XXXII Monte Carlo Rally
This year's Monte Carlo Rally enjoyed conditions which reflected the hard winter that we have been having in this country in the past two months. There was snow in plenty for the two hundred and ninety-six starters and for the thirteen unlucky crews that started from Athens there was just too much snow as they all failed to reach Belgrade. This unusual event was caused by an abnormally bad snowstorm which completely blocked the roads leading from the southern capital of Yugoslavia, Skopje, to the capital, Belgrade. This disaster was a great setback for the Citroën works entry as three of their best crews were starting from Athens but despite this blow, other Citroën crews took second, fourth and fifth places in the final classification together with the team prize.
First again in this most publicised of all International Rallies, was the incredible Erik Carlsson in his Saab who put on an impeccable display of driving technique in varying conditions to finish ahead of Pauli Toivonen (Citroën) by ten seconds after the handicap formula had been applied to their times over the six special stages. On the circuit test which follows the rally, the flying Carlsson drew even further away from the Finn and opened the gap to a clear 20 seconds to confirm his supremacy. However, this year the crown did not sit so firmly on the victor's head, for over the special stages, Carlsson and all the rest were well and truly beaten by a hitherto unknown force in European rallying. Bo Ljungfeldt and Gunnar Haggbom, both from Stockholm and driving an American Ford Falcon Compact, managed to put up the fastest time on scratch, over every single stage and even after the formula had been applied to these times, they would still have beaten Erik by eight seconds. I say "would have beaten" because they had lost 31 minutes on the roadside at Bourges when their clutch packed up and had to be replaced. Still, the knowledge that they could so easily have won will cause the Europeans to be a little more careful what they say about American cars in the future and may well encourage the Americans to enter rallying in force.
Much the same fate as that of the Athens contingent attended the Frankfurt starters, who found their way from the start to the next controls blocked by drifting snow and eventually, they had to use the Autobahn as part of a large diversion to try to reach the controls. Most of the crews either took this decision too late or found that they could not cover the extra mileage within the time available. Thus only a handful of the Frankfurt starters were still in the running by the time that the Bad Driburg control was reached and these included the two works Sunbeam Rapiers of Peter Harper/Ian Hall and Tiny Lewis/Keith Ballisat. The privately entered Rapier of John la Trobe/Bill Bengry/Julian Chitty was one of the unfortunates that could not get clear of the start while the only other British crew, Dr. Sheila Aldersmith and Mrs Jean Aley, were non-starters.
The six Lisbon starters were more fortunate with their weather and car number one, Doug Ray and Frank Herwin in a 1,340 c.c. Allardette, reached Chambéry without penalty although they were later to drop out with electrical failure. As usual, there was a large entry starting from Paris and this included the entire Triumph works team of three Vitesses and a TR4 as well as Ford's new acquisitions, Pat Moss, David Seigle-Morris and Peter Riley. B.M.C. was also starting three of its works drivers from Paris and for Pauline Mayman, this was her first major International in the coveted position of number one driver while Timo Makinen, who did so well on the R.A.C. in a Mini-Cooper, was driving an Austin-Healey 3000 in the company of Christabel Carlisle. The third B.M.C. starter from Paris was the Mini-Cooper of Paddy Hopkirk and Jack Scott whose old team mate, Peter Procter (Sunbeam Rapier) had chosen the same start, together with Sunbeam's entry for the Coupe des Dames, Rosemary Smith and Rosemary Seers. All these crews reached Chambéry except for the unlucky Pat Moss who retired her Anglia at Geradmér with a shortage of big-end bearings. This was not an auspicious start to the year for Pat who suffered the indignity, as did her new co-driver Miss Elma Lewsey, of arriving in Monte Carlo by train.
The Glasgow starters who normally comprise the large majority of the British entries had a rather more hectic time and the general consensus of opinion amongst them at Chambéry was that the worst weather had been encountered on the Saxon side of the Channel. The original route through England had been similar to last year when there was a passage control at Banbury, but so many roads were blocked and were being blocked as the rally started on the Saturday morning, that the R.A.C. decided to reroute the competitors down the M 1, which is a black-spot for club rallies held in this country. Even so, the blizzard that enveloped the M 1 made fast driving hazardous and there was the odd shunt here and there. Tish Ozanne, driving on her first major rally since her accident involving a fire extinguisher last year, was unlucky enough to hit a lorry in driving snow shortly after the start but she was not seriously injured this time. The three members of the newly formed Reliant rally team were starting from Glasgow but apart from the two supercharged Allardettes, driven by Sydney and his son Alan, and the B.M.C. works cars of Logan Morrison/Brian Culcheth (Group III Mini-Cooper) and the rallying clergymen, Rupert Jones/Philip Morgan (M.G. Midget), the works teams appeared to have abandoned Glasgow as a starting point.
