman. He purchased the car from Tepo and competed also competed in it with his brother as navigator. He has sent a great photo of the car in action. The photo shows the car on the ORIMATTILA RALLI in Finland where it ended up finishing 60th overall.

I’ve also learned more about the car’s build specification. The 850 engine is the original fitted to the car from the factory. It was rebuilt during the restoration to FIA Production Touring Car rules, as was the rest of the car. I’m sure some of you here know more than me about this, but it sounds as though this is equivalent to the original Group 2 rules in the 60’s. It was built to the 1959 homologation standards to enable it to run on dry suspension, as the period correct Hydrolastic suspension was never particularly suited to competition cars, isn’t particularly durable, and is getting very difficult to find parts. The head was skimmed as much as possible to raise the compression without breaking into the oil gallery. He thinks this gave it around a 10:1 compression ratio, but needs to find his original build documentation to confirm the actual figure. Standard valve and port sizes were maintained, but the ports were given a light clean up. The camshaft was a billet item with a BMC544/286 profile. The head was then built up with Cooper S outer springs only. Bore size was taken to first oversize, making it an 874cc engine. Flywheel was lightened, and the whole crank, pulley, flywheel, and clutch assembly balanced. He believes it will run very well up to around 7000 rpm. The distributor, I quote, “. . . was tuned (spring setting and ultimate advance) by an expert mechanic of racing Minis (from the) late ’60’s”. Other than that, and a central oil pick-up in the gearbox, the car was fairly stock. It has a LSD too, but this appears to have been a later addition. I’d be interested to know how well the engine performs on the dyno. It’s surprisingly perky, and doesn’t seem to have too much trouble keeping up with the Coopers on our Mini Owners of America San Francisco (MOASF) club runs.


August 2017

A quick update – Another email from Mr. Kim Forsman. Kim has sent some more pictures from some of his events with the car. These were all photos he had in his collection. He actually took the time to take them to a place to have them digitally scanned so he could send them to me – what an amazingly generous man!

These first two are of the car on the XXXL Kaakois Ralli held near Kotka. They finished 56th overall, and 3rd in class as evidenced by the trophy!


These next two photos show the car on the Peurunka Ralli near Laukka. This ended in a DNF and appears to have been the car’s final competitive rally.

He also sent me a photo of the car on the Black Rocket Rally. Result was 81st overall and 12th in class

I appreciate the time and effort that Mark Holloway put in to putting the above story.  If you have any comments or questions on the post or Mark’s Mini, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

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Getting Ready For The 2018 Trans America Recce

In about three weeks I will begin the recce for the 2018 Trans America Challenge.  This will be a 6,000 mile long rally starting in historic Charleston, South Carolina on May 27, 2018 and ending in Seattle, Washington on June 17, 2018.  In general, the route is shown below.

Over the past year I have been studying maps, seeking input from rally friends, and other sources of information to put together an interesting rally route across America.  What is clear is that the United States is full of interesting roads, sites and geography.  The challenge for me is not to find good rally roads – there are lots of those.  The challenge is to keep the rally moving from city to city.  I think that the competitors will like the route.

For the recce, I will be joined by Fred Gallagher, Rally Director for the Endurance Rally Association in England.  I am really pleased to be working with Fred on the Trans America Challenge.  Fred, a former World Rally Championship co-driver, has been the co-driver for a long list of top WRC drivers such as John Haugland, Tony Pond, Henri Toivonen, Juha Kankkunen, Bjorn Waldegard, Ari Vatanen, John Buffum, and Petter Solberg.  For years, he was Clerk of The Course for the WRC round Rally GB.  I look forward to continuing to learn from Fred Gallagher.  And one thing that I do know is that Fred and the rest of the folks at the Endurance Rally Association know how to put on a great rally.

This summer I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Kershaw, a competitor in the 2018 Trans America Challenge.  Michael, who lives in Switzerland, is currently preparing a Ford Mustang for his use during the 2018 Trans America Challenge.  I look forward to seeing Michael and his Mustang next year.

Michael Kershaw’s Mustang In Preparation For The 2018 Trans-America Challenge

Our recce trip will start on September 11 and I hope to post some stories and sights from the recce as a preview into this Trans America Challenge.  If you look closely at the generalized route of the Trans America Challenge you can see that the rally route goes through Galveston, Texas.  As I post this report, Galveston and other coastal cities in Texas are experiencing a terrible hurricane.  I hope that the people of coastal Texas get safely through this hurricane.  I am planning having the rally route follow some coastal roads in this area in order to have the rally participants get a close look at the Gulf Of Mexico under more settled conditions.

If you have any questions about this post or the 2018 Trans America Challenge, please leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

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