Col De Turini

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This piece of road still provides the focus of the world’s most famous rally. But other Monte stages have come and gone, as John Davenport explains

You are in Monte Carlo with time to kill. You’ve driven around as much of the Monaco GP circuit as you can.

You’ve hung around Casino Square in the hope of seeing at least one of the top-paid Formula One heroes. (No chance, by the way. They all reward that is populated solely by a multitude of answering machines.) You’ve discovered that a quick snack in the Cafe de Paris would have bought dinner for two in Quaglinos. So what now?

Why not take a little altitude and see where those other stars of the motoring world perform? It will only take an hour or two and there are places even more impressive than Loews, Rascasse or the Harbour Chicane.

Find your way up to La Turbie on the Comiche Sublime. If you can locate the D53 going up from Beausoleil and crossing the Moyenne Corniche, you can drive up the hairpins which, in the 1960s, tired Monte Carlo Rally cars used to race down towards the final control in Casino Square. If you go that way you will see the pink wall where two Citroen DS19s ran out of brakes and embraced one another in the little orchard behind it.

If the fiendish one-way system in Beausoleil defeats you, take the tunnel towards Nice and the Autoroute from the old Gasworks Hairpin. Keep following the signs for Nice, the A8 and the Jardin Exotique, until you are past the Jardin and out on the Moyenne Comiche heading for the big tunnel that would take you to the A8. Before you get that far, turn sharp right up the D37 towards La Turbie.

As you approach the village, you will see the Trophee des Alpes on your right. This is one of only two such monuments still existing the other is in Romania. This was erected in 6BC to commemorate the victories of Augustus. It was frequently used as a backdrop to victory photos for the winners of the Monte. Whichever way you approach La Turbie, you need to take the D53 going out of it: if you approach La Turbie from Beausoleil, you must turn sharp right as you enter the village; if you approach from the D37, you need to cross the village and bear left onto the D53, in the direction of Peille.

In just over a 1.51cm, turn left, keeping to the D53 and ignoring the road up to the observatory of Mt Agel. Just 8.51cm after leaving La Turbie, a road hairpins off to the right. This is the D22 that goes over the Col de la Madone to St Agnes — and also on down to Menton and Cap Martin, if you feel so inclined.

This was the start of the infamous twisty and narrow stage used on the Monte Carlo Rally from 1967 until 1991. Its most normal usage was to start here at the junction of the D53 and D22 south of the village of Peille and run anti-clockwise, over the Col de la Madone and then the Col des Banquettes, to rejoin the D53 just west of Peille. Jean-Pierre Nicolas has good reason to remember this road from his Alpine Renault days. He was fastest here in 1970, but in 71 broke his gearbox just over a kilometre in, before the first tunnel. In 72, he hit the wall at the exact same point and retired.

If you want to drive the complete test, it’s about 9km from the start to the hard-tosee left turn for the Col des Banquettes — a big favourite on events for classic cars as a regularity section — and then another 101cm to the finish on the D53. As an experiment in 1975, the Monte organisers used the Col de la Madone and turned right at the top of the Col des Banquettes to tackle the Col Segra, which took the stage to the top of the Col de Braus. This was a dirt road and horribly rough.

Hannu Mildcola was the man who loved it most, setting three fastest times on the Segra and nailing second place overall for his Fiat Abarth behind Sandro Munari’s all-conquering Lancia Stratos. Munari took it easy over the Segra as he knew he could take 40sec out of Mikkola on the Col de Turini, which was also tackled three times. Nowadays, even the Col des Banquettes is not in such good condition, but the Segra is strictly for 4x4s. From the end of the Madone/Banquettes test follow the D53’s hairpin descent into the valley of the Peillon. Go right on the D21 and up through the gorges to l’Escarene. Bear right and take the D2204 towards Sospel. You have now joined the famous Circuit de Col de Braus, the final test for many years on the Monte Carlo Rallies of the 1950s.

The ‘circuit’ started in Monte Carlo and came -up the D53 to La Turbie, used the Col de Braus and returned to Menton. Its 47 miles were tackled as a regularity section with controls, where the competitor’s adherence to the average speed had to be accurate to the second.

Once you have driven the hairpins of the Col de Braus, you will appreciate how tricky this might be with drum brakes and less than 100bhp on tap. The ‘circuit’ departed the 2,-?

D2204 just before the Col St Jean and took the Sospel bypass’ — the D54 — to the Col de Castillon and via a load more hairpins towards Menton. Monte winner in 1953, Maurice Gatsonides at the wheel of Ford Zephyr Six, lost just two seconds on this ‘circuit’. He was helped by friends who took buckets of water up onto the descent of the Col de Castillon, which they threw over his front brakes as he rounded the final few hairpins.

