“Oh ! for a beaker full of the warm South.”
Some notes on the Monte Carlo Rally BY
The Hon. Mrs. VICTOR BRUCE.
APART from road races, the Monte Carlo Rally is undoubtedly the most important automobile competition of the season, alike in the large and internationally representative entry list which it attracts, and in providing a most strenuous test of the cars under touring conditions—super-strenuous, if you like, but still purely touring conditions.
It is a really sporting trial, and it is largely for this reason that the event has become so outstandingly popular. And the utter fairness of the regulations and their administration is a feature which appeals particularly to the British mind. Any weakness that there may have been in the rules, allowing advantage to be taken by the few who think it worth while, or involving unnecessary hardship or injustice, in any particular year is very promptly eliminated tor the succeeding season’s event. As I say, this should appeal to the British sense of fairness; and that it does do so is proved by the fact that the British contingent has steadily grown each year, until in January next a considerable party will start for Monte Carlo from John o’Groats and the far corners of Europe.
There is something romantic in the idea of hundreds of motorists of widely differing nationalities touring off to some out of the way part of the continent, taking from a week to a fortnight to do the journey which, in the actual Rally must be accomplished in three or four days and nights of continuous driving, and then converging from all points of the compass upon the tiny Principality in the South and the sunshine.
The romance may be a little hard to see while one is, possibly, digging the car out of a snowdrift in the rigours of an Arctic night ; but in retrospect it is there, in spite of the most exacting hardship. This will be the sixth Rally in which either my husband or myself, or both of us, have participated. Originally we chose John o’ Groats as our starting point, and it was from there that he won the Rally in 1926. But competition became so keen, and the rules more and more stringent that for some years past we have gone farther afield for our point of departure. Each year the official map of alternative starting places is extended, and one rather wonders what will happen in, say, fifty years’ time. We—or rather our descendants—will then probably be starting from the North or South Poles, using, maybe, a bypass to cut all fhe big capitals out of the loute ! As at the time of writing my entry is not made for the 1930 Rally I had better not say what starting point I have chosen, but if I did it would seem nearly as far distant, to those who have not taken part in one of these events, as the Poles themselves. I will say that Lapland and the Arctic Circle will not be so very far away. Three sea passages will be made in the course of the journey, which will take us through six different countries; and even though the dry cold of a Northern winter is a different matter from the rawness of an English January, I shall not be at all sorry to emerge eventually into the tempered atmosphere of the Riviera. Judging from the cold snap to which Monte Carlo treated us last year, however, the fur-lined flying coat which I shall wear on the more Northerly portions of the run will not be altogether unacceptable farther South. And, as always, an important item of equipment will be the trusty Bumdept portable wireless se’: which somehow we shall find room for on the Hillman Straight Eight. I have carried this set through several Rallies, and had it with me on various track record attempts, and I would not willingly be without it. Even on so strenuous a run there come periods when the monotony is hard to bear; and a tune from the nearest broadcast
ing station is the best thing 1 know to put new heart into one. So far as the car is concerned, this will be the first time that this notable and essentially British vehicle has made a publio appearance in this kind of event, and I am confident that the utmost rigours of the journey will prove well within its capabilities. With a wonderfully comfortable and cosy body, and with glycerine in the radiator, we need not fear the worst that King Frost can do ; and with chains on the wheels I know from previous experience, that the snow covered roads, continuously ploughed, are not so bad a hindrance as might
reported from several points which lay on our direct route—and eventually we became buried in a snow drift and had to accomplish 100 miles back towards German civilisation with the car towed behind relays of sleighs. Even those who start from John o’Groats may find that the whole of the journey—over 1,700 miles by this year’s official route—is ice bound and so treacherous that a moment’s inattention means a possibly fatal skid. However, we are all optimists who take part in the Monte Carlo Rally, and there is not one of us, I suppose, who does not think that he or she has a very good chance of winning the first prize of 40,000 francs !
appear. As a matter of fact, conditions in those countries where the heavy snow lies for some months everywinter are much better than in others— England, for instance—where such conditions are exceptional, and catch the road authorities napping. In last year’s Rally, however, we did have trouble with snow, since we chose to start from Riga, and the roads leading to that Baltic town were not so carefully tended. It will be remembered that Arctic conditions reigned over the whole of Europe; starving wolves were