Rallye des Alpes

The 50th win is family business
Father and son team take victory in six day modern version of the great Alpine rally

The father and son team of Dirk and Nick van Praag won the 50th Rallye des Alpes in their Delahaye 135MS and were overwhelmed when, in addition to the normal spoils of victory, the President of the AC de Marseille-Provence, Dominic Castellan, presented them with the last genuine Coupe des Alpes surviving from the 1960s.

This six-day FIVA regularity event started in Geneva and arrived in Marseille six days later after a week of arduous work in the Alps. In a reversal of recent years, pre-war cars took maximum advantage of their favourable coefficient and dominated the top placings. Second overall was the Bentley 3/4½-litre of James Phillips/Tony Davies who survived all manner of problems with their Halda drive to deprive the Morgan
Plus 4 of Serge Chabbey/Sophie Matter of a higher placing than third. Competition at the top was fierce with the Healey 3000 of Barry and Roma Weir only just keeping clear of Roy and James Williams in their familiar Lagonda LG 45. They finished despite ripping a hole in the petrol tank on a rock. No fewer than 18 modern Coupe des Alpes were handed out to crews who had lost no time on the road sections and who had completed at least one regularity section per day within one second of the ideal time.

Generally the weather was kind to the 100-plus competitors, but fog and rain did harry them over the Col d’Iseran and Mont Cenis on the fourth day. One victim was the Jaguar E-type V12 of Jean-Pierre Becher/Rolf Nufer who nudged Italy on the way down to Susa, while Dave and Nikki Saunders had a puncture in their ex-works Healey 3000 and had to use fuel cans to stop the car rolling away on the steep slope while they changed the spare.

The most unusual looking car on the event must surely have been the modified Bentley 4½ of Freddie and Janet Giles. This sported a shortened hood, a 200-litre tank in place of the rear seats and lighter mudguards, all with the forthcoming Peking to Paris in mind. The most expensive was undoubtedly an original Porsche 550/1500 Spyder driven by Alpine regulars Michael Feichtinger/Michael Haberl which came through to finish second in class to Richard Fenhalls/Heather Milne-Taylor in their Alfa.

James and Fiona Willis suffered a cruel blow on the shake-down when their MGA was hit by a non-competing car, but two days later they were back in the event thanks to a rebuild. Classic rally stuff.