So how did it end?
And did a crew of total novices that set out from Glasgow looking for adventure 5 years ago manage to turn into a crack regularity rally squad?
Well when you left us, we were in Valence, 42nd overall just 341 points behind the leaders, with 3 stages and a long leg back to Monaco for a short pause before attacking the legendary Turini night stages ahead of us. But it’s fair to be said that the crew and car were beginning to look a bit rough around the edges after 3 long days at the wheel. Although the latter was still firing at the first push of the button, the tyres were looking extremely worn.
Leaving Valence in glorious sunshine we struck out South East for the first stage, an 18km special which while not particularly challenging saw us struggle to get our heads in gear and even had a mild panic at the start line with too many buttons to press and not enough hands in the “pre-launch sequence”… but although we were 51st equal on the stage, we had just 4 seconds more error than the leader. So far so good, we’d now sneaked up to 40th.
Stage 11 saw us avert near disaster when a power spike in the car saw the trip reset half way through the stage… without a measure of how far we’d come, it’s impossible to work out an average speed. However some quick thinking by Stuart saw us back on the right speeds and while we dropped 12 secs over the stage this was really a great result considering and overall we’d now sneaked up to 38th.
One of the features of the Tuesday is that there are no halts on the run back to Monaco: you leave Valence with 9.5 hours to get home and a large amount of countryside to cover which bathed in sunshine was absolutely spectacular. By this point we’d been having increasing trouble with the slow puncture (which we’d switched onto a rear wheel yesterday) but which was now needing air before every stage start and risked compromising our schedule if we had to stop on the road sections. However ZR12, the run into Greolieres is an area and road that I know well, and with both of us now fully awake and the trip behaving itself, we put in our best result of the rally, coming home 2nd! Given we’d really struggled to find the rhythm this was exceptionally pleasing and would take us up to an outstanding 32nd in the overall standings.
We pushed on from stage end up over the Col De Vence where so many new road car launches are held due to the spectacular nature of the road and the views. The descent in particular was a stretch that I really wanted to have a clear run at given the number of times I’ve driven it, but just as we were coming to the summit we were overtaken on a blind crest by two completely mad Japanese in a Datsun 240Z who were running late due to a small pause they’d had while discussing with the French police and their radar gun. Now the Japanese guy was pushing hard, but we were in thick fog and my local knowledge meant he was never going to shake us off… eventually he missed his braking point into a slippery hairpin and shot straight up the entry track to a horse ranch (and luckily NOT over the edge) while we continued down the rest of the Col to a rendezvous with a local friend who was to collect our spare wheels and roof rack to try and lighten up the car for the night run. However some 3km short of our planned halt, coming out of the last hairpin of the Col, the rear tyre finally cried enough and we had to stop to change it. So given none of our snow tyres had anything left in the way of tread we were forced to put a pair of studded tyres on the front and the best of the snow tyres on the rear for the night legs. Then a quick pitstop to deposit the very sorry looking couple of wheels and directly to La Turbie, where after an exceptionally quick fuel stop to top up the tanks for the night we arrived (at the end of a 9.5 hour leg remember) with just 6 minutes to spare having driven basically flat out all day… luckily we didn’t elect to stop for a coffee like a couple of our novice team-mates earlier in the week who hadn’t appreciated that Monte schedules are very tight indeed.
Talking of our IRDC team-mates, to say they’d been in the wars would be an understatement: Alistair Hutton in his ex-works Landcrab had blown the hydroelastic suspension on a speed bump and lost his service crew for 3 days! One of the Glen crews had a brake seizure at the end of a ZR and ploughed off the road into a ditch ripping off a wheel while Mr Brown and Mr White had rebuilt their Rovers engine before even reaching Dover and the FIAT of Oliver Tomlins seemed to require a small rest in the middle of every ZR but was still limping to a finish.
