The Monte-Carlo Rally in Retrospect
The 1958 Monte Carlo Rally, thanks to seasonal weather in Europe and England, turned out to be a thoroughly tough, proving contest, from which France proved victorious through the medium of a meticulously prepared and superbly driven Category 2 Renault Dauphine.
So severe were the ice and snow that the Rally was very definitely decided on the road and choice of starting point turned out to have played a major part in the gamble—some competition managers have an affinity for Paris but this route suffered the worst conditions of all and the B.M.C. had all their crack teams eliminated.
In a Rally in which 243 cars retired before the finish of the first stage, every one of those 59 which clocked in at Monte Carlo within the time limit can be considered a premier marque—they comprised six Alfa-Romeos, six Sunbeams, five each of Citroen DS19, Peugeot and Ford, four Simcas, three each of D.K.W., Volvo and A.C., two each of Jaguar, Renault, Triumph and Standard and lone examples of Opel, Panhard, M.G., Borgward, Austin, Saab, Fiat, Porsche, Laurie, B.M.W. and Rover—note these names well, buyers of the world ! Of these, the clocking in on time of the little Fiat 600 was miraculous and only Walker’s bulky B.M.W. 502 got in of the Munich starters. Clean sheets were retained by only nine of these 59 survivors of the road section— an honour shared by a Sunbeam Rapier, an Opel. two Simcas, a Panhard, a Borgward, a Volvo, a Citroen DS19 and an Alfa-Romeo Giulietta; the winner-to-be had lost 10 marks. Eight of those without loss of marks were Category 1 cars, the only Category 2 car being an Alfa-Romeo.
This list of road-section survivors is even more impressive when studied in conjunction with the numbers of each make which started, as shown in a table at the end of this Editorial. Nothing like all of the 243 retirements had gone out with mechanical troubles, of course. The majority either had cockpit malaise (i.e., crashed), or had been unable to keep to the time schedule over slippery roads. It is impossible to relate ditching under winter conditions to ineffective roadholding, but clearly those makes which survived are impeccable on this count, or had super super-drivers! There appeared to be less electrical trouble and fewer of the serious mechanical calamities amongst British cars this time, compared to the much easier Rally of 1956 (the 1957 Rally succumbed to the European petrol famine). A Ford had gearbox trouble early out from Glasgow, requiring a replacement, Pat Moss’ M.G.-A eliminated itself on a concrete post, Nancy Mitchell found an M.G. Magnette too slow, the B.B.C. Humber was reported going slowly near Paris, Bueb’s Sunbeam Rapier seized its engine and Merrick’s Sunbeam broke a dynamo bracket. One of the works Renault Dauphines retired with cylinder head maladies, an M.G. Magnette was delayed with a jammed bonnet-cum-radiator grille and had a weak battery and an oil leak, the Wilkins/Leston 1.5-litre Riley had carburetter trouble, suspected back-axle trouble, and is reputed to have holed its sump after sliding over a damaged brick wall, while Gott altered the shape of his Wolseley 1500 in a snowdrift. Allard rolled his Ford Zephyr over, and the I.T.A. Humber suffered distributor and fan-belt trouble. The Baxter/Reece B.B.C. Aston Martin had temporary lighting failure and the heavily-publicised Major Benham of the Standard Ensign Army team was eliminated soon after the the start when it hit a Sunbeam, reputed to have been reversing across the road. Edward Harrison’s Ford had but one gear left in its three-speed gearbox and failed during the final mountain test. A Glasgow starter to fail early was a Jaguar, with engine trouble, while another Jaguar had an electrical fire. The Vivians’ Singer Gazelle was lavishly equipped and perhaps top-heavy, for it overturned in a ditch. Greta Molander’s Saab had a blown gasket en route but got to the finish. Rosemary Beaumont crashed Mrs. Hall’s Ford Zephyr.
If high praise is due to the 59 surviving competitors, those who got through the 650-mile eliminating test deserve the maximum acclamation. Timing to tenth seconds in a regularity contest sounds a sad anti-climax to the conclusion of a severe winter rally but, in the event, this drastic final test of tired competitors and much-travelled cars was virtually a high-speed run amidst more ice and snow. However, when study is made of the table on page 138 it should be borne in mind that those who fell out on this test were still given a place amongst the 59 finishers in this year’s Rally, non-starters also being included, albeit after heavy loss of marks. Although the start-line congestion was considerable and although originally the organisers were said to have done Peter Harper’s Sunbeam a grave injustice by regarding it as a Category 2 car and timing it accordingly, in the end the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally was settled amicably amongst the 38 cars, comprising five Alfa-Romeo Giuliettas, five Citroen DS19s, four Sunbeam Rapiers, three each of Simca and Ford, two each of Jaguar, D.K.W., Volvo, Peugeot, Renault, Triumph and Standard and lone Borgward, Porsche, A.C. and Fiat 600 cars. It was a truly arduous finale to a very tough Rally; some of the qualifiers didn’t so much as start, Sunley’s A.C., for example, having severe gearbox trouble.
