Although the Monte Carlo Rally is not one of the oldest of motoring competitions, the road to Monte Carlo has for a very long time exercised a peculiar fascination over the minds of sporting motorists, particularly in this country. It was Charles Jarrott, apparently, who started the whole thing. Jarrott was one of the few Englishmen who drove with real distinction in the days of the town-to-towns races, and, although he continued racing for a time in the later Gordon Bennett contests, he really thought that proper motor racing had come to an end when the Paris-Madrid race was stopped at Bordeaux. After that, it took something like the St. Petersburg-Moscow race of 1907 to tempt him out of his retirement.
In the meantime, if no one would organise a race for him across France, there was something to be said for trying to put up a record, even if it was only an unofficial one. Thus it was that on April 7th, 1906, the Autocar announced that “We understand that Mr. Charles Jarrott will this week-end make rather an ambitious experiment in respect of a long-distance drive. He purposes to run down to Monte Carlo in forty-eight hours. This will mean an average speed of something like twenty miles an hour throughout, including the Channel passage and getting through the Customs. The route to be followed would be via Abbeville, Beauvais, Pontoise, Paris, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon, Cannes and Nice to Monte Carlo . . . The roads are reported to be in very bad condition . . .”
As a matter of fact, he did not touch Paris, which perhaps was understandable, but instead went from Pontoise to Versailles and thence cut across all the roads leading out of the capital to the South, until he could take the one which leads to Melun. So far, so good; but it is the route after Melun taken by Jarrott and his successors on this enterprise which is at first sight so puzzling. From Melun to Lyons there are two well-established rival routes, one of them involving getting on to N 7 at Fontainebleau and following it by Nevers and Moulins to Lyons, which by this way is 430 kms. from Melun. This is the road I have most often taken when going south, but smarter people nowadays prefer to follow N 5 to Sens, and thence N 6 by Auxerre and Mâcon, by which means they reach Lyons in 423 kms. Their object is not to save 7 kms., but they say that N 6 is the faster road, a proposition which I still think is arguable. In any case, Jarrott, instead of making for Auxerre when he got to Sens, carried on along N 5 by Tonnerre and Montbard, all the way to Dijon, and thence went by Beaune to pick up N 6 at Chagny, by which manoeuvre he increased the distance from Melon to Lyons to 462 kms.
Nowadays, this is not only a longer, but also a very much slower road. The Baron Pierre de Crawhez, who prepared his Grands Itinéraires before Jarrott’s journey, recommends the road by Auxerre and Mâcon, which, he says, is an “excellent road and the most favourable for the south.” Major Stevens, in his Motor Routes of 1908, also recommends this as the best route to Lyons, calling it an “excellent road almost throughout its entire length,” although, admittedly, both the Major and the Baron remark on the numerous hills between Sauliett and Chalon. But I do not think that it was the hills that frightened Jarrott and his successors on the Monte Carlo road. The curse of N 6 is the railway, which sticks to it like a leech, and, in this hilly country, winds continuously, crossing the road whenever it feels inclined, usually by means of a level crossing. Now the time-table of the Channel steamers dictated that on a non-stop run to Monte Carlo, this section of Central France had to be covered at night; and at night in 1906, level-crossing keepers had a habit of lowering their barriers across the road, padlocking them and going off to bed. With the result that the unfortunate road traveller had to go all the way round by Dijon to avoid their obstructions.
In any case, Charles Jarrott duly set off from the Automobile Club in Piccadilly on his attempt to get to Monte Carlo in two days. His car was one of the new 40-h.p. Crossleys which had appeared that season, and which was certainly one of the best-looking cars that had yet been turned out in England. Its designer was Mr. J. S. Critchley, but it certainly owed much, at any rate as far as its chassis was concerned, to its connection, chiefly through Jarrott, with the French De Dietrich. Its four-cylinder engine had a bore and stroke of 4¾ by 6 in. (121.65 by 152.4 mm.), with side valves in a T-head and a low-tension magneto. Final drive was by side chains, the wheelbase was 10 ft. 4½ in., and the track 4 ft. 8 in.
