1979 Pacific Forest Rally
1979 Pacific Forest Rally

Taisto Heinonen & Tom Burges win the 1979 Pacific Forest Rally

When Seppo asked me to be a protest steward on PFR, I thought I'd been presented with a golden opportunity to sit back and watch a stage rally without having to be involved in the organization or check pointing. When I arrived at Chilliwack however, there were mumblings of protests in the air. This plus the fact that there were lots of excess check pointers made me think I'd made the wrong decision but as it turned out anything serious failed to materialize.
O'Connor Toyota was the scene of the start and tech was in full swing. The garage was a madhouse ofrevving engines, choking clouds of fumes, etc. Andy Falkiewicz's Saab was having a bit of trouble passing the emissions test but a readjusted screw somewhere in the innards put that right. The line-up was the usual mixed bag seen on this coast, a few very well prepared factory or dealer sponsored entries, the middle of the pack runners, and a few dogs which give the event the air of a demolition derby.
The competition for overall glory was between Taisto Heinonen and Tom Burgess in the Celica, with a new, hotter but unproven engine, Jean-Paul Perusse and Louis Belanger in a TR7 V8, totally untried and sporting such evidence of last minute preparation as positive camber on the front wheels, and Rod Millen and Mark Howard from California in the Newport Datsun 510, an immaculate beast putting out around 180 bhp. The standard of preparation in this team was very high, with the crew well dressed and the car having that finished look about it. It’s also the only car I've seen advertising Duckham's Q motor oil, probably reflecting Rod Millen's New Zealand rally background.
The Production Class, as was hoped when the class was set up, is getting very competitive, with Falkiewicz and Angus Chisholm having the best chance in a Saab 99 reputed to be hand built in Sweden for $25 000. This car is estimated to put out 165 DIN hp and would appear to be more suited to European Group 1 than North American production class. John and Lynn Nixon from Calgary were there with their well prepared team, complete with motor home and tow van. John was all smiles as he'd been out testing before coming to BC and the car was a huge improvement over last year's Datsun. Their Celica is sponsored by Northridge Toyota in Calgary, the owner of which is very keen. Doug Leverton and Ken Humphrey have stuck with Datsun this yen and are finally getting some richly deserved factory support. This year's on is Andy and Angus' old (new style) 510. A few other entries in the Prod, Class really weren't in the running.
Jeff Vanderwall was down from the wilds with his old 510, Robin Edwardes co-driving. Steve Roberts and Don Gibson still had the RX7, Al Meggy and Jim Bridger turned out with Al's 510 and, ta da!, Rick Huurman and Ullas Joshi were out to give the ex-Nicklason, Schneider owned Datsun 1200 a funeral on wheels. Cunningly, they restricted themselves to the Regional (first half) portion of the event to reduce the chance of having to walk long distances.
Miss Chilliwack and her handlers (poor choice of words) flagged the cars off at 4:01 PM Saturday. The first stop, after the odo check, was a Dept. of Highways field right alongside the freeway, where a spectator stage was held. Apparently, the TR7 V8 had been seen practising in there before the event (grounds for exclusion) but he was the only one besides George Aron to get lost. Now while Aron's rally style could best be described as "flat out until he hits some thing solid" Perusse was obviously suffering from prior knowledge. Millen won by five seconds over Heinonen.
Three stages in the Cattermole timber area just north of the Alexandra Bridge saw Millen continue to build up his lead with some very smooth, very fast driving. Anyone who saw him in action was most impressed and the lead was not accidental. In fact, as his co-driver's claim to fame is his part ownership of Newport Datsun rather than his stage rally experience, Millen had to recover from several wrong slots along the way. Casualties in this area included Walker and Bradley in a dune buggy who went off route, past two roadblock cars, and nearly ran down a roadblock crew waiting to guard another stage about five miles away. They didn't return. Swayze and Watson from the prairies rolled a prod. class 510.
Around this time a few of us found the dust was getting to us and we adjourned to the Canyon Inn in Yale for a few. While we were having the few, a middle aged guy walked up and said "Anyone here want to fight?" with a big smile on his face. We har?harred a bit about this and a much younger guy walked up to our friend and said sure, he'd take him on! ''Oh no, " said the old guy, "you're my son." "Come on, " says the son, "want to have a go?" This line of thought sort of petered out and we left soon afterwards for a little dull stage rallying.