On this final circuit the Garnier/Jopp Sunbeam Rapier retired with dynamo-bearing failure, an M.G.-A which had started with only two usable gears in its gearbox lost those and stopped, Cotton’s Citroen DS19 toured home, Frere’s Borgward had obviously used up all its brake linings, the B.M.W. retired and Banks found the schedule too high for his Rover 105S to maintain. Outstanding, then, is the fact that Grimm’s Fiat 600 came back to the sunshine of Monaco on time, that Nellemann’s Category 2 Ford Zephyr finished looking particularly clean and untroubled and that two Standard Tens, Corbishley’s a Category 1 car, were amongst the finishers, and eventually the highest placed of the hard-hit Glasgow starters.
Even now the Monte Carlo Rally wasn’t over, because marks were deducted, after this 2,500 miles of high-pressure motoring, for damage and dents. Here Gatsonides’ Triumph TR3 was a sufferer.
So to the final results. Victory went to the Category 2,845-c.c. five-speed Renault Dauphine so ably driven and navigated by the Frenchmen, G. Monraisse and J. Feret. Second place was taken by the Gacon/Borsa Category 2 1,290-c.c. Alfa-Romeo Giulietta, third place by the Category 1 normal 896-c.c. D.K.W. saloon driven by Vold-Johansen/Kopperud. To many the D.K.W.’s placing will seem especially meritorious, as this was the highest-placed series-production touring car. One of the Volvos was fifth, the Harper/ Phillips/Elbra Sunbeam Rapier sixth and first British car to be placed. Mme. Blanchoud/Mme. Wagner scraped in with 5 sec. to spare. to win the Coupe des Dames for France, the only women to finish out of 14 entrants, and the Volvos confirmed the promise they have shown by capturing the Team Prize.
The first three in each category, regardless of class were:—
Category 1 (Series Production Touring Cars)
Category 2 (Grand Touring Series Production Cars)
Even if you consider that luck plays too big a part in the Monte Carlo Rally for these successful cars to be called entirely superior to those lower down in the list of final placings, it cannot be denied that all these six makes must be outstanding motor cars. Outright victory went to a small rear-engined French car with all-independent suspension. Second place was taken by a high-performance twin-cam Italian car of conventional chassis layout. Third place was secured by a three-cylinder, two-stroke, front-wheel-drive D.K.W. Clearly design features regarded as unconventional in Britain have been conclusively proved in this 1958 Monte Carlo Rally. No potential buyer of a car with its engine at the back, all its wheels separately suspended, or with its front wheels driven or with a two-stroke or twin o.h.c. engine need have any qualms as to the reliability and practicability of such layouts and specifications, at all events as designed and built by Renault, Alfa-Romeo or D.K.W. Continental cars led the driving test results which didn’t affect Rally placings, an Alfa-Romeo finishing ahead of a Porsche, with a British Triumph third. Reverting to the Rally, the incredible Grimm/Schuler Fiat 600 was eventually placed 51st, beating two A.C.s, Saab, Rover, Jaguar, Ford, Sunbeam and B.M.W. entries.
Rootes have reason not to be too dismayed by the results, especially as the Sunbeam Rapiers which finished fifth and eighth have been superseded by an improved Rapier possessing many of the features incorporated in the Rally Rapiers, and a fractionally larger engine. Ford scraped the brakeless Nellemann Zephyr into tenth place, Gatsonides’ battered Triumph TR3 was sixth, but B.M.C. didn’t get any of their carefully-prepared cars home, and no B.M.C. product finished higher than 33rd—the Paris route had taken its toll!
Bill Banks was the only entrant for the Concours de Confort contest to finish the road section in the time limit, and that excellent British comfort car, his Rover 105S, deservedly won this prize. However, when all has been said and done, overall the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally has proved convincingly the worth of that great little rear-engined French car, the Renault Dauphine, one of which is owned by H.M. the Queen. It is to the everlasting credit of its drivers that, although, starting from Lisbon they had an easier journey than many, the low-hung spot-lamps and exposed horns on the Renault suffered no damage during that fierce 650-mile final test over the ice and snow. Doubtless Renault Dauphine sales the world over will be stimulated by its great success, in this toughest of post-war Monte Carlo Rallies, by navigator Monraisse and driver Feret. The winning car was a special version (not, however, the Gordini-Dauphine) but the normal Dauphine is available in this country for £796 7s.
We conclude this survey of the great winter rally with some statistics and results which we hope will be of interest in retrospect.
Nigel Orlebar, who died aged 87 in September, joined the VSCC in 1936. His mother had competed in pre-WWI hillclimbs in a Sizaire-Naudin. While still at school, Nigel bought a GN…
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