There were three passengers besides the driver when the car left London, and seemingly a fifth was added at Boulogne in the shape of a French guide, who was supposed to know the way, but who soon proved that he did not. So there were plenty of people on board, but there were also cold cutlets in aspic, carved chicken, fruit and chocolate, “so of course we did not stop for food at all.” That is the worst of this record-making business.
They drove down to Folkestone most respectably, without attempting any high speed, caught the boat comfortably, and at 2 o’clock in the afternoon the car was landed at Boulogne and clear of the Customs. At last they were really away, and they covered the first 84 kms. (I should have said it was nearer 80) to Abbeville in exactly 80 minutes, which gave them an average of close on 40 m.p.h. At Abbeville I take it they struck the pavé, for the average for the next 35 kms. dropped below 40 k.p.h., but after Poix the going improved and they did the next 43 kms. into Beauvais in 42 minutes.
So far navigation had been simple, as they were following the main road to Paris, but soon after leaving Beauvais they had to turn off N 1 and take the road by Méru to Pontoise. This, however, the guide signally failed to do, and instead, according to Jarrott, “took me over miles of the worst pavé I have ever driven on and I could not go more than ten miles an hour.” It was dark by the time they got to Pontoise at 7 o’clock in the evening and raining hard. The acetylene headlamps gave a lot of trouble, too, and between Pontoise and Versailles the average dropped to about 12 m.p.h.
They plugged on through the darkness and the rain, however, stopping at pre-arranged points to take on petrol where, in that age of service, people had stayed up all night to hand over the cans to them. They were averaging about 20 miles an hour, which was probably as much as the lamps permitted; and at last, at Dijon, at about 6 o’clock in the morning, came daylight, and, with the dawn, the end of the rain. The roads were not too good, but they did the 190 kms. to Lyons in 4 hours 50 minutes, averaging about 25 m.p.h., and the next 300 kms. over better roads, to Aix-en-Provence, took two minutes under the six hours, which gave an average of about 33 m.p.h.
By the time they reached Fréjus, 118 kms. further on, and 88 from their destination, it was dark again, and “the last piece over the Esterelles was very trying, the twists and turns of the mountain road making it hard work . . .” However, this last obstacle was successfully overcome, and 37½ hours after leaving the Automobile Club in London, the triumphant Crossley party arrived in Monte Carlo.
Jarrott’s schedule time of 48 hours, announced before the run started, had certainly been beaten by a handsome margin. Since leaving Boulogne, the Crossley’s engine had been running, continuously and without a falter, for over 31½ hours—for 21 hours 35 minutes, to be exact—and in this time the car had covered a calculated distance of 1,242 kms., or 771.2. miles, although Jarrott declared that he had done at least an extra 100 kms. through losing his way. Without making an allowance for that, the average had been 24.2 m.p.h. Jarrott, who had driven the whole way, admitted to feeling tired at the finish, but the car had certainly done splendidly, “it went through like a dream and ran like a racing car,” and, what was perhaps in 1906 even more remarkable, the tyres had given no trouble whatsoever.
The Autocar, while full of admiration for Jarrott’s feat, was a little doubtful as to whether it might to approve of this sort of thing. “We have no doubt that it will be urged by some critics,” admitted our contemporary, “that Englishmen should not use French roads for a scorching ground”; but it comforted itself with the thought that “Englishmen commit no greater speed excesses in France than do Frenchmen themselves in their own country.” In any case there was, already at Monte Carlo, another Englishman who had nearly as much experience of these “speed excesses” as had Charles Jarrott. The Hon. C. S. Rolls had indeed been driving cars in races even longer than had Jarrott, who had started his career as a motorcyclist. He had driven his 12-h.p. Panhard in the Paris-Boulogne race of 1899; and in Paris-Berlin of 1901 and Paris-Vienna of 1902, while Jarrott drove Panhards, Rolls drove a 60-h.p. Mors. In Paris-Madrid, on the other hand, Jarrott drove a De Dietrich and Rolls a Panhard. Now the latter was down in the south of France with two of his own Rolls-Royce cars, one of them of the type with which Percy Northey had finished second in the 1905 Tourist Trophy, and the other one of the new model designed for the 1906 race. Northey had been down there too, and the idea had been to drive the two cars back to England together, in order to compare their performances. But for some reason, Northey had had to leave for home earlier, and when Jarrott arrived in Monte Carlo at the end of his record run, Rolls conceived the alternative idea of driving his 1906 T.T. car over the same route in the reverse direction, to see if he could better Jarrott’s time.
