THE 26th MONTE CARLO RALLY
Mastery of Man Over Machine Gains Jaguar Victory
MONTE CARLO, January 21st.
THIS year’s Monte Carlo Rally could be divided into three separate events; the first consisted of a long and tiring drive about Europe which was easy and within the capabilities of the rawest amateur Rally driver, the second involved a steady run from Paris to Monte Carlo, during which the conditions and schedules got increasingly more difficult and in which the driver and timekeeper had to keep in constant touch, and the third and final part was a free-for-all ” Targa Florio ” over a 150-mile mountain route, in which driver and car had to give all they had.
All told 351 cars were prepared to leave the various controls spread about Europe and follow set routes which converged at Reims and then followed the same route to Paris, where the reliability and road section of the Rally, which was fairly simple, terminated. For most of the competitors the imposed schedules were easily maintained, there being ample time for quick meals, brief sleeps, pauses by the wayside, and, for a rather alarming proportion of the British cars, time to make repairs, fit replacements, and generally bodge-up the accessories. There were numerous makes, such as Aust in, M.G., Ford, A.G. and Standard, which suffered unnecessary troubles with electrical components, batteries, shockabsorbers, wheels, brakes and so on; typical sufferers being Mrs. Mitchell, whose ” works” M.G. was so laden with extra lamps, heaters, de-frosters, horns, etc., that the dynamo could not cope and the battery went flat, while a rear axle oil-seal failed and the bonnet would not shut; the Easton/Garnier A.C. Aceca which threw its suspension away, consumed shockers, swallowed its overdrive and destroyed its wipers; and the Grant/Davis M.G. Magnate, a ” works” car with alloy body and tuned engine, which ruined RS dynamo and flattened its battery. So the complaints went on, but fortunately the time allowed to reach controls before Paris was ample and most of the sufferers were able to visit the various agents and have the cars rebuilt, and all this in less than 2,000 miles !
The starters from Stockholm, travelling south via Denmark, Germany, Holland and Luxembourg, probably had the most interesting ” tour,” for most of the way across Sweden was on snow-covered roads, which while not being difficult was interesting. Cars from the east of Europe, from Athens, Munich and Rome, were joined by the group from Paris who were making a round tour back to their starting point. All had to coneentrate a bit on the ice-covered autobahns in Germany, while from far away Lisbon there was much rain encountered and the accent was on water in large quantities.
The run from Glasgow was probably the simplest of the lot, the only difficulty being fatigue from continual motoring, but this, of course, applied to all the routes. Arriving in Paris competitors were then given the average speeds they were required to maintain on the remaining 600 miles down to Monte Carlo, by way of the Maritime Alps, so that the navigator/timekeeper had to get busy with calculating machines. The first stage of this part of the trip was fairly easy, the time allowance to Chambery being within the capabilities of all the ” Sunday dodderers.” On this final 600 miles there were no breaks in the journey, it being accomplished non-stop apart from signing-in at controls. From Chambery to Grenoble things became more difficult for the road went over a very narrow mountain pass during the hours of darkness and to add to the hazards there was some fog. This section Was by no means impossible, for 58 competitors kept to time and lost no marks, but the slightest easing off of concentration, especially with the lower-powered cars, meant dropping behind schedule with subsequent loss of marks. It was this section of the whole road part of the Rally that sorted the competitors out, a large proportion of the entry losing marks, and 30 lost the maximum of 1,900 on this run. Immediately following came another mountain run from Grenoble to Die, not so difficult providing the driver kept at it, and then in the early hours of the morning as dawn broke there came a fairly easy Section from Die to Var, where most of the competitors arrived in bright sunshine. All this was taking place on the fourth day On the
road, after missing three nights in bed, and though the driving was not difficult, most of the crews were feeling very tired and longing for a good wash and a proper meal. With Monte Carlo now almost in sight there began a short sharp tricky part of the Col du Rochette, a narrow winding mountain pass on which the schedule called for flat-out driving from all drivers, no matter what type of car was being used. This 45-kilometre winding road brought competitors to the top of the Mont des Mules hill that descends into Monaco and here they had a braking test. On the timed sections since leaving Paris the average speeds were varied for the class of car, divided into two groups, standard and non-standard touring cars, with four different capacity classes, and it was pretty obvious that it did not pay to be running a gran turismo car or a hotted-up normal saloon, especially if you were baulked on the final section, which was very narrow. The system of giving drivers their average speeds was to quote the number of seconds allowed per kilometre, the total for each section being known. Naturally when climbing the mountainside there was a tendency to take longer than the permitted time per kilometre, especially if held up by a slower car, and this meant that the navigator had to do sonic quick sums to find the increase over the set time when descending the other side.