So on arriving in Monaco, we were in high spirits! Had an all British crew ever even won a prize on the Monte? We were now leading our class after all… and 32nd if we could hold onto it would be astonishing. But the 90km of specials over the Turini lay ahead…
A quick shower, Red Bull and our last fresh clothes and at 23.19 we set off from the Port Hercule with the Fulvia feeling lively shorn of the extra weight and the crew tired, but up for the challenge. The Turini was to throw everything it had at us though, with thick fog, endless hairpins (some 60 in total) and even an enormous Stag blocking the road at one point! The hills were littered with broken down and crashed cars: The BMW in front of us crashed exiting a hairpin and ended up perched “Italian Job” style on a brick wall with large drop below, a Golf went nose first into a ditch and the confused driver then broke his leg falling out of the car, while a lovely Porsche 911 lost an argument with a brick wall.
Whether it was the lack of grip on the studded tyres, lack of talent on the part of the driver or a combination of the both but we simply couldn’t go quick enough to be on the pace required, despite overtaking a number of cars in the stage and at one stage hitting the rev limiter in top gear (around 130kph) before catching the brakes alight braking into a downhill hairpin. Really the car needs to be specially set-up for these 2 stages with hydraulic handbrake and a driver trained in skidding the car around tight corners with rear wheels locked. Plus a set of cut-slicks on the front wheels wouldn’t have gone amiss… but really this last night is the domain of the real rally drivers as opposed to those who simply play at it one week per year.
The result was that we slipped back in the standings to 66th, hanging onto our top all British crew status, but slightly disappointing after our forward progress all week. Spare a thought though for the crew of another Fulvia, the #65 who lead the rally for most of the week, but finished 92nd after the Turini! So perhaps the last night simply doesn’t favour little-engined front wheel drive cars?
Arriving back on the port at 3.30am, there was a definite feeling of “could do better” but yet a great sense of achievement. Perhaps after tonight’s Gala dinner the magnitude of how far we’ve come since that first foray into the mountains in the deep snow of the 2012 Monte will sink in. We’ve made some good friends, we’ve shared some great experiences and learnt a lot about ourselves (not least just HOW bad it can smell in a small car with 2 large men in it after 24 hours of driving!).
Will we be back? If we can put it all together again in 2017 and find the time and support, of course we will. This is simply the toughest thing you can do in an historic car probably anywhere in the World, it pushes the crew and the car to the limit and hence the sense of achievement simply in finishing is enormous.
And of course, none of this would have been possible without the support of EFG and our families. Our thanks to the EFG team who update this website so everyone can follow our progress and of course support us in this and our other racing endeavours. It’s been a great 5 years…
Your ”already planning where he can learn to handbrake turn” correspondent,
The good people of Valence really love their motorsport and as a couple of years back we were welcomed by a fan with photographs they wanted signed: This time of the EFG crew on the Tour Auto and in a blast from the past a picture of yours truly racing a LMP2 Le Mans car back in 2004!
Once again the Fulvia was sitting with a flat tyre which we pumped up but by the middle of the first stage I was struggling to tuck the nose into left handers and there was a distinct smell of rubber in the cabin... Having to try and protect the tyre might have cost us a little on this stage and the following one, but we were still 50th equal on both! A pre-departure analysis of our regularity technique (and also not being totally shattered) seemed to have helped... We switched the leaking tyre onto the rear at the lunchtime fuel stop but not before the edge had been badly rubbed...
The day was notable by the huge number of spectators who turned out for the St Bonnet Le Froid stage where we started and finished in the same town giving them a great viewing opportunity. The legendary Monte stages like Burzet are always fabulous to drive even when they lack snow but especially when they are packed with fans!
The 2 afternoon stages saw us with great confidence in the car and Stuart at the top of his game: Even telling me to "Ssssshhh" at one point in stage when I started reminiscing about driving the same stretch in the snow a few years back. It paid off as we came home 17th and 9th: Incredible results given that unlike my stage victory last year all the competitors had the same conditions.
The amazing sunshine also meant we got fabulous views across the Ardeche and also back across the Rhone to the snowy alps where Tuesday route takes us back to Monaco with 3 stages then some 5 hours later we leave on the night loop of the Turini where this rally will really be decided.
However right now we're 43rd overall and the only all British crew in the top 100 and desperate to hang onto would be an incredible result given the lack of cutting edge technology in our car compared to those around us and also given that we didn't recce the entire rally like most of the guys at the sharp end.... We really are just here for the adventure (and the beer).