The Rolls-Royce, being designed for a race with a fuel consumption limit, was a much smaller car than the Crossley, the engine dimensions being 4 by 5 in. (101.6 by 127 mm.), and the capacity 4,092 c.c., against the Crossley’s 7,0441 c.c., the actual power developed being stated as 22 h.p. at 1,000 r.p.m. It was, however, a delightful-looking, low-built car, and Rolls’ confidence in it was by no means misplaced. Wisely he took with him as navigator Mr. H. Massac Buist, who, as a journalist, could be relied on to see that the run did not go unnoticed if it was successful, and who, incidentally, was evidently a much better navigator than Jarrott’s French guide. In the tonneau were Mr. Claude Faulkner and a “tyre fitter.”
They were started from the Royal Hotel at Monte Carlo by Mr. Harry J. Swindley, of the Autocar, at 11.5 a.m. on a Thursday about, the middle of May, and set off along the road to Nice, which they found slow on account of the corners and the trams, while Buist considered the passage of the Esterel as difficult as the Auvergne Circuit, over which the Gordon Bennett race had been run the year before. Nevertheless they did pretty well, and at 8.20 p.m. they were at Aix-en-Provence, having done the first 206 kms. in 4¼ hours, and averaged 30 m.p.h. They were now on the flatter road in the Rhone valley, but they found it very bumpy, with bad caniveaux in the villages, and at Orange they nearly hit the Roman Arch, thinking that the road went through instead of round it. Darkness overtook them between Valence and Vienne, and the light of the acetylene headlamps “greatly exaggerated the unevenness of the surface,” which was rather disconcerting. With the dark, too, came a drizzle of rain, but for all that they drove into Lyons at 9.46 p.m., having covered the 300 kms. from Aix in 6 hours 26 minutes, the average being still very close to 30 m.p.h.
Between Lyons and Villefranche, however, the drizzle became a steady downpour, and, in an open car with no windscreen, some of the crew must have wished they had never started. Visibility was reduced to about 50 yards, the roads became very greasy, and yet the unfortunate Buist found that he could not read his sodden maps “with sufficient celerity” for the impetuous Rolls. Somewhere between Mâcon and Chalon they took the wrong road on leaving a level-crossing—I should think that it was the one just beyond St. Oyen, where a small road goes straight on to Uchizy, and the main road turns sharp right alongside the railway. That cost them 20 minutes, but at last with Dijon, which they reached at 3.28 on the Friday morning, came the dawn and the end of what must have seemed an interminable night. The 190 kms. from Lyons had taken them 5 hours 42 minutes, and the average for this section had dropped to just over 20 m.p.h. The one saving grace was the car, which was running superbly—nothing was done to it “save replenishment when petrol and lubricating oil ran out.” The exhaustion of the latter sounds ominous, but presumably it was only a dashboard tank which had to be replenished. Only once were the services of the tyre fitter required, when they picked up a large nail. For the rest of the time, he and Mr. Faulkner “snatched sleep in the tonneau.”
With the dawn the rain stopped, and, although the roads continued slippery for another 50 miles, the average went up again to 30 m.p.h. Between Sens and Melun they covered 63 kms. in 1 hour 10 minutes, at an average of about 34 m.p.h., but beyond Melun they found the road “exceedingly ill-kept,” and after Versailles. even Rolls was induced to go more slowly while Buist navigated the difficult stretch to Pontoise. After that the average well up again, close to 30 m.p.h., and at 3.19 on the Friday afternoon they triumphantly pulled up on the quai at Boulogne. The 1,242 kms. from Monte Carlo had taken them 28 hours 14 minutes, compared with Jarrott’s time of 31 hours 35 minutes in the opposite direction, and they had averaged 27.3 m.p.h. They had counted fifty level-crossings, but they had only been delayed at four of them, and occasionally at the entrance to towns, where the road was barred by that French anachronism, the octroi.
