Great Britain

A life in the fast lane for Bradford rally legend

TONY Fall was educated at Bradford Grammar School and was in the same class as David Hockney who used to doodle on the back of his text books.

He was a talented mathematician and his ambition was to be a pilot in the RAF. Unfortunately, he had partial colour blindness which prevented him from getting his pilot’s licence to achieve his dream.

Tony then sought his thrills through driving and, like many local car enthusiasts, he joined Airedale and Pennine Motor Club. He showed a talent for driving and, along with his co-driver David Fawcett, they soon amassed an impressive collection of silverware.

By day he worked as a salesman for Appleyard’s of Bradford selling British Motor Corporation (BMC) cars including Austin and Morris Minis - "Win on a Sunday, sell on a Monday."

He worked with ex-BMC competitions manager Marcus Chambers who ran Appleyard’s Service Department. At this time the Mini was just breaking through as a competitive car following improvements by John Cooper who developed the Cooper S versions.

Competition cars were showroom-based and didn’t have modern safety equipment fitted such as roll cages. Appleyard’s allowed Tony to use the dealerships demonstration car, a Cooper S, for the 1965 season.

In the 1960s, Tony was a bit of a rallying phenomenon. Just as the works teams were starting to go all Scandinavian, along came this cheerful young Yorkshireman who was able to give them a run for their money.

Outside the UK, his first event was the 1965 Alpine Rally in his Mini Cooper S (CAK 500C), an event still rated as one of the toughest rallies. The lad not only finished in a Mini Cooper S but was eighth overall and won a coveted Coupe with Mike Wood as co-driver for being unpenalised on the road. Even in the enormously successful BMC team, possessing a Coupe was sufficient of a rarity for this performance to be followed by an invitation to drive for them and he drove for BMC during the next three years with the likes of Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Makinen.

Tony was a professional driver up to 1976 and competed in international events up until then. He drove with many world class navigators including Mike Wood, Ron Cellin, Mike Broad, Henry Lidden and Jean Todt (ex-Ferrari F1 team manager.

Towards the end of his career, Tony competed in the World Rally Championship in General Motors (GM) Opel cars.

Highlights of his career included a win on the Circuit of Ireland and good results in some of the world’s toughest events including the East African Rally.

In 1968 he took part in the Daily Express-sponsored London-Sydney marathon with Mike Wood. In 1970 he took on the London to Mexico with footballer Jimmy Greaves, achieving sixth place.

From 1968 Tony started to drive for other teams including Lancia, VW, BMW and Peugeot and by 1970 he started a long-term relationship with Datsun driving mostly the 240Z.

In 1974 Tony moved into management alongside driving, and formed Dealer Opel Team (DOT), a team funded by British Opel dealerships. The team were based at Tong Park Autos in Baildon where the cars were converted from left-hand to right-hand drive and fitted with all the safety equipment required in rallying.

Driving the Opel Ascona and Opel Kadett, the team contested all the British national events as well as selected international events.

Tony’s success managing the championship winning team was spotted by GM and they appointed him Director of GM Motorsport, Russelsheim, Germany (1977 – 1988).

By far Tony’s biggest success was leading the Rothmans Opel Team to the 1982 World Rally Championship in the outdated two-wheel drive Ascona 400 against four-wheel drive opposition from Audi. German driver Walter Rohrl deservedly took the title due to consistent performance over the year.

Tony's rallying career is well known but his role in single seaters and the drivers he developed has been missed by most. Tony developed the GM Lotus Formulae which launched the careers of many young drivers including Coulthard, McNish, Hakinnen and Barrachello.

The series began in 1988, and national championships were organised in the UK and Germany and later Brazil, Benelux, Ireland, Scandinavia and Austria. Ninety five cars were built by Reynard powered by GM’s new 16-valve powerplant generating 160bhp and was extremely reliable.

In 1990 Tony left motorsport management and was appointed the manager of Safety Devices, a British company providing safety equipment - principally roll cages - for motorsport. Tony helped the company expand into new product areas and took ownership of Safety Devices in 1992.

The love of rallying never left Tony and as he entered his golden years he returned to rallying, competing in historic events which were becoming increasingly popular.

Tony prepared a Datsun 240Z and competed in events across the UK and also helped in the planning and organisation of international classic rallying events. He also returned to the international scene with the London to Mexico Rally in 1995, driving a Volvo to fifth place.

Tony died in December 2007 aged 67. He was part of the planning team for the East African Safari Classic Rally and died in his sleep in Tanzania. Despite his success as a driver, motorsport manager and later in commerce, Tony has never received the recognition that his compatriots such as Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen enjoyed. It is important that we celebrate his life as a motorsport legend and a citizen of Bradford.

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