Meanwhile, back in the night, the old William's logging area two miles south of Spuzzum, now known as Rennie's, was being attacked, Aron stuffed into a ditch, Hawley and Van Court in a clapped out Gremlin hit a rock wall and Hogg and McCann from Alberta blew the clutch in their quick Alfa. I found myself at the flying finish of the downhill stage with Jeff, Wendy, Lorna and Sue, who were signalling to Dave Brown and Pengilly at the control. The speeds reached at the finish, especially by Millen, were phenomenal, and some omigod moments with brake failure occurred in front of the control.
As we watched, it occurred to us that the Saab hadn't gone by. It soon became apparent that not only had he not appeared, he hadn't been seen along the route! As there were many cliffs in the area, we all became a mite concerned and, once the last car had arrived, we started back up the stage. Gary and Bert in the sweep car soon came upon Petioles T. Afaganis, who had found Angus standing at the side of the road. The car, and Andy, were WWAAAYYY down the cliff and Andy was injured.
When Seppo and I arrived, there was a little pinpoint of light down the hillside so Doug Wall and I started down to find the car. It was more like a free fall than a climb down the hill but the ground levelled out about 200 feet down. We soon realized that a flashlight was needed as no lights could be seen so Doug went back to get one. The frightening thing was that we couldn't find any trace of the car in the area Angus pointed out and below us the ground sloped away steeply into a river.
I rooted around in a different area for awhile and stumbled on the Saab, lying on its side above me, sillouetted against the sky. I yelled to the group at the top and called to Andy, who answered from the other side of the car. He was standing up by a stump, quite out of it with shock. Help soon arrived, including Bert with a flare which we put out before it touched off the gas fumes, and Andy was made comfortable. An ambulance arrived and, with help from a lot of people, he was hauled up the cliff and taken to hospital. He ended up with a broken shoulder and was released from hospital the next morning. Ted Bauder deserves a lot of credit for his on?the?spot first aid and Saab deserves a lot of credit for building a car that can go end-over-end Once times down a 200-300 foot cliff and keep its basic shape. Amazingly, the doors still opened and shut and the body wasn't touching the roll bar. There was crap strewn all over the hillside but the car was basically intact.
It was fortunate for all concerned that the Saab crew did it up on that particular stage as at least there was a first aid vehicle (Ted's) and radio communications from start to finish. on some of the others there wasn't and in a couple of cases locals got onto the stages from side roads that were not blocked. There was just a bit too much left to chance and, after the cliff incident, a couple of the crews were complaining about it. However, as long as the crews continue to come to the finish, accept their awards and go away, without a whimper, for the "good of the sport and the sponsor" saying "see you next year! " these problems will continue to exist. There's a lot more to a stage rally, especially as speeds continue to increase, than getting together a neat group of roads and telling crews to go at it and may the best team win."
Anyhow, after this shook up all and sundry, the rally continued. The rerun of the two Rennie stages was cancelled and the crews moved on to BC Forest Products roads just south of Boston Bar. Millen had at least a minute and a half on Taisto and with the Saab out, the prod. class race was on once again. Most crews had had brake problems, especially Taisto, who had his handbrake lock on after a straight-on-at-hairpin save. Jeff Vanderwall was doing very well and looking quite calm about it, not taking any chances.
Seppo and I took ourselves back to Chilliwack for some sleep instead of staying out all night. Kraushaar and Gilley stuffed their old 510 into a creek after missing a bridge, Perusse dropped out on the second last stage with some form of rear end woes and Millen, who had retained his lead, broke his driveshaft on the last scored stage. After 1 transit back to O'Connor Toyota, it was over.
No controversies arose out of the scoring. and, after five of the twelve stages were scrubbed, Taisto, Tom and Toyota were declared the winners. Marga was there to make sure that Taisto didn't mistake Miss Chilliwack or her princesses for groupies. Lynn Nixon make a botched attempt to spray Taisto with champagne but she forgot to put her thumb over the mouth of the bottle. John and Lynn won the Production Class and Jeff won the Regional event, despite the best 10/10ths slow driving efforts by Rick and Ullas.
The results looked like this:
Pos Driver/Co-Driver Vehicle Secs
1 Taisto Heinonen/Tom Burgess Toyota Celica 6025
2 Jeff Vanderwall/Robin Edwardes Datsun 510 6557
3 Steve Roberts/Don Gibson Mazda RX 2 6660
4 John Nixon/Lynn Nixon Toyota Celica 6728
5 Doug Leverton/Ken Humphrey Datsun 510 6875
6 Redford /Steve Farrell Volvo 6964
7 Steve Parker/Mike Glaefke Datsun 510 7014
The weather was nice too.
Paul Kluckner
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