There are, however, disadvantages in doing the run from south to north instead of vice versa, because after all this effort to reach Boulogne, it was not time for the boat to sail. For 3 hours and 11 minutes, in fact, the Rolls-Royce sat on the quai while no one did a thing to it, and practically the whole of Rolls’ lead on Jarrott was frittered away. Once across the other side, too, he was faced with an exasperating 20-m.p.h. drive to London, in the course of which they lost the way, and, according to Mr. Harold Nockolds, eventually reached the capital, “by the simple expedient of steering, at the Crystal Palace.” They reached Piccadilly and the Automobile Club at 33½ minutes after midnight on the Saturday morning, having taken 37 hours 28½ minutes from Monte Carlo and beaten Jarrott’s time by 1½ minutes! The maximum speed used in England was, I am informed, 20 m.p.h.
A few weeks later it was the turn of Mr. H. R. Pope. Unlike Jarrott and Rolls, Pope was not one of those who had taken part in the great town-to-town races, but in May he had driven an Itala in the Targa Florio, and, having brought it back to the Riviera, he was anxious to show how fast it could go to London. Mr. Pope, rather modestly perhaps, called his Itala a 24-h.p., but, as Rolls painted out, its engine was “85 per cent. larger than that of the Rolls-Royce, and should develop an extra 17 horsepower.” As a matter of fact the dimensions were 130 by 140 mm., which give a capacity of 7,433 c.c. and the makers, now or later, called it 40 h.p., which fits in pretty closely with Rolls’ estimate. The Targa Florio at that time was supposed to be for touring cars, and a photograph of the Itala shows that it answered reasonably well to this description, with a chassis long enough to take a four-seater body in comfort, with room for a good deal of luggage and the spare tyres on behind.
Mr. Pope decided to defer his start front Monte Carlo until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, so that, if he equalled Rolls’ time to Boulogne, he should just catch the boat, instead of hanging about on the quai for three hours. He set off on Saturday, June 9th, with three passengers and in great style. Along the road to Nice, he had no nonsense with the corners and the trams, and did the first 22 kms. in 24 minutes. As for the Esterel, it might be as difficult as the Auvergne, but what was that to a man who was fresh from the Madonic Circuit?
“The passage of les Esterels,” he declared, “was not difficult and all the tourniquets are capable of being taken at speed.” All the same, he had been delayed for 10 minutes just outside Nice, because the luggage on the back of the car was slipping, and now on the Esterel, the off front tyre burst, which held the party up for half-an-hour. It was the first of a series of tyre troubles, “so serious and frequent,” said the Autocar, “that one can only imagine the tyres were an unmatured set.” I must admit that the idea of maturity in tyres constituting a virtue, is a novel one to me; I cannot think, if it is one, why I have had so much trouble with some of the old faithfuls that I have run in my time. Personally, I am inclined to suspect that the Itala, though it may have been correctly shod for the Targa Florio, with a sketchy two-sealer body, was under-tyred with four up and luggage, especially when averaging 35 m.p.h. along the Corniche Road, or taking the tourniquets of the Esterel at speed.
They arrived at Aix-en-Provence at about half-past five, having taken 3 hours 26 minutes for the first 206 kms., which gave an average of about 33 m.p.h.; and after spending a quarter of an hour there, buying cord with which to tie the luggage on more firmly, they were away again at 5.50 p.m..
Owing to their later start, lighting-up time, although of course the evenings were now longer, found them between Orange and Montélimar, whereas the Rolls party had got on nearly to Vienne before dark. However, they arrived at Montélimar exactly at 9 o’clock, the average for the first 362 kms. being still 32 m.p.h., and Pope, who considered that he had by now covered the most difficult part of the road, confidently expected that, “with a car as good as mine,” he would reach Boulogne in 24 hours.
