ALL ROADS LEAD TO MONTE CARLO
Urnea, Saturday Morning.
IAM writing this in the back of the A.C,, surrounded by masses of luggage. It is so warm to-day that one’s Sidcots were quite out of the question, and they are all stacked up around me. We have just lunched out of a suitcase, en route, and we got on quite well as regards the hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches, but were not too clever with the thermos full of coffee. We found it tended to run up the sleeves. We started off in fine style at 9.45 this morning, 12th in starting order. Healey’s supercharged Triumph led Off the procession, while behind us was Chinetti’s red Mille Migha Alfa-Romeo, an open twoseater, with a fixed hood. Luckily we took the shorter but more difficult route by Grasmyr, so we saw nothing more of him. The roads were slippery in places, but in the woods the snow was still unmelted, and we left at a steady 40 m.p.h. After a time we sighted Symons on the M.G., who slowly overhauled us : and Mahe and
Marg on a supercharged Peugeot did likewise. All three of us then travelled at the same speed, and then we started to overhaul Douglas-Morris on his Ford. Malu; shot off the road down a side turning, and Douglas-Morris waved us on, but the writer, who was driving, took too wide a course, and in a flash both offside wheels left the hard road and dropped into a ditch. Half-a-dozen late starters passed us as we shovelled away the snow and helped by a native Who cut down fir trees and used them as levers. A friendly lorry driver then came to our aid and quickly towed us back to the road again.
This misfortune cost us 20 minutes, but we were still a minute or two ahead of schedule. It was essential to push on to reach the Veda Ferry in good time, and we had soon improved in an hour to 40 k.p.h. average.
As we progressed many patches of the road were thawed right through, and very rough they were ; on the higher ground snoW still remained. At last Stockholm was reached, when Humphrey Symons: reported that he had skidded into the ditch momentarily, through allowing Madame Siko to pass. Douglas-Morris’s Ford shied at a giant snow hill, and H. W. Hillegaart’s Adler lost a wheel and dived into the ditch in avoiding a bus.
By T. G. MOORE.
So much has happened since Stockholm that it is difficult to recall it all. All our ice-chains had broken on nearing the Swedish capital, but we did not anticipate much more snow. We started off with a snow chain on the front wheel, and were quite happy when we Carrie to it. A piercing wind which penetrated even our side-curtain defences was the worst trouble, and then we spotted that the dynamo was not charging. It was necessary to limit the battery consumption, and to proceed on with only sidelights, with an occasional use of the heads. The snow acted as a reflector to some extent, and Wills considerably bettered our average even under these conditions. As daylight came on our speeds revived one, and urged on by the necessity of reaching Helsingborg in time to fix our dynamo, we found we could run at a figure not far short of 60 on the straight, but icy, roads south of Stockholm. On a bend near Husqvarna
we suddenly came on the burnt-out wreck of a Peugeot, a car which was driven by the very competent Madame Mareuse. Apparently she had still retained her chains on the wheels, and suddenly coming on to a cobbled section had skidded into ‘another car. The driver and passenger of both vehicles came off with only slight injuries.
As we approached Helsingborg, the next control and the starting point of the Danish ferry, the conditions of the route changed completely, and we were dodging about in hilly country, skirting rivers and continually crossing and recrossing a railway line. The daylight was failing, and, of course, the dynamo was not yet charging, so Eaden had an unenviable drive, especially when we ran into fog.
We had an hour to spare at Helsingborg, and got a new battery installed, and a little food, but were then kept on the qui vive at the wharf side trying to board the ferry to Denmark.
The passage across was only a matter of 20 minutes, and was happily smooth, and after a scene of considerable confusion, as road books were dealt out again on the Danish side, we got under way. The drive to Copenhagen will remain as a nightmare experience, roaring along in quite a dense fog, with lights still
adjusted for the left-hand rule of the road of Sweden, and often blinded by the dust of competitors in the lead. The Danish authorities had, however, excelled themselves, and had fixed signs throughout the city and beyond to the German frontier, while the Tivoli Amusement Park had been specially engaged as a directing spot, and effectively prevented the scenes of last year, when souvenir hunting Danes had to be beaten off with electric torches and tyre levers. We had a brief halt outside the city to adjust lamps, then on full-bore across Denmark to catch the second ferry at Kossor. Our battery was already starting to weaken, and most of the distance was done under sidelamps alone, an eerie business when one had to keep up 60 on straight, but unknown, roads with the extra hazards of mist patches and corners. The Kossor train-ferry, which took an hour-and-a-half, was a welcome respite, and we got a good meal aboard ; then the
writer again handed over, and remembers but vaguely the race down to the German frontier.