Your "hoping we can avoid a silly error and bring this one home" correspondent,
When you left us we were in Barcelona. The good news is that we are now in Monaco!
Some 1300km and exactly 24 hours later. Of which the car was stationary for less than 4 hrs total and of which I slept around 1.5 hours from 7am in Barcelona to 10pm in Monaco the day after.
En route we passed Cols in the Pyrenees, the Vineyards of the Valley du Rhone then into the Southern Alps. With fine weather the whole way apart from limited fog patches (compared to the hours of fog suffered by the Reims starters) meant the challenge was one of endurance for car and crew rather than dependent on driving talent (fortunately) although there were some tricky elements to the navigation which left our route choice occasionally a bit hit or miss!
Approaching the first RT we were in a traffic jam and were assaulted by an old chap who rammed the car denting the front wing very slightly who then panicked and wheelspan away!
The first RT itself was dry and with the tripmaster set up perfectly by Stuart (in amongst his traditional naps) even with very tired minds we managed to get reasonably close to the required average everywhere finishing with just 1.7 secs of error combined on the 2 checks and in 43rd place overnight. Top British crew for now but not much in it!!
Today we've 4 specials and 12 hours in the car back to Valence. The Fulvia hasn't missed a beat but one of the tyres was flat this morning which was quickly pumped back up.
Your"knowing its all downhill from here correspondent",
So the EFG crew all made the Barcelona rendezvous yesterday evening. Stuart jetting in to join yours truly and our trusty support chap, Bernard who had made the 8 hour road trip with the Fulvia on a trailer to avoid 700km at 5000 revs on the motorway.
A couple of beers and more than a couple of plates of Tapas and a healthy dose of Paella later (when in Spain...) an early night was taken due to our scrutineering slot being at the ungodly hour of 9am... some 10 hours before our scheduled start time and more importantly some 38 hours before we'll next see a bed!!
The Fulvia seemed to object to being bounced around and managed to fail scrutineering on 2 points. The first being caused by a blown fuse (of course the only type we didn't have with us) and then a tail light which was out. A quick inspection resulted in all the wires for one tail cluster falling out of their holder after someone had packed the reserve bottle of Whisky on it (Stuart felt taking just 1 bottle might risk not having enough...).
It became clear that my engineering degree didn't stretch to rewiring Lancias however Stuart appealed to the nearest bystander who just happened to have restored 14 Fulvias in his life and had it back together in no time! He is supporting a car just behind us so is now signed up as support if required...
Panic over the crew took lunch in a marvellous little restaurant (3 courses for Euro 10 including still water and a glass of wine), since fizzy water was an extra, Stuart was forced to drink all 3 glasses of red...
We're now settling down in the car for a 3 hour siesta before the first car goes over the ramp at 6pm. Next stop Monaco tomorrow evening. Your "just needing to find the plug to pull to shut up the PA system" correspondent,
Yup, it’s that time of year again, when after the traditional excesses of the holiday period, a young man’s thoughts turn to adventure, and in particular the most prestigious regularity rally and perhaps the last true endurance event in Europe: The Historic Monte Carlo Rally.
Regular readers will be surprised to realise that this is will be the 5th participation of the EFG crew. Particularly surprised if you read that very first report of 2 rank amateurs who left from Glasgow in a £500 car bought from Ebay having never driven on snow apart from the traditional crawl home from the office on the 2 days a year London sees snow! You’ll recall we laughed at the suggestion of the Mayor of Reims as he waved us away from his City that we’d soon be hitting major snow storms, we panicked when we realised that there was no road book issued to us and that we’d need to be rallying on the maps from Reims onwards and despite finishing, we promised we’d never do it again. A box ticked. But the lack of sleep and the open stages (with traffic like snowploughs appearing in the other direction whilst you are desperately trying to average 49kph on sheet ice) were all things that we’d struggled to get our heads around as rookies.