To conclude the road-section a time was taken for a downhill rush through two hairpin bends, over a distance of approximately 1,000 metres and stopping between two lines. Failure to stop or crossing of the second line involved a large penalty. A quiet trickle through the streets of Monte Carlo took the competitors down onto the harbour front, where every part of the car was checked over and marks lost for anything not working, or damaged, after which the ears were put in a closed park. By Thursday evening all the finishers were in and they numbered 233 out of the original 351. The missing number was made up by 42 failing to start, 71 retiring for various reasons, ranging from mechanical breakdown, through accidents, to sheer tiredness, and 5 were disqualified for infringement of regulations. Taken as a whole the first two parts of the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally could not be considered difficult, especially for a reasonable driver with any semblance of a good motor car. Anyone who had found the opening stage to Paris difficult must have been a terrible driver or else had a pathetic motor car, while the tuned section from Paris to Monte Carlo was only a dice for those with unsuitable cars, either large and gormless, under-powered, badly geared or badly prepared.
During Friday, the results of the foregoing were analysed and the best 90 were moved from the original closed park to another one, all the remaining competitors being allowed to collect their cars. The select 90 stayed in the park for another night, preparatory to tackling a rather super special-test on Saturday. * * *
A good selection of British ears left Glasgow, there being 21 Fords,. 10 Standards, eight Jaguars, seven M.G.s, six Austins, five Sunbeams, three each of Bristols and Rileys, two Vauxhalls and one each of Humber, Allard, Daimler, Rover, Jowett, Aston Martin and Wolseley. The works-entered and sponsored ears were well equipped with all the latest aids to navigation and comfort for on and off-duty occupants, and a number of new fittings were noticed in some of the privately-entered team ears. To take the works cars first, it was noticed that the Fords were fitted with darkened facia panels, reclining seats and hooded headlamps for use in fog; other Fords had average-speed indicators and bonnet louvres to deflect warm -engine air on to the screen. The Sunbeams were fitted with a device called a Halda speed pilot, which is a Swedish-made instrument consisting of a normal kilometres-per-hour instrument with a pointer for setting to the required speed and to the right of it a clock with a similar pointer which is set when the car moves; all that is then required is to see that both needles coincide for the average speed to be maintained. Austins are likewise well equipped with compasses, map-reading lights, stop-watches and additional windscreen defrosters. Continued on page 86 THE 26th MONTE CARLO RALLY—continued from page 82
An especially well-equipped M.G. Magnette of Mr. E. Lambert, later to be involved in a collision with a lorry, was a joy to see, being fitted with almost every conceivable type of gadget, such as a powerassisted passenger seat, electric razor, wash-basin, eine camera, marine-type revolving headlamp-glass wipers, and other more normal pieces of paraphernalia, demonstrating some of the time that is taken by some of the non-works-entered vehicle owners to beat their opponents at their own game.
The route for Glasgow entries goes by Stranraer to Carlisle and then down central England to Barnby Moor, where lay the first control, then on to London, where a police escort took them through the City, and finally the last British control at Dover loomed up and there was a brief respite as papers were checked and cars loaded on to the British Railways steamer The Lord Warden for transit to Boulogne early on Tuesday morning.