Anne Hall would probably have preferred to start at Glasgow despite conditions on the M 1 as her belief that a Monte start is her bete noir has been amply confirmed. This year, she was driving one of the Ford Falcons with Margaret Mackenzie and the Americans had chosen the Monte for a starting place so that their recceing would be made much easier. Things progressed well until Lodéve which was the control preceding the one at Montauban and between these two, the route included a steep and icy hill which was insurmountable without the aid of studded tyres, chains or similar non-skid attachments. Anne and Margaret were running on plain tyres and, naturally enough, they came to a halt. When they did get going again after changing their tyres, they were met by cars returning down the hill and were told that it was blocked. In fact, it was not blocked, for the cars stationary above were the other two Falcons who were also changing their tyres, but the two girls took the situation at its face value and turned round. They were over time late at Montauban and thus had to retire a car that was going perfectly. The other two Falcons made it to the control in time and finished the rally.
Amongst the other starters from Monte Carlo, were the two English Fords of Henry Taylor/Brian Melia and Gerry Burgess/Ian Walker. Henry was driving a Cortina on its second International appearance but he somehow managed to overturn the Cortina that was provided for the rally during the recce, when the wheels got caught in ruts of ice and the car failed to take a corner. By good fortune, however, David Seigle-Morris had brought his Cortina down to Monte for a recce although he was driving a Group III Anglia in the rally itself and after a little bit of midnight oil had been burnt in the garage of the local Ford dealer, Henry and Brian had a car for the rally. During the long, two day section before Chambéry, they ran into further trouble when their dynamo packed in but where they coasted to a halt, they found a helpful French Anglia owner and as an Anglia dynamo fits a Cortina... It is not recorded how the Anglia owner got home that night and it is to be hoped that the local Ford service were told of his sacrifice. The Burgess/Walker Zodiac had a more trying experience when they slid off the road after changing back onto ordinary tyres in an attempt to conserve their spikes in case none were available at Chambéry. The Zodiac fell into a ditch and all that was recoverable until the following day was the crew.
An interesting team that started from Monte Carlo was that of the three Rene Bonnet Missiles. These cars are based on the Renault Dauphine with the 1,093 C.C. Gordini engine and are the possessors of an attractive fibreglass body. One of the three cars was unable to start and misfortune struck the other two, one colliding with a camion within ten kilometres of the start and the other went O.T.L. before Chambéry.
The general outline of the thirty-second Monte Carlo Rally was much as before with eight starts in various corners of Europe from which the competitors have to cover routes of about 2,000 miles, all converging on Chambéry. From Chambéry to Monte Carlo is 500 miles along the tortuous roads that the rally organisers have chosen and it is on this stretch that the rally is really won or lost. Included in this common route are six special sections which traverse some of the most difficult mountain roads in this part of the French Alps. These special sections are timed to the second and a competitor's times over these are added together and then multiplied by the formula which has been evolved to reduce the advantages conferred by a larger engine or a high state of tune. This formula has come in for a great deal of criticism, especially from the G.T. drivers who claim that it has handicapped them out of the rally, but it is generally recognised as being the best and fairest yet discovered and, if the Monte is to have any formula at all, most people would prefer the one now used.
The first of the special sections started almost straight out of Chambéry and comprised the triple ascent of the Col du Granier, the Col du Cucheron and the Col de Porte. This section is 49 kilometres long and represents the stiffest test of the whole rally especially so as the drivers have just spent their first stationary half-hour since the rally started in the comparative comfort of Chambéry. The quickest time was recorded by Ljungfeldt in the Falcon, for here, as on all the other sections, nothing seemed to be able to beat the incredible times recorded by the Swedish hill climb expert. His time of 40 min. 42 sec. represents an average of 45 m.p.h. which is incredible when one considers the amount of snow and ice that was covering these roads. Toivonen was second fastest in his Citroën with the eventual winner, Carlsson, third, a mere 45 sec. behind him.