There was of course a 2nd year, when, perhaps like childbirth, the painful memories had subsided and all we recalled was that amazing sense of adventure to take a 30 year old rally car across Europe. So once again we were on the start line in Glasgow and once again we set off in snow to Reims and beyond. 2013 was of course the year where we lost the engine on the first special stage after some robust driving from a Man in a Moskvitch but not before we’d had a fabulous run south including an hour in the wheel tracks of Monte legend Jean Ragnotti in an Alpine. The disappointment only hardened our resolve to compete further and the ebay-bought Trusty Turbo was swapped for a 1970’s Lancia Fulvia in full Group 4 specification for 2014.
Once again the best laid plans were interfered with and for various reasons I only drove the Fulvia for the first time on the way to the Start ramp on the day of the rally… setting off South from Paisley we arrived on the motorway and realised that the extremely short gearing of the Fulvia, which was to later mean she starred in the mountain stages, wasn’t suited for long distance cruising… as we arrived at 5000 revs in top gear co-pilot Stuart issued that now legendary comment “Hmm, could be a long way to Monaco at 65mph”. When the car then ran out of fuel every 200km, that comment was to be spectacularly prophetic. We did however make it to Monaco, and we actually even managed a top 5 finish on a stage which left us as top British crew with just 1 stage to run. Unfortunately we were once again taken unawares by the thirst of the Fulvia when flat out and ran out of fuel with just a handful of Kilometres to go.
Of course the sniff of potential glory meant we were really up for 2015, where we elected for the Turin start to avoid long motorway drives. However co-driver Stuart managed to throw a disc in his back just a week before we were due to depart, and a local replacement, Fred “Frozone” Ozone, was called up at the last minute. Despite having to communicate in my poor French for the week somehow we managed to win the longest stage of the rally! Unimaginable glory for a Brit whose rally talent is very limited and is more at home on the Circuit or the Salt Flats… Although having run out of talent spectacularly on the first snowy stage (an error that we realised afterwards was due to an excess of pressure in the studded tyres we’d just fitted) any chance of a good overall result was long gone.
So what brings 2016? Well with no Turin or Monaco starts to choose from, the closest in terms of no motorway running is Barcelona, so it’s from there we set sail at 19.30 on Friday evening. And while fellow Glasgow/Reims/Bad Homburg and Scandinavian starters only have the plateau of Langres to deal with, we must climb through first the Pyrenees and then the Cevennes before we all attack the Alps together to finally arrive in Monaco around 20.30 on Saturday. Yes, that’s 25 hours on the road, hopefully with a couple of quick kips at the 2 Time Controls on route, the first of which doesn’t come until 5am on Saturday morning though so regardless we’re in for a long night! And we will need to have our wits about us when at about 16.00 hours on Saturday we’ll run the first regularity stage which is considerably longer and trickier than the first one we faced last year.
We leave Monaco again Sunday morning for a 12 hour leg with 4 specials on the way, then Monday sees a 10 hour loop out of Valence into the Drome (the scene of last year’s triumph) before we head back to Monaco on Tuesday (another 8+ hours and 4 stages) before Tuesday night sees the “Night of the Turini” where a 4h30 leg takes us onto 2 stages on the legendary Cols behind Monaco arriving back on the port around 3am Wednesday.
The long range forecasts look benign and this could be very helpful to us in the early part of the week where with our little engine we run near the back of the field allowing the 260 cars in front of us to clear the worst of any snow. But we’ll probably be punished on the final night where power tends to count the most! But of course, all of that can change pretty quickly and while we dream of perhaps capturing the title of Top British crew, the fact remains that we go primarily for the hell of it and just arriving in Monaco if a major achievement each year.
As ever, I hope you’ll follow us on here and of course we need to thank EFG for their fabulous support over the past 5 years and our wives and families for allowing us to disappear once again to do “what a man’s go to do”.
Your “can’t wait to get going” correspondent.
28 January - 04 February 2015
The 2015 Historic Monte is over and at 3am this morning it was a happy crew stood on the port in Monaco (in the drizzle). The Fulvia didn’t miss a beat all week, using no oil or water, apart from the failure of the wheels which is almost certainly down to how rough the last stage was on Sunday night.
The final day involved 3 stages in the leg back to Monaco before the last two on the “Night of the Turini”.