At Dover, on this mild winter night, the Glasgow participants began to draw in after 9 o’clock on the Monday to embark on the special boat which left at about L30 a.m. for Boulogne. Of the seventy-three starters due in at this check point two were missing. They were Dr. A. D. Mitchell, in a Wolseley, who was unfortunate enough to collide with a bus very soon after leaving the start, a sad beginning to such an adventure; the other, Reg Harris, the Wen-known sprint cyclist, reached Stranraer early but was delayed due to adjustments having to be made to the brakes of his Jaguar. He later retired from the Rally. Accompanying the competing cars on the boat were two A.E.C. coaches, one (the ” Pyjama Express “) detailed to carry baggage, and the other (the ” Wives’ Special”) taking wives and friends of the competitors to Monte Carlo. Both were scheduled to arrive at the finish the day before the Rally entrants reached the Mediterranean. * * *
On the way down to Monte Carlo from England we made contact with the route at various points and finally followed it in detail from Die to the finish. At the Reims control, where all the routes were converging before heading for Paris, everything was well organised by the A.C. de Champagne, the club being very -happy, having just had its permanent circuit at Gueux passed as safe and ready for motor racing by the French commission that is inspecting circuits for this year’s racing. The control, where competitors had to get their road books stamped, was immediately outside the headquarters of the club, with space on the wide pavements roped off for parking the cars, each starting point having its own section of pavement. There was a brief respite here for those who were on time, and a champagne lunch had been laid on by the club. Preferring motoring we headed east towards Metz and Strasbourg, the first signs of the approaching competitors being the two baby Renaults of Condrillier and Mlle. Thirion running in close formation, followed later by Gatsonides with his Phase III Vanguard. In ones, twos, threes and even fours, the long stream of cars swept past on their way to Paris, all appearing to have plenty of time in hand, taking villages at the regulation speed limit and barely showing signs of tyre scrub on hairpins out in the country. After motoring through the night we joined the Paris-to-Monte Carlo route down in the Maritime Alps and drove over some of the mountains in fog that kept us down to 35 m.p.h., heading for Digne. Over more hills the morning sun appeared for the first time for Many days and we paused on a fast downhill section and drew off the road. Here there was more urgency in the way the cars were going and most of them were pressing on, but none so furiously as the Redex service van, which we later met towing a Zephyr that had slid off the road and damaged its clutch housing and front-end. The warm sunshine and damp roads, slippery -in many shaded parts, were keeping the drivers busy, but most passengers and navigators seemed to have time to sleep, Ground’s co-driver in his Mark VII Jaguar being ” out-to-the-world ” in his special front seat. On the winding road down to the control at Var, Nutall’s XK140 coupe was all for hurrying, but was held up badly by a Jaguar Mark VII driver who was so tired he forgot to drive on the right-hand side of the road. Allard in his blue saloon, Lord Avebury (Jaguar) and Davis (Sunbeam) were all hurrying along without fuss and Mrs. Ashfield and Mrs. Clark in their Phase III Vanguard were driving very prettily. The control at Var-was on a long straight road where competitors could see it and had plenty of time to stop before it and wait until they were on time. Without any pause the ears had to leave the main road and tackle the winding climb over the Col du Rochette which developed into n speed hill-climb. Observing on a hairpin, with a view of more than a mile of the approaching road, Lespiat (Salmson), Shillabeer (Humber), Wharton (Austin), Dugat (Dyna-Panhard), Lumme (Skoda), Von Zedlitz (Mercedes-Benz), VerzijI (Fiat 1,100), Gerdum (Mercedes-Benz) and Masson (Panhard)
all treated this winding road with contempt and hurled their cars round the bends with screaming tyres. Kvarnstrom in a gigantic American Ford V8, Wollert (VW) and Nysten (1).K.W.) were outstandingly neat, whereas Kenyon (Zephyr) hadn’t a clue, Lindgvist (Opel) only just got round and Prydz found his Borgward a bit of a handful but cleared the rock outcrop. Reece’s Anglia, which lie found much to his liking for this sort of work, was baulked by a VW and much hooting told of similar predicaments lower down the hill. Baxter had a spirited dice in the 13.13.C. ” works ” Austin Westminster, which had a special four-speed gearbox with ” real ” gearlever and two-carburetter engine, his intrepid passengers wearing crush-hats; we noticed crash-hats carried in other ears, witness of the sort of road race that the final regularity test was to he. Some speculation was caused by the fabric hood of Hocquard’s Panhard Junior in a Rally closed to sports cars.