From the bottom of the Col de Porte, the cars motored through Grenoble to the village of Uriage at the foot of the Chamrousse which was to form the second special section. It should be remembered at this point that the parts of the route between the sections still form part of the rally and any car which does not keep up the 55 k.p.h. average on these "liaison" sections loses marks at twice the rate per minute than it did before Chambéry. The Chamrousse is a 35 kilometre loop, starting and finishing at Uriage and it winds up into the mountains above Grenoble to a height of 4,800 ft. The road is modern and quite wide so that cars may pass easily but no two bends on it are alike and it needs a reliable navigator to read off the pace notes that have been compiled on the recce in order to tell the driver the severity of the bend ahead. The first three were as on the Grainer and the works Citroën of Neyret, Bianchi and De Lageneste were very close behind them.
There was a long gap before the next special section and the route went south over the Alpes du Dauphine and then west to Bedoin at the foot of Mount Ventoux, scene of the famous hillclimb and now to be used for the third special section. The night had been cold but clear for the first sections but between Chamrousse and Ventoux it began to snow heavily and there were patches of fog on some of the high places. In one of these patches on the Col de Perty, the Rapier of Rosemary Smith left the road and plunged over the edge. Both the girls were injured slightly and they were most fortunate that the German drivers of a Mercedes 300SL stopped to help them, as it was many days before their car regained the road. The falling snow proved to be a real problem during the ascent of the Ventoux as it froze on the windscreens of the cars despite the combined efforts of wipers and heaters. The European hill-climb champion, Hans Walter, lost seven minutes at the start of this section as he tried to arrange his rather inadequate heating apparatus so that he could see through at least a small part of his windscreen.
On this section Ljungfeldt managed to open out a convincing lead over the other cars that had been challenging his supremacy and beat Toivonen by 47 sec. The Volvo of Olle Dahl was surprisingly quick, only eight seconds behind Toivonen, and this supports the theory that conditions were a little easier during certain periods.
The final three sections were all within a short distance of Monte Carlo and consisted of two short seven kilometre climbs at Levens and the Col St Roch and the now famous section over the Col de Turini. The Levens section came first and this was on a dry, gravelled surface winding uphill where the big cars were able to use their power to the full. Both Ljungfeldt and Makinen were well clear of Carlsson on this hill and yet the next three cars were all within two seconds of Erik. The Turini, by contrast, was well snowed under and studded tyres were essential in order to achieve a fast time. The Scandanavians were in their element and only Bianchi in the Citroën split the progression of Ljungfeldt, Toivonen, Aaltonen, Makinen and Carlsson. The final section up the St Roch was originally planned as a 14 kilometre ascent and descent but owing to a large patch of ice at the summit just prior to an unfenced hairpin, it was decided to curtail the section and just use the ascent. There was no other snow anywhere on the St. Roch and so the works crews were busily engaged in changing studs to plain tyres between the Turini and the St Roth. Eugen Bohringer, 1962 European Rally Champion, managed to record third fastest time on this last section behind Ljungfeldt and Makinen. This was a good performance in the Mercedes which seemed to be slightly outclassed this year after its second place in more favourable conditions last year.
At the finish of the rally in Monte Carlo, the cars were put into a parc fermé to await the circuit tests on the Thursday morning. These were races run in heats over three laps of the Grand Prix circuit and the times for each of the cars was added to the corrected times over the special stages to provide the final classification. Normally, only the top 120 in the preliminary classification are allowed to enter for the circuit test but as there were but 98 finishers, some of the other cars that had reached Monte too late to be classified were allowed to race to give a full programme for the spectators. Twenty-seven crews had finished the rally with no road penalties and amongst these were the two contenders for the Coupe des Dames, Sylvia Osterberg and Ewy Rosqvist, Sylvia looked all set to carry the day for Volvo as she was leading on the special stage times but she spun during the races, damaging the car and losing enough time to give the Coupe to Ewy.
Friday saw the usual driving test on the promenade which is just a tourist attraction and a chance for Paddy Hopkirk to win some more money while the presentation of the awards took place at the palace on Saturday morning. So ended one of the toughest of all Monte Carlo Rallies with individual victory to Carlsson and the Saab and the team prize to Citroën. One wonders when the manufacturers of more "conventional" motor-cars will take their heads out from under the mass of leaf-springs and solid axles that now befuddle them and realise that their products are just simply out of date.—J. D. F. D.