The day started however with the news that our old teammate, Zac, who went out of the rally on Sunday when a wheel and hub parted from his Escort had uncovered evidence that his car had been tampered with. Definitely not the spirit of the Monte Historic and potentially extremely dangerous... he’s not even the sort of chap that makes enemies so it remains a total mystery why someone would have loosened his hub nuts...
An initial 70km leg under leaden skies that looked full of snow to the first stage at Saint Nazaire passed quickly. And the 23km stage itself went well. With virtually no snow on the stage, we managed to come home 20th with just 4.6 seconds of error, which was just 2.2 seconds more than the winner. So a very pleasing start.
A short 20km liaison leg and it was straight into the Verclause- Eygalayes stage. 37km which we’d been warned was very icy/snowy in places. The initial sections went well, but then we came around a corner onto a steep uphill straight covered in sheet ice to find a Land Rover in the middle of the road, a Lancia Stratos (that it was trying to tow out) on the right hand verge and the Mini that had started 1 minute in front of us in the ditch to the left. Fortunately the studded tyres just managed to stop us piling into the back of 1 of the 3! However, by the time the 4X4 had moved, and we’d managed to find enough traction to climb the hill we were well behind on the watch. We attacked hard for 20km, absolutely flat out across the hills and had just managed to return to target time, when with 5 km to run, we ran out of fuel!!! Again the Fulvia proved that when you really attack, she has a bit of a drinking problem... however, the stage looked all downhill to the finish, albeit with several hairpins so I elected not to stop and continued to the finish “dead stick”... which was reasonably entertaining given the lack of assistance on the brake pedal without the engine running, and the speed I had to carry into some of the hairpins, the final of which we attacked totally sideways in an attempt to carry enough speed onto the flat run to the finish line. We’d lost some 80 seconds (800 points) in the middle of the stage with the snow/blockage so I was pretty pleased to only drop another 25 total in the final 2 checkpoints despite having no engine. We ended up 89th and threw in a churn of fuel at the Stop line.
There followed another 160km of road section before the final pre-Monaco stage, and when we arrived at our planned fuel stop and discovered they had no unleaded of more than 95 RON (which the Fulvia doesn’t run well on) we decided to push onto the next station. And once again I found myself at the side of the road, throwing in a churn of fuel.... finally we managed to fuel up with the Good Stuff and headed up the hill to ZR12: a stage my co-pilot Fred knew well and was therefore able to guide me considerably. You know it’s been a good rally when you end up 54th and you are disappointed, but we only had 7.1 seconds more error than the winner so it wasn’t a bad effort.
So we sprinted down to Monaco in good spirits, pausing for our only service break of the rally when we intercepted Fred’s dad and offloaded our snow tyres and the roof rack so we could be as light as possible for the challenge ahead. We also filled all the churns plus a small 3rd one as insurance following last year’s debacle (see below!).
A quick bite to eat, then a long wait in a great festival atmosphere on the port side for our 11pm departure. Which to be honest is the time when most sensible people are tucked up warm in bed. 170km beckoned, over a 4 hour period, with the 26km Luceram-Lantosque stage to start followed by the 53km stage over the famous Col du Turini.
The 40km up to the first start was uneventful apart from my trying to squeeze a full 5 litres into the Fulvia in the pitch dark just before the start line and failing: at least a litre ended up on my feet which made our car a definite no smoking zone for the night. The stage itself was basically flat out: It was simply too twisty to maintain the average speed (or certainly with my average driving talent) and it was only 4 km from the end that I arrived at the target time, we ended up 113th which was probably about right! Blind panic ensued at the end of the stage as we could smell a very very hot engine with 1km to run... I backed off and parked up as soon as we finished but then spotted the Alpine Berlinetta that was boiling away just in front of us. The effort needed to make the target times did indeed mean that a few cars suffered...
After again pouring a large amount of petrol on my feet in the pitch dark, we headed up to the final stage of the 2015 Monte. This time the stage was far more open and with less black ice it was easy to maintain the average and we were confident of a great result. However, we came home 185th with 4000 points of error. It turned out that just before entering the stage, the ACM had registered the number order of the cars as they entered, however, 2 broke down before the start line, so “officially” we entered the stage 1 minute early, and were 1 minute ahead at each check point. Clearly an error on behalf of the organisers, however given our lowly ranking anyway, not one that they appear keen to fix for us and it probably only makes a difference of about 8 places in the final rankings. So officially we came home 154th, so in the top half of the rally (just).