Leaving this ” speed ” still in progress we were able to reach La Turbie before the finish of the downhill braking test. Here the Skoda drivers changed down to assist their brakes, engines revving furiously. Baxter put up a fine show. but Birkett (M.G. Magnette) braked too early and lost many marks, Grantham’s Zodiac struck sparks from its Wyresoles, while Vilreon (Porsche) put up a splendid performance, stopping effortlessly from a high speed. This car made best time (41 sec.), the runners-up being Adams (Jaguar) and Becker’s Mercedes-Benz (both 42.3 see.), Dobler’s Porsche (42.4 sec.), Persson’s Porsche (43 sec.) and I,eston’s Aston Martin DB 2/4 and Nutall’s Jaguar (both with 43.2 sec.). It is significant that after their long and in later stages arduous drive, only one car—Brady’s Simea—failed this test completely, although Wagberg’s D.K.W. looked pretty brakeless (64 sec.) and Ingices Skoda scored all-time-low (11 mm. 32 sec.) in an exercise completed by the majority in under 50 sec. Brooke created a diversion when his Standard Ten arrived at, the start of the test motoring on three wheels and a brake drum; it had broken another wheel earlier on. This test concluded the road section, particularly for one of last year’s winners, Gunnar Fadum driving his Sunbeam, for his clutch disintegrated and the car had to be pushed in. Down on the Harbour front the .scrutineering was under way. Many cars already showed evidence of contact with hard objects, particularly Wagberg’s D.K.W., and the Allard was an ocld shape where the ” alligator hood” had yawned while the car was in motion. Nevertheless, marks lest were quite moderate, from 100 in the case of a Riley without a spare wheel to lesser penalties for damaged or defective lamps, Gibson’s Austin losing 30 because it had no ” audible warning of approach.” The cars having been locked away for the night many of the crews were car-less and obliged to walk, take a taxi or cadge lifts to their hotels, or remain to •drown their fatigue in the B.M.C.R.C.C. coach full of Haig Whisky. * *
It can truly be said that the competitors who accomplished the first two parts of the Rally with a sufficiently small loss of marks to get in the first 90 in the general classification were compensated for the tedium of driving for four days and three nights, for on the Saturday morning they set off on a 150-mile regularity-test over second-class mountain roads which proved to be a nine-tenths dice over the whole distance, and was nothing more than a very thinlydisguised motet. race.
After leaving the ears in the closed park overnight each crew had to present itself on the starting line at a given time and leaving at intervals they set off on the test of regularity around a set course through the mountains behind Monte Carlo. The results of the first two parts of the Rally had given first place to Adams, Bigger and Johnstone with a Mark VII Jaguar, followed by Schock and Mcill with a 220 Mercedes-Benz and Grosgogeat and Biagini with a D.K.W. It was noticeable that a large proportion of the successful 90 competitors had started front Stockholm, while outstanding among the ears was the fact that five out of the six new CitroiM DS 19 models had qualified. Peugeot, Panhard and Simea had done well by sheer weight of numbers in the entry list, but atnongst British cars Ford, Standard and M.G., in spite of large numbers at the start, had only five, one and one, qualified, respectively. Alfa-Romeo were equally poor, with only two cars out of sixteen entries in the final test. A.C. and Bristol both had one car left in. Among the British drivers Adams was ably backed up by Harper/Humphrey (Sunbeam) in fourth place, but then there was a long list of Continentals down to 17th place, taken by Ray/Cutts (Sunbeam). Although there were 24 British teams in the final 90 they were. mostly near the end, but at. least there was the consolation that they had qualified. Among the 24 British were three ladies’ teams : Mrs. Mitchell/Miss Hindmarsh/Mrs. Reece (M.G. Magnette), Mrs. Johns/Miss Moss/Miss Riche (Austin Westminster) and Mrs. Cooke/Mrs. Hamilton (Ford Zephyr).
Although the route for this mountain test was known beforehand the average speeds required for the various classes and categories was kept secret until immediately before the start. Taken generally the weather conditions appeared to be pretty fair, but even so it was obvious as soonas the competitors received the time schedules that this-150,mile drive through the mountains was going to be a miniature Milk Miele. Providing everyone could keep on time at the venoms check points around the course then the classification at the end of the road section would stand, but naturally_ the possibility of that, happening was pretty remote. It seemed quite impossible for Adams to drive his. large unwieldy Mark VII Jaguar around the narrow mountain roads quick enough to keep up with a D.K.W. for example, while the British women. teams with Austin, M.G. and Ford Zephyr could hardly hope to deal with the I,500-e.e. Porsche, especially as it had a large lead on points to begin with anyway. For some tennis, such as Sidvaderi/Coombs/Young with their Ford Anglia, the position was hopeless, for they had arrived on three cylinders, with no brakes and a second gear that kept jumping out. That they had qualified in the first 90 is all the More credit to them but it was useless for them to attempt the mountain circuit, as once the ears arrived at Monte Carlo no work was allowed to be done on them. Another team in a bad position was Mrs. Melander/Mrs. Lindberg, whose 220 Mercedes-Benz was in a very sorry state, running badly and having negligible brakes. With the fastest ears starting first competitors left Monte Carlo and set oft up into the mountainsfor some three hours of continual twists and turns, coupled with climbs-to as high as 5,000 feet and returning to sea level.