Alas! however, this Hubris was soon overtaken by Nemesis. At Lyons, the off back tyre burst, which delayed the Itala 45 minutes; then at Mâcon, both back tyres went at once, which meant 1 hour 20 minutes fitting two new covers and tubes; just outside Beaune, the near front, the only one to have stood up so far, went, at a cost of 35 minutes; and, finally, beyond Montbard the near back needed a new tube, which took half-an-hour. Until this last setback, they had just about been equalling Rolls’ time, the higher speed of the Itala being exactly matched by its tyre troubles, but, says Pope, “I now decided, owing to having had so much trouble with tyres, to moderate my pace . . . [although that] would not do justice to the car . . .”
The effect, justice or no justice, was magical, and the Itala’s tyre troubles were at an end, Pope allowed himself just one more blind, for the last 44 kms. from Montreuil to Boulogne, which he covered in 35 minutes, at an average of 75.5 k.p.h., compared with the figure of 66 k.p.h. put up even by the Crossley at the beginning of its journey; but that last, puncture had just spoilt his run, and the Itala’s total time to Boulogne was 28 hours 31 minutes, or 16 minutes more than that of the Rolls-Royce. Pope’s foresight in starting later from Monte Carlo meant that they should have caught the boat with half-an-hour to spare; but it was 50 minutes late in sailing, and then at Folkestone they were delayed for over an hour, in an unsuccessful attempt to get the acetylene lamps to work. Without them they at last set out for London, where they arrived at five minutes past two on Monday morning, having taken 36 hours 5 minutes from Monte Carlo, and broken Rolls’ record by 1 hour 23½ minutes.
There, as far as 1906 was concerned, the matter rested, with everyone pretty well satisfied. Jarrott had the record from London to Monte Carlo, Pope the record front Monte Carlo to London, and Rolls the best time for the French section, which was, after all, what counted, from the motoring point of view. But in 1907, the whole thing blew up again, although the first attempt on the record was an abortive one.
It was made in March by Arthur Earp, on a six-cylinder Iris, and he was so original as to cross from Newhaven to Dieppe. This is, of course, a longer crossing than Folkestone to Boulogne, but Dieppe is further south when you get there, and much better placed if you want to go south-east and avoid Paris and its environs. I do not know Earp’s route from Dieppe, but I suspect that he used N 7 as far as Roanne, and then, in order to avoid Lyons, cut across to Valence by St. Etienne. Unfortunately this proved a bit too clever, as it involves crossing a corner of the Massif Central, and in March Harp found the “St. Etienne Pass” under three feet of snow. The “St. Etienne Pass” is, I suppose, what I call the Col de la République, which the cars had to climb in the Tour de France race of 1899, and the road near Bourg-Argental is apt to be moderately snowbound in the winter. To make matters worse, Earp’s headlamps failed when the snow was at its worst, and the crew had to spend the night in the car on the top of the pass, and abandon all hope of the record.
A few days later, however, Charles Jarrott was off again, in an attempt to better his time of the year before. This time he had a 30/40-h.p. Crossley, with a four-cylinder engine of 120 by 150 mm. bore and stroke (6,785 c.c.), a new radiator no longer like that of a Mercédès, but with the circular badge encroaching on to the core in the manner maintained until the blunt V was adopted, and shaft drive. They did not have to bother about running-in in those days, evidently, as it was stated that the car had not done more than 100 miles before setting out on its blind across France.
Jarrott took three passengers, five cold chickens, many sandwiches, soup and a small spirit lamp, one pound of coffee but no mill. At Boulogne he picked up another passenger, in the form of another French chauffeur-guide, who proved as incompetent as his predecessor of the year before, and who was finally dismissed at Aix-en-Provence, with instructions to find his way back to Paris as best he could. This time Jarrott had decided to risk N 6, in spite of the level-crossings, and I rather think that some financial inducement must have been offered to their keepers to stay awake, as there seems to have been no delay on this account. Between Auxerre and Chagny, however, they were delayed for 1 hour 40 minutes through losing the way, which was not a difficult thing to do at night, with the lamps of 1907. The weather was much better than it had been the year before, but the run was not so trouble-free. They had several punctures even before they got to Folkestone, and two more somewhere south of Chalen. Moreover, they were held up for an hour and a quarter in Beauvais while they got a broken oil pipe brazed. However, they arrived in Monte Carlo at 7.30 p.m., English time, on the second day, having established a new record in 35 hours 20 minutes.
