Rallye Monte Carlo book review

A 400-page alphabetical appreciation of the Monte-Carlo Rally takes in 110 years of star drivers, classic cars and slippery trails


Lee Gale

Browse pages

There’s a superb moment in the 1969 car-race caper Monte Carlo or Bust where Major Digby Dawlish (Peter Cook) and Lt Kit Barrington (Dudley Moore), driving the ‘1928 Lea-Francis Special Rally’ across a frozen lake in Sweden, outmanoeuvre the Germans amid a winter sports festival thanks to some garden-shed ingenuity and a slice of luck. “I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord is on, Barrington,” says Dawlish as the car clears the melée. “England’s, sir?” Barrington responds. Dawlish nods: “Naturally.” There’s a fair amount of ice too in the 400-page Rallye Monte-Carlo.

It’s a curious format – an A to Z (actually A to Y; there is no Z) of the world’s favourite rally, from Sydney Allard, who uniquely won the event in 1952 in a car bearing his own name (Allard P1), to You Have to Earn It, which is a moment-in-time essay about spectating in the dawn snow. There are also additional sections about the history of the Monte-Carlo, packed with many marvellous images by photographers who, you would hope, were wearing gloves.

From its inauguration in 1911 – when it was devised as a marketing tool to attract holidaymakers away from the more popular Nice – to 1998, the Monte-Carlo Rally had various starting points dotted across the map – as is depicted in the cartoonish film. One of these was Glasgow, which comes under ‘L’ for Longest. Here there is an image from 1961 of a Vauxhall Victor ready to begin its dash south. A makeshift RAC sign reads ‘Monte Carlo 2304 miles’ – and there’s a strong local turnout.  At 2775 miles, Tunis was lengthier.

Now, of course, most of its quirks have been ironed out to fit the standardised FIA weekend format but some traditions doggedly remain – like apple pie. In the Ardèche village Antraigues, the tarte aux pommes made at Restaurant La Remise has become the rally’s de rigueur snack, a craze started by the Alpine team in the 1960s. Word spread and now no trip to the Monte is complete without a sweet hit. No disrespect to Mr Kipling but the pie Sébastien Loeb is scoffing looks rather tasty. The regular book is appealing enough, but there are three special editions each limited to 200 copies. The Loeb, Walter Rohrl and Sandro Munari versions are signed by the drivers they’re dedicated to. LG


Rallye Monte-Carlo
John Davenport, Reinhard Klein, Michel Lizin & Colin McMaster

McKlein, £85 (£140 special editions)
ISBN 9783947156382


April 2022 book reviews in brief

Lancia Rally Group B
Sergio Remondino & Sergio Limoni

Awash with terrific photographs, this is a paean to a time when Lancia was riding high in group B with the 037 and Integrale. Reports on every rally sit between the development story, by chief engineer Sergio Limoni (including the news that they considered a mid-engined Ritmo) and details of all the drivers who handled the (usually) Martini-striped missiles, including an interview with Miki Biasion. Technical details abound, especially on the mad ECV which boasted ground effect. GC

Giorgio Nada Editore, £32.99
ISBN 9788879118477

Drivers on drivers
Philip Porter, et al

Published to support cancer charity Hope for Tomorrow, this features views from great names on their rivals and team-mates. Assembled by well-known writers and broadcasters, it conveys insights such as Mario Andretti learning a fast line from Alan Jones – “There’s always somebody who does something better than you”; to Emerson Fittipaldi: “Regazzoni was dangerous to be close to”; to Allan McNish lamenting that “rental cars don’t have enough downforce”, before telling a funny story about why Dindo Capello kept going blind under braking. Even a few words from Lewis. GC

Porter Press International, £30
ISBN 9781913089412

Yesterday’s future – Concept cars of the 1960s
Richard Heseltine

Back when we thought the future would be better, concept cars pointed the way, and the 1960s were especially fecund as inspiration switched from jets to spacecraft. Heseltine has filled this big book with forgotten or unseen beauties (and horrors), so many that he can present them year by year, with much factual back up. A wonderful wallow in imaginative excess. And about the loveliest is a Vauxhall! GC

Porter Press International, £45
ISBN 9781913089344