Flying Fins

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Arecord 160 entries plus fresh ice and snow helped the fifth Monte Carlo Challenge live up to its promise of being “the toughest winter classic challenge”. Dedicated to the older car — cars have to be models of a type that could have competed in the 1962 Monte Carlo Rally, (so precluding MGBs, Cortinas, Porsche 91 I s), this winter epic has become the biggest historic rally in Europe.

Tony Dron in a Ford Zephyr, with the expert Colin Frances on the maps, took an early lead as the rally headed out of Gap for the Alps. However, it was Nicky Porter’s Mercedes that held a slender lead by Monaco, just before the five-hour night section to come.

Behind him lay a pack of Volvos — there were 14 on the event — some quick Porsche 356s and Sunbeam Rapiers, and former winner Ron Gammons with Paul Easter on the maps just in contention at 10th place. The mountain circuit was to decide all. By now, the separate category for vintage and pre-war cars, taking a more sedate route down through France, in keeping with a 1930s Monte, was finally over and these lucky crews were able to dine in the warmth of the Monaco hotel while the top 90 crews

of the main event slugged it out over famous cols such as the Turini. The preI 949 Cup went to the crew of a Citroen, which saw off a Lagonda, Rolls-Royce Phantom and a Morgan 3-wheeler.

Porter’s big Mercedes 220 Fintail kept his lead, Frank Fennel in a Volvo 122 took second — repeating his success on last years Classic Marathon — with Jayne Wignall driving a 1600cc Volvo PV544 into third place, navigated by husband Paul. Gammons was fourth, with Dron dropping down to settle for fifth after gearbox problems left him with only second gear. A rare ex-works MGA De Luxe Coupe driven by Sandra Holt and Alison Woolley

took the Coupe des Dames, while Spirit of the Rally went to Graham Carter — tenth overall in a Mini 850, winning the Penrite Oils Drum for best performance on drum brakes.