You should keep on the D2204 and descend the Col St Jean into Sospel. This is the route taken by the Monte Carlo Rallies of the 1960s and 1970s, and it brings you to the start of the second special stage of that era-is the narrow, hairpin ascent of the Gorges de Piaon, up the D2566.

Also known as Notre Dame de la Menour after the church just before the finish, this was universally disliked as, unless you had another service in Moulinet, you had to do the Turini on studded tyres from which a lot of the bite had been scrubbed off. Lancia were the first to commit a service van to Moulinet, and everyone else had to follow suit

This test was replaced by the Madone/Banquettes stage for the 1969 Monte.

Finally to the Turini itself, possibly the most famous 23km of road in rally history. It was first used when special stages arrived in 1961, and has been a regular item ever since. Most frequently, it was incorporated into the route so competitors did it once from Moulinet to La Bollene, and twice in the opposite direction.

As you wind your way up to the summit from Moulinet, you will pass the short straight where, descending to Moulinet in 1967, Ove Andersson and I hit the stone that cost us victory. The bump opened the track of the Lancia Fulvia and we had to drive the rest of the test, and all the way to Sospel, before getting it fixed. We lost the rally to Rauno Aaltonen by just 13sec.

That descent also saw us in trouble the following year, when the Turini was almost clear of snow and we ran on racing tyres. An icy patch with cars parked on the outside saw us ding three or four in our attempts to slow for a hairpin. One guy was so incensed — not with his own stupidity for parking his car on a stage, but with us for denting it — that he turned up at the Hotel de Paris demanding recompense. I’m not sure exactly what Cesare Florio, the Lancia team manager, said to him, but I think it would translate into English as ‘move away and have sex’. At almost the same place as we clouted those cars, in 1964, Bobby Parkes and his co-driver Arthur Senior went off the road in the works Reliant Sabre Six. They left it some way above a hairpin and rolled down to the road beneath, landing back on their wheels. Imperturbable Bobby promptly asked, ‘Which way?’ To which the equally relaxed — and correct — answer was ‘Downhill’ At the top of the Turini, you are at one of the great spots for rally spectating. Whichever way you approach it, there is a blind right-hand bend over a crest at the first junction, a short straight, and then a blind left-hander over a crest at the next junction to start you on the downhill slalom.

For any rally crew, to burst into the TV lights and flash bulbs for the first time, and then dive back into the icy darkness, is a character-building experience. In 1966, the BMC team had Tony Fall wired up to record his pulse and breathing rate. If! recall correctly, his heart rate hit 180 over the top of the Turini.

If there is any ice and snow around, it is here. And it was common for spectators to shovel more onto the road to improve the spectacle. This was expected on the summit; just occasionally, though, spectators further down tried the same thing and crews were caught out, sometimes with dire effects.

Vic Elford, winner of the Monte in 1968, fell victim to this in 1969. He crashed once on thrown snow going down to Moulinet, and again, terminally this time, just before Sospel. In 1968, Gerard Larrousse, his Alpine Renault dicing for the lead with Elford’s Porsche, hit ‘extra’ snow on the climb from La Bollene, slid off and wrecked the front of the A110 on a parapet. He and co-driver Marcel Callewaert were so incensed that, ‘acting on information received’, they set about spectators who’d been shovelling snow, and the Gendarmes had to be called out! Although the Col de Turini from La Bollene to Moulinet or vice versa is the classic test, the road from PeIra-Cava to the summit, the continuation of the D2566, has also been used as a test in conjunction with the D70 from La Bollene.

If you approach from Moulinet and turn left at the summit’s first junction on the summit, you will pass the Hotel Trois Vallees at the first left-hand bend. This was a favourite resting place for drivers practising the Turini in the 1960s. They would generally emerge as it got dark, like vampires from their crypts, and after a drink in the bar overlooking the start of the descent to La Bollene, would spend the next six hours trying to refine their knowledge of the Turini.

Incidentally, limo Makinen named the house directly opposite the bar the ‘Bad Girls House’. Contrary to what you may think, it was a refuge for unmarried mothers from Nice. And anyway, BMC expenses would never have run to such luxuries. From the top of the Col de Turini, you have several choices to complete your tip. You can either descend to La Bollene and follow the River Vesubie down its gorges to the main N202 and thence back to Nice on the dual carriageway.

You may prefer to go via the rugged run to PeIra-Cava. In that case, you can descend via Luceram and on to l’Escarene.

You could even detour a little further and go via the Col St Roch to Coaraze and Contes. The fonmer is a charming artist’s village with a superb view. Of course, you might just encounter a ‘bad girl’ from up on the Col de Turini. In which case, the Monte Carlo Rally will be coming past you in the third week ofJanuary, 2002. Cl

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