THIS RALLY BUSINESS
THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR THE ANNUAL STRUGGLE TO MONTE CARLO
By T. G. MOORE
When friends ask you, ” Why on earth are you going on the Monte Carlo Rally, charging round Europe in the depth of winter,” it isn’t too easy to give an immediate answer. There is certainly something rather odd in the idea of leaving this centrally-heated country, where you can get regular meals composed of food you understand, and voyaging up to the fringe of the Arctic Circle, existing on pieces of chocolate and ginger biscuits, with occasional stops for meals of raw jellied eels, German sausages and Russian tea. Few people, I imagine, like trying to maintain a highly dangerous average speed over icy roads rendered more difficult by a film of moisture or 6-inch ruts frozen hard as concrete, while the joys of driving at a steady 60 without lights on unknown roads must be tried to be appreciated ; but still we do it. After a season of humdrum motoring on cars which are almost as reliable as the 8.30 to Paddington, one longs for some way of bringing back the sport and uncertainty of driving in the early days of motoring, and that the Rally provides in good measure ; and so it comes about that everyone who can beg, borrow or accumulate the necessary car crew and funds to take part in the 1936 event is making preparations for January’s conflict. Choosing the starting point is the next consideration and the marking, the type of car entered and the time and money at one’s disposal all have bearing on the final decision. In my own case this year I have started off with the idea of having a comfortable trip, which obviously entails a large easy-running car, and am taking one of the new 41-litre Lagondas. Athens is once again the most highlymarked starting point, but former experience has shown that a ground clearance of at least 10 inches is needed over this route, at any rate with a large car. The Grecian roads may have improved since I was last there, but I am not at all sure about this, while there is every prospect of a hard winter, which may well make the Bulgarian and Jugo Slavian roads impassable. Apart from this the expense and time required to
reach Athens are so great as to make it prohibitive to the average driver.
Tallinn comes next on the list, and has much to recommend it. The country is level all the way and well-mapped, there are no ferries to cause anxiety and delay, and a generous allowance of one hour for each frontier, at which the formalities do not usually take more than ten minutes, all favour a steady run with a fair amount of rest at the controls. Apart from other considerations the various countries one passes through on the way north, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are as yet little visited by the casual tourist and preserve, to a great extent, their old customs and dresses, making the Rallyist really feel something of an explorer. All these points have decided me on Tallinn as my starting point this year. Though it does not pass through mountain ranges, the Tallinn route is by no means clear of snow, in fact a few years ago there was such a heavy fall in East Prussia that competitors on their way north were stuck there a fortnight and had to return to warmer climes without taking part in the Rally at all. If the snow is more than a foot deep the roads become impracticable for wheeled traffic, but nowadays, even in northern Europe,
the motor bus services run nearly everywhere and snow-ploughs are used to keep the main roads clear. Opinions are rather mixed as to whether chains are necessary on snow, but there is no doubt that the extra grip they afford is welcome, especially on a heavy car, when one has to brake sud denly or to negotiate an unexpected corner. Even the best of chains have an unfortunate habit of breaking when one is in a particular hurry, and this year I am trying to get over the difficulty by fitting Dunlop Trak-Grip tyres on the tear wheels of the car. The Trak-Grip tread has heavy S-shaped bars running across it and though in theory the diagonal bars should cause the car to be forced sideways when accelerating, those drivers who have used them assure me that in practice this does not occur. The ordinary ” knobbly ” competition tyres, I am told, tend to become clogged with
snow accumulating between the knobs, but the Trak-Grip tread has a ” kneading ” action which clears itself as the car moves along. Probably the finest exponents of highspeed snow motoring are the Swedes, who nem able to drive at phenomenal speeds using rear chains only. The average English driver, who has had little chance of becoming accustomed to Arctic con ditions in his own country, willi probably also find chains on the front wheels ad visable, and the trick here is to use only one on the wheel nearest to the centre of
the road. In this way the front of the car tends always to be drawn into the1 middle of the track, where one naturally wants to be, whereas with a chain on the outside wheel, the front is inclined to swing into the soft snow at the side of the road. Chains suitable for this kind of duty can be readily bought in England, being made by the Parsons Company and other firms, while Dunlops and other makers provide a lighter type of chair. strap which is quite good where only-. small quantities of snow are met with.