Struggling unwillingly from the car at this point, we heard from Hobbs the upsetting news of Healey’s crashl, on the Triumph. Hobbs, Healey and sorlie other drivers had chartered a special ferry which sailed south to a point just north of the frontier, but in coming across country they encountered an unguarded levelcrossing, on which, without any warning, a train appeared. Healey turned right round and crashed into it, and he and his mechanic had narrow escapes from death, while Hobbs and others escaped by a matter of feet.
On then over rough roads to the Hamburg control, where Nazis with blue flags directed us most efficiently to the control, and everything possible was done for us. A racing start from amidst a cheering crowd, and then on to Hanover, over stone-sett roads rendered treacherous by ice, and then a feverish hunt to get a fresh battery ; the Bosch expert was unable to have the fault in our system repaired, so we had pinned our faith in the Lucas service station at Brussels. The first part of the journey was over rain-swept and freezing roads, through the confusing industrial area of Cologne,
through which ‘Wills piloted us. safely ; then to the Belgian frontier, where the formalities seemed to take an interminable time. We reckoned we had only just time to reach Brussels owing to our taking a, long but main road course, but were upset to find the road again obscured with mist and the lights failing. Eadon ploughed on manfully, but at Liege the car passed out completely with a flat battery at 3 o’clock in the morning, and apparently there was no hope of getting a replacement. However, the local sportsmen had arranged pilot cars, and then with these we commenced a mad crawl through the awakened city, only to find that the A.C. would run once again, as a stop had revived the battery. Followed a 60 m.p.h. blind with sidelights alone, luckily on straight roads, which seemed dotted with other Rally competitors less lucky than ourselves, and we arrived in the outskirts of Brussels. A frantic rush for the check, with the battery at its last gasp, only to find we had an hour in hand, as we had not reckoned on the hour gained at the German frontier.
At Brussels occurred the most unfortunate incident of the trip, for the authorities refused to give up the Road Book until a pass slip was given up, and this was in the hands of the driver who was superintending repairs. We were debited with the loss of 103 minutes, the time which elapsed until his return. We naturally entered a protest, but it is easier to lose marks than to regain them.
Rather depressed with this undeserved blow, but once more in possession of our full complement of lights, we set off for Paris, along a straight road, mostly dealt with by daylight, and had an hour to spare at the check-point in Paris. The A.C.F. were extremely hospitable, and washed, fed and rested us—no small feat in view of the fact that cars from the four most important routes passed through Paris.
The run to Lyons produced little of interest, though the southern part of N.7, where it drops down to the Rhone, had a certain amount of ice on it. There were further reunions of Englishmen at the Lyons check, and no fog, for once, so we set out with a good heart, full of sleep and champagne. The temporary repairs to our dynamo made at Brussels produced most fantastic results, and it persisted in burning out its main fuse ; but we were by now so used to running by the excellent light of one Lucas pass-light that little things like that did not upset us.
Avignon is chiefly notable as the meeting place of the contingents from the Continental starting points and from John o’Groats, with the check in a square with blazing lights and a fine old fountain with pendulous icicles, but we were kept quite busy checking up tyre pressures, going over shock absorbers, and the like.
The run to Brignoles, over those scrubcovered hills, was quite enjoyable, and after the penultimate check, at which the officials did not even bother to have all the signatures in the road book, we set off on the final stage to Monte Carlo.
Cold and tired as we were, the sight of sunrise over the Estorels, and the distant snow-capped Alpes Maritimes compensated for much of the discomfort we had gone through, and the car purred steadily up and down the twisty gradients. The driver, however, does not find those last 100 miles quite so entertaining, for to average 31 m.p.h., first over twisty and narrow mountain roads, and then along the already quite busy coast road past Nice, demands gears and full throttle all the time. At last, however, the familiar outline of the Palace of Monaco came into view, and a close consultation of stop watches revealed half-an-hour still in hand. We repaired then to our hotel, and unburdened our motor car of its several hundredweights of chains, luggage and spares, and prepared to finish. “Spare petrol on, brakes O.K., shockers right ? ” then into the control we went and handed in, for the last time, and with considerable satisfaction, our rather soiled road book. Our 2,400 miles scamper across Europe done at last, with our little car still running as well as ever ; and as we sat in the sun, round little tables at the harbour-side buffet we felt well content with our venture abroad. It’s a grand life if you don’t weaken !