Watching on the Col :du Brous descent, just before a series of tight hairpins followed by some fast downhill bends. thaimpression of a Targa Florio-eum-Mille Miglia was heightened by the appearance of the first seven competitors, driving 1,900 Alfa–Romeo, Lancia Aurelia G.T., Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, Zagato Alfa-Romeo Sprint, 2.3-litre Salinson, and Lancia G.T.. respectively. all going flat-out downhill just about on the limit. just when it seemed that British ears were going to get left behind Wharton appeared with his ” works ” Austin Westminster, completely out of eontrid, but going at a terrific! pace and getting round the corners liy sheer skill alone; then came Adams doing wonderful things with his Mark VII fig jar, followed by Burgess dicing On tht extreme edge with :mot her Austin Westminster. Not far behind came three more ” works ” Austinin the order Gott (Westminster), Scott-Brown (MO with M.G. gearbox) and Mrs. Johns (Westminster), the last-named doing great things to keep up With the ” mere” men. Unfortunatelyy-a bit farther on the brakes failed On her Austin and she had.ne .alternative but to put the car sideways and hope for the best; it turned over and by a miracle all three women climbed out unhurt. Of the Sunbeam entries Harper and Ray were going great guns; though the latter had to stop momentarily to shut the bonnet, which had sprung open. Mrs. Coialte (Ford) and. Bremner (Riley Pathfinder) had both made very solid contact with rocks and walls, but were eentintting with badly battered motor ears. The Continental drivers were not without their troubles, for a Dyna-Panhard 54 rolled right over, smashing all the glass. ..rushing the roof and buckling a wheel; it was put back the right way up and continued at unabated speed. An American Ford VS. driven by a Swedish team, was delayed. by rear axle trouble, and the Belgian girl, Mlle. Thirion, had a puncture in her baby Renault, but. continued after fitting the spare. As was expected among the women drivers, Mine. Blanchoud hardly had to hurry in her Porsche, while Mrs. Mitchell was hurling her M.G. Magnette about furiously in it hopeless endeavour to keep up.
On the far side of the mountain circuit the roads were covered with frozen snow, while on the highest points clouds were down on the roods, reducing visibility to 20 yards just where the course began a sharp descent through numerous hairpin bends. Row the drivers of the large and unwieldy ears managed to hurl them round the blind corners, With rocks on one side and stone parapets on the ether is one of those skilled mysteries of fast motoring that is born in a driver and not developed. Of the 90 cars that had spent two nights in the closed park only 70 returned and many of them were bent and battered almost beyond recognition, while around the. circuit others lay derelict, bete a Skoda with a rear wheel broken off, there a D.K.W. crushed into a wall, aoinewhere else a Riley (Bremner’s) in a ditch. No One had been hurt, everyone had enjoyed an almighty dice, which after all is the whole purpose of motoring competition, the spectators hind loved every minute Of it, and the big factory. representatives were beginning to arrange for the collection of their heaps Of wreckage that once were shiny new motor cars. The outcome of this wonderful day of dicing was that most people had managed to retain their positions in the general classification,. the British cheered loudly for another Jaguar competition victory
(the first in the Monte Carlo Rally), the Irish and the world in general acclaimed the skill of Ronald Adams for the way he handled his car, which had run faultlessly throughout the event, and many drivers had improved their position in the results: Of the 24 British crews who tackled this motor race,, 20 arrived at the finish in spite of having unsuitable cars for this type of going, and between them they more than made up for the poor impression made by the majority during the first two parts of this long and varied rally.
The final Classification of the, whole Rally was sorted out on marks lost during the three parts of the event, but the system used was somewhat complicated. Some unfortunates, such as Mrs. Johns and Bremner, who both wrote their cars off in an attempt to do the final test, dropped 40 or more places, clown to the bottom Of the list of 90, while others Who were in no ‘,milli ion to even start the mountain test in spite of having qualified, lost the same marks and only one or two posit ions, the bottom of t he list being the lowest paint anyway. Due to reasonably good weal her .ind an absence of any serious ice or snow the 26th Monte Carlo Rally turned out to he comparatively easy and success or failure depended on accurate timekeeping during the 600-mile test front Paris to Monte Carlo, aided and abetted by skilful driving during the final Mountain Circuit trial. General Classification
Cars in books, December 1977
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