Snow chains and ” comp.” tyres afford a reasonable grip on dry ice, but when this has been exposed to a morning’s sun the surface melts and becomes like a skating rink, and the luckless’ driver suddenly finds that his car is completely out of control. Ice chains ard the only things which avail under these conditions. Ice chains differ from the. ordinary pattern in having sharpened plates or spikes which dig into the glassy surface. Last year, in Sweden, I came across the Gunnebo chain which has spikes in addition to the snow cross-bars, and this type we found excellent under all conditions.
Chains have an unpleasant habit of stretching after they have been used for a short time, and if allowed to flap unrestrained are liable to smash mudguards and stays, and even, to come off and lock the wheels. This trouble can to a great extent be overcome by fitting chain tensioners, which pull the slack to the outside of the wheels, where it can do no harm. Another useful accessory is a chain cutter which allows broken chains to be removed with a minimum of delay. These may be obtained from E. P. Barrus, Ltd. of 35, Upper Thames Street, London, E.C.4.
Lighting plays an important part in the equipment of a Rally car, since on the northern routes the lamps are in use for 16 hours out of the 24. The average English car is well provided in this respect, particularly the Lagonda, which is equipped with Lucas P.100 headlamps.
THIS RALLY BUSINESS—continued
With foreign vehicles and especially those fitted only with 6-volt lighting sets the case is often distinctly the reverse, and one would be well advised to change over to Lucas, Marchal, or other makes specialising in conversion sets.
Fog lamps may well have a special importance this year, for an average of 35 m.p.h. has to be maintained over the last 1,000 km. of the Rally route, which includes the notoriously foggy stretch down the Rhone valley. Different drivers have their own ideas of the best type to use but three patterns which have had considerable success are the latest model Lucas, which gives a penetrating beam, the Notek, which gives a fan-shaped beam which takes in both sides of the road, and the Nebulite, which has a specially tinted lens, throwing a yellow light which cuts through the particles of water vapour without being reflected back. For map reading and following the route card, festoon lamps secured either behind the facia-board or mounted on a board which can be carried on the knee are to be recommended. When lamps are a minus quantity—a thing which often happens on the Rally—or when some job outside the car has to be tackled, a good electric torch is essential. The small pocket-lamp is handy, but the batteries soon get exhausted, and the large tubular pattern is the most suitable for all-round use. A powerful lamp called the Powerlite and which has just been put on the market, has much to recommend it. It has two lenses, one for floodlight and another giving a long
distance beam which may be used for reading signposts or even as an auxiliary lamp. The battery gives eighty hours continuous lighting, and its only disadvantage is that it is rather bulky. Windscreen-wipers have now been brought to a high pitch of perfection, and the better patterns can deal successfully with anything except driving snow or showers of mud. To combat these two conditions, Messrs. J. Lucas, Ltd., have brought out an ingenious water-spraying device. Two small jets are screwed into the scuttle with their holes directed towards the wind screen. A small handpump suitable for clamping on the steering column allows water to be sprayed on when required, and the water is kept
warm by mounting the tank under the bonnet.
With four days and nights to spend in the car, the comfort of driver and crew is obviously of considerable importance. There is much to be said in favour of a car heater, either the one heated from the engine cooling system, such as the Clayton and the Arvin, or the exhaustheated pattern, such as the Thermo-Rad. Needless to say these devices require careful fitting to be satisfactory under the jolting they receive on the Rally, and I prefer to trust in warm clothing and warming food such as chocolate, biscuits and coffee.
The stand-by of the experienced Rallyists is the Sidcot suit which, however, must be large enough to allow its owner to drive or lie down comfortably when wearing all the undergarments he can muster. Leather coats and heavy plusfours or skiing trousers form a good alternative, but one is apt to find it rather draughty between trousers and coat. Best of all probably are those leather flying suits which fasten together with zip fasteners at the waist, allowing the top or bottom half to be left off when not required.
In order to sleep comfortably in the back of the car it is essential to be protected from draughts, and a leather flying helmet is the most convenient method of doing this. The hands, of course, suffer considerably on the Rally, but I can recommend loose-fitting gloves worn over thin silk under-gloves. Last year I also took some electrically-heated gloves.