The final highlight was rally legend, Jean Ragnotti, coming over to congratulate us as we arrived back in the Port of Monaco, he’d obviously heard about our winning the longest stage of the rally! (?).
It’s been a long and incredibly tough rally. We’ve eaten so little that I’ve lost so much weight that my trousers would barely stay up on the walk back to the car this morning, which hopefully means I might fit in my dinner jacket for the gala dinner tonight! We’re shattered, but the sense of achievement is once again enormous.
Thanks go to Fred “Frozone” Ozon, who stepped in to some pretty big shoes at the last minute and was not only a great co-pilot but also great company for the week. Our wives for letting us clear off on “some mad adventure” and holding the fort while we were gone. To all of you who have followed us on here and cheered us on at the side of the road and on twitter! And of course to EFG International without whose kind support we wouldn’t be rallying or blogging!
Final thought though has to be with my traditional Monte co-pilot, Stuart, who went under the knife on Monday in a successful operation: Get well soon buddy and look forward to having you back in 2016!
Your “never thought I’d be a stage winner on the Monte” correspondent
After the adventures of the EFG crew yesterday, we had basically accepted that our target of a top 100 placing was gone. All that was left was to enjoy ourselves, get safely to the finish and see if we could set some competitive times.
Running nearly at the back of the field was a huge disadvantage yesterday as the stages froze over and we were trying to drive in the dark in a snowstorm. But today with a warm sun in the sky conditions were greatly improved by the time we got into the stages.
Nonetheless, the first stage at 60km was the "Big one" of the 2015 Monte and still had a healthy covering of snow and ice. It was the one everyone wanted to win and it was a complete turn up for the form books when we bounced back from our nightmare day yesterday and did exactly that!!!! With just 8.8 seconds of error combined across all the checkpoints of 60km we beat the remaining 300 runners ensuring ourselves of bragging rights for the next 12 months. Given that I'd never driven the Fulvia on snow before and hadn't rallied on snow since 2012 it's been a steep learning curve, but as you can imagine we are immensely pleased. Fred was checking the results on the run into the midway control when there was a slight choking noise followed by large amounts of disbelief from my side of the car... but despite repeatedly checking the result every 30 minutes since it hasn't changed and we did indeed win the stage!
With new found confidence (and limited amounts of snow on the stages) we followed it with 30th then 38th on the following two and have even protested the result of the final stage as they've given us 140 seconds of error over just 13km which seems a tad unlikely.
So it was a very different atmosphere in the car tonight as we arrived back at Valence pretty jubilant.
However our buddy Zac lost a wheel on the 3rd stage and by the time he got towed out of the stage he was 2 minutes over the allowable lateness. Fingers crossed he manages to schmooze the ACM into letting him restart in the morning.
While we got word that the Porsche crew that crashed so heavily on the concentration run both walked away uninjured after the driver dozed off. Saved apparently by the quick thinking of the lady coming the other way who saw them rolling towards her and managed to stop her car and reverse out of the way!
Tomorrow we set sail back to Monaco early with a couple of stages on the way then the legendary night of the Turini with heavy snow forecast!
Ideally it should all be over about 3am Wednesday morning but we'll keep you updated on here!
Your "still disbelieving" correspondent.
The classification part of the Historic Monte Carlo started this morning heading for Valence out of the overnight halt in Monaco.
With 10h35 of route our 10am start time meant a small lie in but a late finish... It also meant we could check the early runners results before we left and it became obvious they were struggling with the first ZR (zone regularity)... so we switched the front tyres to studs on the run up to the hills.
In fact the stage was pretty uneventful apart from a slight meltdown from co-pilot "Frozone" and the fact it was ridiculously narrow. We got slightly behind the target and never got it back. The sheet ice caught out a couple of cars and a rather nice Mini lost an argument with a bridge parapet.
A long (250km) liaison to the 2nd stage of the day was initially dry but then the snow came in hard.