It must have seemed rather remarkable to contemporaries that all this time Mr. S. F. Edge had been neglecting this method of advertising his Napiers, and it can have come as no great surprise to them to learn, three weeks later, that a Mr. E. A. Paul had made an attack on the record in a six-cylinder Napier. I do not know whether this was the current 60-h.p. type, 5 by 4 in. (127 by 101.6 mm., 7,721 c.c.), or the 80-h.p., 6¼ by 5 in. (158.75 by 127 mm., 15,083 c.c.), which was geared for 70 m.p.h.; but it. was a very powerful-looking, if rather ugly, car, with an immensely long bonnet, and forward-mounted radiator. The weather did not favour Mr. Paul’s run, which started from Piccadilly at 8.30 a.m. on April 12th, for it began to rain soon after the party left Boulogne, and it did not leave off until they got to Lyons at 7 o’clock the next morning. But, rather remarkably with such a heavy car, they had no tyre trouble whatever, and they duly arrived at Monte Carlo at 6.4 p.m., having reduced the record time to 33 hours 34 minutes.
Although Mr. Paul had taken the precaution of including Mr. Douglas Miller, of The Referee, among his passengers, his record immediately gave rise to the criticism that the amateur status of such attempts had been in some way infringed. “Instead of a gentleman of the name of Paul making the run,” complained a correspondent to the Autocar, “the driver was really a French chauffeur of the name of Paul Attriac, who received a special fee to break the record . . .” [my italics]; and the writer went on to complain that the performance had only been possible as a result of elaborate preparations made beforehand, while the driver had exceeded the speed limit in Cannes. Mr. Paul defended himself vigorously. “I am not a French chauffeur,” he replied, “but a naturalised Englishman . . . I was not offered any special fee to break the record, but asked Mr. Edge to allow me to try the run on one of his six-cylinder Napiers . . .” The speed limit in Cannes, he added, had just been reduced from 10 to 5 kilometres an hour, anyhow.
The controversy might have been carried further, had not Mr. A. G. Brown left London on May 1st on a 45-h.p. Mercédès (four cylinders, 120 by 150 mm., 6,785 c.c.) and arrived at Monte Carlo 29 hours 20 minutes later, having thus broken the record by no less than 4 hours 14 minutes. This was a truly remarkable performance, but it was barely reported. The Autocar, for one, was, in fact, becoming exceedingly restless. “We think it high time,” it said, “that the R.A.C. took some steps with regard to the high-speed flittings by motor cars for record purposes, which have been made between London and the Riviera . . . The French do not like these records when they hear about them . . . a performance which might have been very interesting when it occurs for the first time becomes monotonous and almost offensive when repeated at intervals of a week or so . . .” and so on.
As a matter of fact, the French, or some of them, might really have been allowed to speak for themselves in the matter, as, a month before, M. Sorel, on a 60-h.p. De Dietrich, had set out from Paris at 2 o’clock in the morning, to make a record run to Nice, by a route which, be clammed, made the distance “about 1,000 kms.” (the Guide Michelin gives the distance, by the direct road, as 933 kms.) His running time for the journey was 14½ hours, but, being a Frenchman, he stopped for 1¼ hours for his lunch, so that. his total time was 16¼ hours, which was not bad going. (Even 933 kms. in 14½ hours represents an average of over 40 m.p.h.)
