To celebrate the 21st birthday of the ever-popular Rallye Monte Carlo Historique, the Automobile Club of Monaco altered the itinerary of the event quite considerably for the first time for many years. Gone was the requirement to arrive in Monaco, and then leave again to Valence, only to return for the final night. This time the Monaco start point was revived and all routes led to a ‘Zone de Montage’ not far from Lyon St Exupéry at Bourgoin Jallieu.
Peter Collins Reports
Starting points this year were Glasgow, Oslo, Bad Homburg, Monaco, Reims and Barcelona. The lowest number of entrants was from Glasgow with only 12, while most seemed to decide that either Reims, with 97 cars, or Monaco with 96, were the best places from which to start.
Jason Wright chose the German city this year in his Stratos and had 1027kms to cover in 27 hours. He remarked, “Competition has ramped up considerably over the years with people even reconnoitring the route for several weeks before the event. It got to the point where non-competing cars were sent through stages by some teams to check where the timing marshals were and report back, but now only sensors are used and the ACM gives each competitor a GPS system, which reads the invisible sensors along the stages, so the navigators’ job is even more vital.”
Earliest starters were inevitably those from Glasgow, with 2020kms, and Oslo, with 1611kms to cover, starting on Wednesday January 31, while those from Reims and Monaco were not required to get behind the wheel until 19:00 on Friday. All met near Lyon for the fitting of the Trippy GPS from 06:30 on Saturday and the first, 39.99km, competitive regularity stage commenced at 09:40 through the mountains due south of Grenoble, before heading west for the narrow and desolate Col de Pennes, a classic Monte stage finishing in the village of Pradelles.
At this point there was little snow and first names to appear on the leader board were Norwegians Torhild and Tine Hallre in their Volkswagen 1303 S Beetle, the Micheal Muller/Gerhard Spiesburger Saab 99, and the Alfa GTV of Swiss pair Werner Pircher/Christian Klainguti in third.
Snow put in an appearance on stage five, which finished in another famous Monte town, Lamastre, and threw up another winner, Frederic Neymon and Etienne Goldet in their Alpine A310 V6, followed by Brits Peter Barker and Peter Scott in a TR4 and, for the first time, Gianmaria Aghem and Diego Cumino were in the top three with their Lancia Fulvia 1.2. After Stage 6 it was Steffi Edelhof and Birgit Binder at the top of the list in their Ford Escort RS2000..
By the end of the day, back in Valence, the net result of all that had happened proved that driving steadily and not accumulating penalty points, was a better bet than winning stages, as the overall leaders were posted as Firmin Bour and Laurent Carrion in their Alpine Renault A310, followed by Richter and the Renault 5 Alpine of Jean-Pierre Verneuil and Antonio Caldeira. At this point, Aghem and Cumino were placed sixth overall.
Monday dawned ‘avec meteo capriceuse’ and brought rain, ice, snow and even mud as the cars headed out towards St Jean en Royans for more classic Monte roads. Bour was out immediately as his Alpine broke its gearbox when leaving Valence. There were more diverse stage winners with the Golf GTi of Kjetit Engan and Bjorn Lie taking Regularity 7, followed by the Alpine 1600S of Jean-Pierre Coppola and Christian Boulanger and the Lancia Stratos of Daniele Perfetti and Ronnie Kessel. Then it was north over the Col de Menée with plenty of snow on the north side, which never catches the sun, where another Golf, in the hands of Henrik and Martin Moller-Nielsen, took first place.
The final run back into Valence involved tackling three more Cols, and on the final night in Valence, after ten regularity stages, the Aghem Lancia Fulvia occupied first overall, followed by the Bruns Ford Falcon Sprint and up into third were Stanislaw and Andrzej Postawka with their little Zastava 1100, a Czech-built Fiat 128.
The build up to the grand finale began very early on the Tuesday morning in the cold and wet, with the first car expected to start the first stage by 05:50, some 70kms from Valence. New names were still appearing at the top of the results lists, with the Opel Kadett GT/E of Raymond Duran and Sebastien Chol first, the Bruns Falcon second and Carlier third. The second stage brought the two-strokes back into the picture with Juentgen heading Richter’s Wartburg, while Bruns and his Falcon were back at the top of the list again after stage 13, a short 16kms classic over the Col de Corobin where ice lurks on all the downhill hairpins hidden under the trees. Then it was follow the Var valley towards Nice and the Côte d’Azur for some rest before the piece de resistance; the last night in the Alpes Maritimes.
Leaving Monaco on the Tuesday evening for the last two night stages, the order was Brun, Aghem, Postawka, but on the first stage, Sospel to Lantosque, starting at 21:45, Brun retired with mechanical problems leaving the Stratos of Daniele Perfetti and Ronnie Kessel in the lead, with the Greek Golf second, the other Perfetti Stratos fourth and Aghem fifth. The situation was close and tense and was finally decided at the finish of the very last stage, which was a 22.6km battle between the Greek Delaportas’ Golf and the Italian Aghem’s Fulvia.
When the cars arrived back in Monaco and the figures had been computed, the overall win went to Aghem and Cumino from the Delaportas Golf and the Polish Postawka pair in their Zastava. The Coupe des Dames was taken by Edelhoff and Binder in their Escort RS2000. Last but not least, Bruno Saby and his son finished 225th in their tiny Vespa 400 minicar, a great effort.
Well organised and huge fun for participants, this remains one of the best events of the year.