Charles Meisl Has a Hectic Pre-Rally Experience
Most intending Monte Carlo Rally competitors are at least sure of their co-drivers. After all, the co-driver is just as important as a well-prepared car and a meticulous time-schedule.
Not so in my case. When my good friend Zdevek Trejbal asked me to join him for the Rally, I was naturally more than delighted. The fact that he lives in Czechoslovakia seemed to make things a little difficult, but I felt sure he’d make Monte Carlo, our starting point, well before Sunday, January 22nd. Halfway through December he informed use that be had been offered the wheel of a Simca “1,1110” coupé and the entry had been accepted by the organisers. All well and good so far. We had arranged to meet in Paris on the 16th or 17th to have ample time to check over the preparation of the car and to get to Monte on Thursday 19th.
Sunday the 15th he telephoned to say I should be ready, on Tuesday he still hadn’t a passport and Wednesday, when time was getting really short, we decided I should fly to Paris next morning to persuade the works to lend me the car with a French co-driver, but leave things sufficiently vague to enable him to drive, should he succeed in getting out in time after all. You can imagine that I was getting a little nervous by now, having looked forward to this, the most classic of all Rallies, for many years.
However, I duly arrived at le Bourget at lunch time Thursday and managed to get the car from the great Amedee Gordini himself. He telephoned Robert Manzon in Marseilles, and this man, who is one of the stars of the Equipe Gordini, agreed to be in Monte on Friday. I drove down to Monte that night and on arrival informed M. Nogues, the director (and “father”) of the Rally, that Trejbal could not make it; he had actually received a telegram to that effect already. Much argument ensued, the organisers not being too keen to allow a substitution of drivers at this late hour. On Saturday, 11 a.m., they eventually agreed; imagine my relief! I had met Manzon in the corridor outside M. Nogues’ office one hour previously, and after the welcome news we set to discussing the details. Fortunately, I had prepared maps, time-schedules, etc., the car was in fine fettle, the weather good, what else could one ask for?
I won’t go into the details of the Rally, it has been written up so often already. Suffice to any we lost three minutes, i.e., 30 marks, between Digne and Grasse, partly because of the appalling road surface, partly because the engine’s distributor points got tired of opening and closing ”X” times for 2,100 miles. Still we managed to do the best time in our class for the acceleration—braking test and so be ninth in the general classification and second on road-markings in the 1,100-c.c. class.
So ended a really hectic Rally, not only from the driving point of view, but because of pre-Rally panic.
Here’s to next time in this classic event.