From our Archives - Monte Carlo Rally impressions

By Sydney Allard

My crew consisted of Guy Warburton and Tom Lush, and our arrangements were that Guy and I should share the driving and Tom be responsible for navigating and time-keeping. The same crew had done the Rally previously and this arrangement had proved satisfactory.

We selected Glasgow as our starting point, as the alternative starting places in Europe meant too much time spent away from the office. We found we were the last but one to leave, there being 72 cars in front of us. Mrs Allard and her sisters, in an Allard, were 15 numbers ahead of us, and this order was kept until their unfortunate retirement sonic 300 miles from Monte Carlo.

The weather conditions between Glasgow and Carlisle were fairly bad, the roads being covered in snow with patches of ice, and these conditions were again met some 50 miles from Llandrindod. From Wales we headed for Folkestone. The channel crossing was accomplished without trouble and we were soon on our way to the first foreign control at Lille.

From Lille we turned northwards towards Liege and from there northwards again into the flat lands of Holland. We crossed the new Arnhem Bridge early in the morning and were in Amsterdam in time for a very early breakfast. Here we joined competitors from other starting controls and began to see foreign makes of cars bearing the registration plates of most European countries.

An amusing incident occurred at this control. When we returned to our car, we were horrified to find someone had painted an enormous greyhound on the side. We were rather annoyed and it was not until we attempted to unlock the car and found our key would not fit that we discovered it was not our car but another Allard of identical colour; it had started from Norway! We had a lot of fun over this coincidence during the rest of the Rally when we watched others making the same mistake. The weather so far had been dry and cold but nothing had occurred which could affect our timekeeping.

From Amsterdam we turned southward through Antwerp, Brussels and Rheims to Paris. We were escorted through Paris by motor-cycle police who led the cars in convoy to the outskirts of the city. The police entered thoroughly into the spirit of things and our average speed for the distance through the Paris traffic was very high indeed. Just south of Paris we turned off the main road, which until now had been used for the entire route, and for the first time made our way over secondary roads towards the mountains which lay ahead.

At Bourges, which lay in the valley, we were told that the roads ahead were deeply snow-bound and that heavy snow was falling in the mountains. We pressed on, travelling as fast as possible, because we knew that the critical part of the rally now lay ahead. The snow was being blown horizontally against the windscreen and thick patches of fog made visibility extremely poor. The road width was considerably reduced by the high snow backs on either side and this made passing a matter of waiting one’s chance at a wider section, or perhaps a bend, and then and there pressing on without hesitation. This was a very interesting procedure as one never quite knew what lay ahead!

We covered all sections without loss of time, although the last one from Le Puy down through the Rhone Valley to Valence, a distance of some 80 miles, was completed with only a minute in hand. This was where most of the other competitors lost marks and we were the only Glasgow starter to get through on time. The rest of the run was uneventful although the roads were snowbound.

We spent the whole of Saturday, in company with many others, going round the course of the Regularity Test, and at the end of the day thought we had memorised all the most difficult parts.

We were horrified to find on Sunday morning that it had been snowing hard all night, which meant most of bur landmarks were obliterated; however, we started the test, with 50 others, and by lunchtime we had all finished. I spent the afternoon waiting for the results. We were having tea when the news came through that we had won the rally.

By Stirling Moss

The car a Sunbeam-Talbot 90 was magnificent. Its performance is a great tribute both to the designers and to all of those who were engaged in its construction.

With my co-drivers I have done now well over 3000 miles in it. No mechanical work of any sort has been carried out during that time. The only incident has been a nail embedded in a tyre. The car has sustained neither dents nor scratches.

In the Monte Carlo Rally, we finished with the same shock-absorbers and the same brakes with which we set out, which is more than you can say for some of the other competitors.

Illustrative of its performance I would mention the fact that on many of the downhill sections the speedometer was touching 80mph and this was over a surface of ice and snow. For miles the roads were rutted with ice and such strain on the back axle that it took a really well-constructed car to stand up to what we gave it.

Again underlining its performance. I would like to mention that we consider it really astounding that the car was capable of passing on the roads of the continent more expensive cars from the European manufacturers.

Another point of interest we put no water in the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 during the whole Rally and really very little oil.

It is also worth noting that the Sunbeam-Talbot always returned at least 26 miles to the gallon except over the very worst surfaces, when the average dropped to 22mpg.