XXXIII Monte Carlo Rally

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The thirty-third Rally of Monte Carlo was very little different in style or form from its predecessors, and with the absence of a large quantity of ice and snow, it proved to be slightly easier than last year’s rally. The eventual winner came as something of a surprise to the rally world as well as to the successful crew, Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon, who even by the end of the last test did not realise that their performances had been good enough to secure first place. Most people had been expecting the powerful entry of eight Ford Falcons from America to sweep the board in the near dry conditions. However, the combination of dry road and stretches of ice did not suit the big powerful cars, which were forced to use tyres not ideally suited to either conditions, and it was only the brilliant driving of Bo Ljungfeldt both on the special stages and on the circuit at Monte Carlo that eventually brought one of the big cars into second place behind Paddy.

Above anything else, this rally could be said to have been a rally of tactics and preparation, for without a careful reconnaissance of the special sections by the crews themselves and by representatives of their teams a matter of hours before the rally passed over them, it would have been impossible for the drivers concerned to record the times that they did without taking enormous risks. Both B.M.C. and the Falcon team used information gathered by drivers going over the stages before the rally passed to confirm the location of ice patches already known to the crews and to report on the formation of any others. Stuart Turner of B.M.C. even went so far as to have three class winners in previous International rallies, Logan Morrison, Julien Vernaeve and Sir Peter Moon, driving Cooper Minis for this last-minute reconnaissance.

As usual, the rally started from various cities spread all over Europe, of which the most popular from the point of view of competitors starting from there was the Norwegian capital of Oslo, from which four of the American Falcons, including Ljungfeldt, started as well as the two red Saab Sports of Erik Carlsson and his wife, Pat Moss. The Swedes, Tom Trana and Carl-Magnus Skogh who were driving Volvo PV544s, and Donald and Erle Morley also started from Oslo, as did the Scania-Vabis-entered VW 1500Ss of Pauli Toivonen and Bernt jansson. These latter cars were fitted with an extra German-made heater. in the front boot lest the weather proved too cold in the South of France.

For the first time in many years, there was to be a start from a town in Russia and the place selected for this honour was Minsk. Quite a large proportion of British entries seemed attracted to this city on the Steppes, and these included Paddy Hopkirk in the Cooper S, Sidney Allard and his son Alan in Cortinas, Raymond Baxter in a Cooper and Michael Frostick in an Imp. It was to be the first time too that there had been a Russian entry in the Monte Carlo Rally, and no less than five cars were entered, of which three were the big 2 1/2-litre Volgas and the other two were the smaller 1,360-c.c. Moskvitchs. These did not, unfortunately, make a particularly impressive rally debut, as they had obtained Greek maps to get them as far as Belgium (primarily one supposes due to the resemblance between the Greek and Russian alphabets) but did not have any maps to take them through France. Thus it came as no surprise to learn that two of them at least had travelled straight down the N7 to Monte Carlo. This was a gallant effort, nevertheless; to try and compete in a major International event in cars of practically pre-war design and without maps, and the Russian crews received a hearty ovation for their efforts at the end of the prize-giving. One hopes that they will not be dissuaded from trying again and that they will be better prepared next time.

The next most popular – or should one say populous ? – start, after Oslo, was the French capital, Paris. The other four Falcons, whose drivers were Peter Harper, Peter Jopp, Graham Hill and Anne Hall, had chosen this as their starting point and they were joined by two of the British-built Ford Cortina GTs driven by David Seigle-Morris and Geoff Mabbs. As always, there were a large number of the big Citroën DS19s, both works entered and privately  owned, together with the odd Simca 1000 and Renault R8, also privately owned. As far as rallying is concerned, completely new cars were the three Plymouth Valiants entered by the American Chrysler Corporation. These were the first examples of the Plymouth compact to have a V8 engine and their entry marked another milestone in that Scott Harvey and Gene Henderson were the first all-American crew in an all-American Car to compete in the Monte.

The number of entrants who had chosen to start from Glasgow had fallen by comparison with previous years, but there was still the faithful few who could see the mystic attraction of starting in Britain, crossing the Channel and then running down to Monte. Among them were the two works Reliants of Bobby Parkes and Peter Roberts and the works-loaned Rovers of Ken James and Raymond Joss. The only other sizeable British entry was centred on Monte Carlo itself as this had been chosen by the works Cortinas of Henry Taylor and Vic Elford. A similar car had been loaned to Peter Dimmock, of the B.B.C., who was also starting from Monte Carlo, as were the works Citroëns of the French Champions, René Trautmann and Claudine Bouchet.

The remaining starts were from Warsaw, Frankfurt, Lisbon, and Athens, and all the routes from these various points, from which the cars had started either very late on the Friday or in the early hours of Saturday morning, converged on to the town of Reims at about lunchtime on Monday. There was an hour’s break here during which the Automobile Club of Champagne treated the crews to a selection of beverages, food, and a wash-and-brush-up. Up until this point, the various routes had been very easy to manage in the time allowed, although the Minsk starters had been driving on ice nearly all the way into Germany, and the routes that had crossed central France had been infested with freezing fog. There had already been several major retirements: Sidney Allard had hit a level crossing in Czechoslovakia with his Cortina; Pauline Mayman had been injured when a Dutch farmer crashed into her Cooper S, and Vic Elford had retired in his Cortina GT after colliding with a Peugeot shortly before Reims.

