PREPARING FOR THE MONTE CARLO RALLY
SOME PROBLEMS WHICH CONFRONT THE SUB-ARCTIC MOTORIST. By T. G. MOORE. ONE of the great differences between rallies and all other forms of motor sport and one of their charms lies in the fact that in the former so much is left for better or worse to the choice of the individual. Shall he start from a distant control or a more civilised centre is it worth trying to get through with a semi-racing car or will he do just
as well with a large-engined American saloon ; is a crew of two and consequently a light two-seater car feasible on the route he proposes to follow or must he take a crew of three or four so as to have a succession of drivers fresh enough to maintain the set average on ice-covered roads, through fog, and under the other conditions which are part and parcel of the Monte Carlo Rally ?
By equalising the marks for the six most difficult starting points, the Monte Carlo authorities have this year put Athens and Bucharest out of the question for all but the most adventurous, so one was left to choose from the four remaining ones—Palermo, Stavenger, Tallinn, or Umea. The first-named seemed to have possibilities, but it appears that sea-fogs often prevail on the southern part between Reggio and Naples, there is the crossing of the Apennines to be faced between Rome and Padua, and finally the Ljubljana-Vienna sector through the foothills of the Dolomites. On the Norwegian route the roads between Stavenger and Oslo are narrow, often in bad condition, and for most of the way cling precariously to the sides of precipitous cliffs, which sounds rather discouraging. I had already been over the Tallinn route on a previous Rally, or at least over all except the new section which branches off from Riga to include Kaunas, the capital of Lithuania. This slight change did not sound interesting enough to make it worth while again undertaking the journey from the Estonian starting point, so my choice, along with that of a large number of rallyists much more experienced than I, fell on Umea, that distant but apparently cheerful starting point in Northern Sweden only 200 miles from the Arctic Circle.
One of the paradoxes of the Rally is that the large and comfortable touring car or saloon, which is the car which any sensible person would choose under ordinary circumstances for Continental touring in winter, stands little chance of success in the figure-of-eight test which decides the final order, unless of course it is prepared as carefully as those very fine Hotchkiss cars which have three years in succession borne off the premier award, and this unfortunately none of our British manufacturers are prepared to do. I wondered at first whether it would be a good idea to choose a car of under li litres, so as to be able to compete in the two classes, but decided finally that to carry a crew of three in comfort a rather larger vehicle was called for. The choice of cars of the type I wanted is rather limited, but remembering the easy running, good acceleration, powerful brakes and, not least important, the small turning-circle of the two-litre A.C.
I had tried some time before, I decided that this was the car.
One of these cars driven by Miss Riddell and starting from Tallinn last year secured the Ladies’ Cup, so Mr. William and Mr. Charles Hurlock, who control the destinies of the A.C. Company, readily consented to my taking one of their cars, and so the first and most difficult fence was surmounted. Looking round the chassis, there seemed surprisingly few things calling for alteration. The six-cylinder engine, which has required little alteration during the ten years of its existence, with the latest type of pistons gives a speed of about 85 miles an hour on the level, and the
acceleration of this 21-cwt car is consequently highly satisfactory. The gear-box permits of a remarkably quick change in all gears, so much so that we decided that it is hardly worth installing one of the self-changing pattern, which may be had on the latest A.C.s as an alternative. The ground-clearance is
ins., which should be ample on the main roads over which the Umea route passes, the chassis frame is underslung, and there are no projections underneath, while a pair of steel plates will be used to protect the engine in case of the car being ditched. Big tyres have proved their worth on former Rallies, if only because in many cases they make it unnecessary to use those irritating, if useful, components, snow chains. Unfortunately the 16 by 6 in. Dunlop low pressure tyres, which may be run at only 16 lbs. pressure. are so wide as seriously to restrict the lock, and as lock is essential for the figure-of-eight, they cannot be fitted. The standard tyre size is 19 by 5 in., which is liberal for a car weighing only 21 cwt., but it seems possible to fit 19 by 5i in. tyres and to achieve a fair low-pressure effect. There is then of course the problem of whether there will be room enough for chains on top of these larger tyres, particularly when the wheels are locked to the right and the off-side tyre runs close to the steering link. What a life I The Pneugrippa tyre cutting process seems to confer definite benefits on wet surfaces, so the tyres, whatever their size, will be treated in this way. If large tyres are used it will probably not be necessary to carry snow-chains, but ice chains, which I believe are now manufactured in this country by the Parsons Chains people, and which have small sharpened plates in addition to the chain links, are almost essential in case of a
sudden thaw and re-freezing such as took place in Sweden when the Rally drivers were there three years ago.
Powerful headlamps are of course of the utmost importance on an event such as the Rally and a pair of the special Lucas long-range pattern, similar to those fitted to the :3i-litre Bentley, will be used. This type of lamp is fitted with the dip-and-switch mechanism, so that in Sweden, where the left-hand rule of the road is in force, they will be very convenient, while the ferry journey from Sweden to Denmark should give a chance of reversing the mechanism without losing time on the road. Two Lucas fog lamps of the hooded bulb pattern will be used, and of course a spot-lamp and the usual under-bonnet fittings, while an inspection lamp and some Everready electric torches should facilitate wheel changing. Keeping warm is of course one of the greatest problems, especially in open cars, which seem to be draughty no matter how well the side curtains fit. The Sidcot suit is one obvious solution, though it restricts the movements to some extent and one needs to make sure that a sufficiently large size is obtained to go over a heavy suit and numerous sweaters. An ingenious idea sponsored by Donald Healey is to wear an ordinary heavy leather or woollen overcoat for the top part of the body, while the legs and middle are swathed in a wrap-round rug which fastens round the legs like a pair of motor-cycle overalls. A third suggestion is to wear a heavy suit underneath, then an overall suit made of light Grenfell cloth, which is windproof, and finally a heavy coat on top of everything. Whatever the top garments I have found for the legs nothing better than a pair of S.Lewis’s sheepskin flying boots, which have crepe rubber uppers, waterproof
up to the ankle, while Sidcoat suits, heavy gloves and other warming garments can also be obtained from the same source. We had hoped to install an exhaust heater in the rear of the car, but the position of the exhaust pipe unfortunately made this impossible. Since, however, a constant-voltage dynamo will be fitted it should be possible to use an electric heater for the daytime. To heat the windscreen, hot-air ducts will be led from the bonnet to ports in the scuttle, and the bonnet louvres will be blanked off. But if this proves insufficient to disperse the frost, an electric screen-heater
will be used. • Suitably equipped, as we hope, the A.C.
and its crew will ship from Tilbury in the first week in January, and sail direct to Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden, completing the journey by driving up to Urnea by easy stages. Starting from this point this year are amongst others Donald Healey on the supercharged Triumph Dolomite, and S. C. H. Davis with a Railton Terraplane, so Britain will be represented by at any rate two of its most lively cars, and following in the tracks they tread, like the page of King Wenceslas, we hope that one of them or some other of the British competitors bring back to Great Britain, after an absence of three years, the International Sporting Club Cup.