The stage itself was sheet ice covered in snow. The ACM decided (in their wisdom) that they weren't lowering the target average of 47km/hr and we launched into ZR3 determined to stay on the pace. However less than 2km into the stage a wide downhill left hander tempted me in at a much too fast speed and caught out by the total lack of grip I ran out of talent in spectacular fashion and couldn't stop the car running wide into the outside snow bank.
Perched on the bank on the edge of quite a drop it took some friendly spectators 5 mins to get us back up and running. We made back half the deficit by the end of the stage but 20000 points ended our chance of a good result.
Spirits were pretty low in the car afterwards.
On the following road leg the Fulvia had developed a vibration from the rear and in the pouring snow we missed our planned fuel stop. Combined with the effort put in to catch up the time lost earlier where we'd been flat out on the stages meant we never made the reserve stop and I spent an enjoyable few minutes filling a stranded car from a churn by the side of the road in a blizzard!
Pushing onto the first official break at Gare de Celles (at 17h55) without anything to eat or drink since breakfast we were sad to see the food truck was already closed!
We had a quick 10 minute leg stretch then headed into ZR4 as it was getting dark. Sadly the impending loss of light meant a lot of the spectators had decided to go home... by driving up the stage towards us!!! Given that the surface was basically sheet ice with a heavy coating of snow this got more and more interesting until finally we were completely blocked by spectators chatting to their buddies by the side of the road!! Unimpressed didn't really cover it given how hard we'd been trying to that point.
It was nearly 8pm, very dark and snowing hard by the time we got to the last stage, the famous Col D'Echaresson. And the crew were having hallucinations of beer and pizza at this point. Quick at the start and very fast (100kph+ on snow) at the end we were in survival mode as the stage was heavily rutted and like driving across a ploughed field.
By the end of the stage we were very tight on time into the next Control and had to hurl the little Fulvia into the checkpoint with Fred sprinting to check in on time (to the second).
The vibration from the rear of the car was getting very bad as we headed into Valence and we had to pull over and change the right rear wheel which had buckled!! 200m later the vibration was back and the left rear had also failed but in a different fashion(around the wheel studs) so we had to crawl onto a motorway slip road to change that one too!
Unsurprisingly we were 10 minutes late into Valence so adding more penalties to a tough day. But we're still in the rally and the car feels fine when it did feel all over on the side of the motorway at 9.30pm in driving sleet!
Shattered now. Here's to an easier day tomorrow.
Having spent 3 hours 30 driving from Monaco to Turin on Thursday, to spend nearly 24 hours driving back would appear quite careless.
After another of the worlds cheapest pizzas the EFG crew set off from Turin’s equivalent of fifth avenue at 8 o'clock last night. First objective: the 2,000 metre high ski resort at Sestrieres.
Unsurprisingly as we climbed the hill we started driving on snow which was to last for some 200 kilometres. But the little Lancia was running very well and felt very good on its snow tyres so we were able to make great time to the first and only halt in the night at Embrun.
I managed to grab an hour’s sleep while Frozone sat and watched the traffic in chaotic scenes on the main high street as 120 rally cars jostled for the restart.
We were soon into France and astonished by the three hours of traffic we saw heading in the direction ski station. The reflected headlights meaning it was very tough on what were already very tired eyes.
Passing in a basic figure of eight through Southern France we were to get almost to Valence before heading back down towards Monaco.
The 10 hour leg took us to St Andre les Alpes, the grouping point for all runners from all the various starts.
Another hour’s sleep, then the final 4 hour run into Monaco including the first regularity stage brought home the dangers of the rally very clearly when we had to weave around the wreckage of one of the earlier Turin starters where perhaps the driver had fallen asleep or perhaps been blinded by the sun but either way had destroyed his Porsche. Reports suggest the crew of the 175 are ok but our thoughts are with them tonight.
The first stage was short and very twisty and we totalled 5 seconds error which wasn't great but is very small on a scale of expected errors this week so basically irrelevant.
Most importantly the crew and car arrived in monaco mid afternoon in one piece and in good spirits ready for next 4 days of rallying. Although in dire need of some sleep.
Your "vibrating all over still 4 hours later" correspondent.