After Reims, there was about twenty-five hours of common route which all the cars would follow to Monte Carlo, and although the afternoon’s run to Gerardmer was easy and straightforward, nearly all the route from then on could be considered as leaving little time for the correction of mistakes. The first of the five special stages that were included in this final common route did not come until just before dawn and those running with late numbers were able to complete the last three tests in the insipid daylight of dawn.

None of the special stages were of the straightforward hill-climb type, but were without exception of the up-and-over kind that do not unduly favour a particular type of car. Nevertheless, the by now famous Monte formula was to be employed. This formula gives a reduction factor based on the car’s engine size and state of tune which is multiplied by the total test times of the car and seeks to put all cars, whatever their engine size, etc., on an equal basis. One effect that this has is to keep the G.T. cars out of the top places in the overall classification as they are required to go 5% faster than the Group 1 production saloons in order to record the same penalty for the same performance. If this does not seem particularly unfair on a car like the Morley brother’s M.G.-B which won the G.T. category this year, one must bear in mind that Group 1 production saloons can be persuaded to go very quickly, as witness the performance of the Cooper S, the Saab Sport, and the 1964 Falcons.

The first test, which was just north of Gap, set the pattern for the rest, with Ljungfeldt making fastest time in the Falcon with 15 min. 54 sec. and Hopkirk close behind with 16 min. 13 sec. Both these performances must have depended to a great extent on sheer nerve supported by reconnaissance as well as driving ability, for although this was a very fast test (22.5 kilometres to be covered in about 16 min.) there were a number of places where these cars would be up to speeds of about a hundred miles an hour, on a narrow road with ice patches lurking round even the fastest bend.

The second test was the longest of the rally and was originally to have been longer still but, to the consternation of the big-car drivers, about five of the faster kilometres had been lopped off the start. Despite this, Ljungfeldt still made fastest time though Trana just managed to oust Hopkirk from second fastest. It is distinctly noticeable that the Coopers had the advantage of the other two principal front-wheel-drive cars, the Saab and the Citroën, which could only make ninth and 10th fastest respectively.

The most astonishing thing about the third test is that Ljungfeldt and Bohringer managed to record such excellent times on what was primarily a small-car test. All three Cooper Ss and the two Saabs took advantage of this to do better on scratch than they had in previous tests.

In complete contrast, the fourth test, which was an ascent and descent of the Col St. Martin, was better suited to a Formula One car than to any of the rally cars as it is smooth, wide and fast. It was no surprise therefore to see Ljungfeldt, Morley and Schlesser making the three fastest times.

The final test, the Turini, is only a matter of a few miles from the finish at Monte Carlo, and even in the mildest weather one can normally expect to find at least some ice over the top. This year was no exception and there were about five kilometres of the total of 23 km, covered in ice. There seemed to be a certain amount of uncertainty in some quarters on the subject of whether to use spiked or studded tyres for this test. It was the first one on which the works Coopers used studded tyres and even then Rauno Aaltonen used them on the front only. Ljungfeldt used small Swedish studs on his Falcon, while Anne Hall in a Group 3 version of the same car tried the long spikes, which, she was to say later, were terrific on the ice but uncontrollable on the dry road. Carlsson in the Saab really came into his own on this one and managed to beat Hopkirk to take second fastest behind the Falcon.

On clocking in at Monte Carlo it was discovered that there were 163 crews classified as finishers, of which no less than 73 had not incurred any road penalty. Thus it was necessary to wait until the preliminary classification was issued the following morning, which showed that Hopkirk was leading by 31 sec. from Carlsson, Pat Moss was lying third 15 sec. behind her husband; Makinen was fourth 18 sec. behind Pat Moss, and Ljungfeldt lay fifth only 0.2 sec. behind Makinen. The circuit race was yet to come and, as the Falcon driver had to catch up 33 sec. on Carlsson to come second and 64 sec. on Hopkirk to take the outright win, there was much speculation as to the final result.

On the day of racing, Ljungfeldt drove extremely well and caught up exactly 40 sec. on Carlsson and 34 on Hopkirk, to rise to second place overall. The circuit races themselves were spoilt to a certain extent by two events which while unfortunate were thus doubly regrettable. The first occurred in the last but one race when Peter Harper, striving to improve his position despite a locking rear brake, crashed while avoiding René Trautmann’s Citroën at the chicane. The Falcon blocked the track and the race had to be re-run, which led to a lot of dispute as some people claimed that they had been unfairly treated by being made to do more laps than those cars in the other races. The other incident occurred in the last race when Ljungfeldt and Schlesser, having lapped Aaltonen and Skogh, were waved off the track by a marshal at the end of their three laps, and the two Scandinavian drivers followed them off the track having only completed two laps. A protest was filed concerning this and they were later awarded times based on their times for the first two laps.

So it was that the rally ended on a note of bickering although the rest of the rally had been remarkably free from dispute. B.M.C. had swept the board with their Cooper Ss and the M.G.-B by collecting the outright win, the team prize and the Grand Touring category; the only major award they missed was the Coupe des Dames, which went, of course, to Pat Moss in her Saab. The American Fords had the consolation of a brilliant performance by Bo Ljungfeldt and a reliability record – eight cars starting and eight cars finishing. Fords of England had been extremely unlucky in that their team of Cortina GTs bad been broken even before they reached Reims and bad luck had struck again at their team captain, Henry Taylor, who had been stopped on a special stage by the failure of his petrol pump.

No one particular type of motor car could have been said to dominate in this rally, but it is interesting to note that of the first twelve cars, six were front engined and front-wheel drive, and three of them were front engine, rear-wheel drive cars of over 3-litres capacity. – J. D. F. D.