In any case, when an old hand like Mr. H. R. Pope set out from Monte Carlo on May 26th to try to recapture his record, even the Autocar relented sufficiently to give his run quite a good write-up, and referred to Mr. Pope as “the intrepid driver.” Once more he used an Itala, which now admitted to 40 h.p. and was of the same type as that on which he had made the run in 1906, but not, I think, the same car. This time he determined to catch the night boat at Boulogne and started from Monte Carlo at half-past three in time morning. Shortly after leaving, they nearly hit a cart that was on the wrong side of the road, and at St. Maximin, 38 kms. before Aix-en-Provence, history threatened to repeat itself in the form of a puncture. However, time delay only amounted to 11 minutes, and there seems to have been no more tyre trouble on the run. Pope still went round by Dijon, but even so he was delayed at level-crossings for a total of 45 minutes, and in one village they found the road blocked by a merry-go-round. For all that they were going very well, and the Automotor Journal disclosed that at times they were doing 75 and 80 m.p.h. Then, soon after leaving Versailles, when it looked as if they had the record in their lap, they ran into a thick white fog. That fog lasted for three hours, and, according to Pope, delayed them for two. I suspect that the boat waited for them at Boulogne, but in any ease they caught it all right, and arrived in London at 8.46 the next morning, having made the journey in 29 hours 10 minutes, and beaten the Mercédès’ record by 4 minutes. Like, Rolls in 1906, Pope, I am confident, did not exceed 20 m.p.h. while on English roads.
The motoring world of 1907 was, apparently, inclined to leave it at that, not wishing, I presume, to incur a wigging from its pastors and masters. But in these matters, Mr. H. R. Pope was somewhat irrepressible, and, having waited until 1911, he set out on June 24th from London on a record run, not this time to Monte Carlo, but to Turin.
Accompanied by a representative of the Daily Telegraph, he drove down to Newhaven in an Itala touring car, crossed on the boat to Dieppe, and there picked up a 1908 Grand Prix Itala equipped with a four-seater body and two Italian mechanics. In this he set out for Turin, where he arrived 23 hours 59 minutes after leaving London, having averaged 41¼ m.p.h. for 638 miles across France and Northern Italy. The Autocar, for one, was scandalised. “As it is the province of the Autocar,” it declared, “to chronicle all motor incidents, from gymkhanas to crimes, we putt the above drive on record in our columns, but at the same time we do not hesitate to characterise the performance as undesirable in every way . . .” No longer was Mr. Pope “the intrepid driver”; he and the Daily Telegraph representative were just called “the pair.” It was obvious after this that anyone who attempted an onslaught on the Monte Carlo record would not have a very good Press.
Nevertheless I believe that there were some bold spirits who did attempt it, but the only one I know anything about is James Radley, who made his run in November, 1913. Hadley was at this time the enfant terrible of the Rolls-Royce world, and the idea of attacking the record with his Silver Ghost made an irresistible appeal to him. To have any hope of success, however, be needed the help of the R.A.C. to expedite the Channel crossing, and the R.A.C., which by now disapproved of this sort of exercise as much as did the Autocar, proved utterly unco-operative. In this difficulty Radley appealed to the A.A., which at that time was willing to do almost anything that the R.A.C. would not, and which assisted him to such good purpose that the Rolls-Royce was through the Customs and away from Boulogne seven minutes after it had been landed. But alas! Radley had forgotten the level-crossings, which, one after another, he found shut and padlocked against him; and Harold Nockolds, in The Magic of a Name, has given an amusing account of how, when the party had failed in their efforts to arouse successive crossing-keepers to a sense of their duties, Radley’s companion Ward preceeded to break the locks with a tyre lever. This cannot have been an ideally speedy method of negotiating level-crossings, but even so, the Rolls-Royce reached Monte Carlo in 26 hours 4 minutes, having broken Pope’s 1907 record by 3 hours 12 minutes.
When the Monte Carlo Rally was instituted, the accent was placed on reliability rather than on speed, and there it has remained ever since, although if the present-day schedule is to be maintained, competitors are not encouraged exactly to dawdle. However, I wonder how long it would take someone today, if reasonable facilities were available for the Channel crossing, to drive from London to Monte Carlo, if he really gave his mind to it; and I hope I am not inciting anyone to a performance which must be characterised as undesirable in every way, if I say that I should like to know how long it would take a competent driver in, say, a Mark VI Bentley.