Well it’s that time of year when you’ve been back at work for a couple of weeks and the routine boredom is setting in again and a young chap’s thoughts wander towards adventure. Yet in this modern age, how many great adventures are still available? Even modern rallying has been toned down from the endurance events of yore but there remains one great challenge of man and machine that takes place in the coldest weather of the year on the legendary rally routes of the Monte Carlo:
The Historic Monte Carlo is not your traditional regularity rally: a fun drive with a buddy in the countryside trying not to go too fast or too slow to maintain an average speed. Instead it’s a battle to keep the car in one piece and the driver awake while spending long (and I mean LONG) hours behind the wheel.
The EFG International supported crew will once again do battle, setting forth from Paisley this coming Thursday just after 6pm. Some 60 classic cars will go over the start ramp and with some 15,000 spectators turning out last year to see us off, it’s sure to be another fabulous occasion.
As regular readers will know, this will be our 3rd attempt at the rally: the first in 2012 seeing us overjoyed to make the finish on a very snowy Monte while last year’s rally ended with engine damage after we were forced off the road on the 1st stage after 16 hours behind the wheel.
Changes this year means a weekday start to avoid rush hour traffic near Annecy and also a later start which means we’ll have to stop prior to the Channel Crossing if we are to get any sleep on the opening leg.
We are also taking a different car! The Trusty Turbo has been pushed to one side in favour of a glamorous Italian, a 1970 Lancia Fulvia. Freshly UK registered as HUK 128J she will gain her nickname on the road, although I suspect the choice will come down to the “Hunk” (of Junk) or the “Hulk” however my co-driver has clearly watched too much Blue Peter with his kids and is rooting for “Konnie” although I think that’s spelt HUQ not HUK! (Google her if you don’t know the name... seriously!).
The switch to front-wheel drive will I hope add some much needed confidence on the snow and ice, but it remains to be seen if switching to Italian from German helps the reliability... especially as this year the faithful Speed Scotland support crew are unable to come with us. So we’re doing it the hard way: un-assisted! And of course, since we have no support crew to carry the bags, we’ve chosen to take a much smaller car (good logic there Rick): co-pilot claims he’s packed just his mankini and his dinner suit as no Brit should ever go on an adventure without a Dinner Suit... it’s the rules (and also compulsory for the final prize giving dinner in Monte Carlo).
So a quick outline of this year’s adventure which I hope you’ll follow along with us on here:
We leave Paisley at 6pm Thursday as noted and will run South via the A1M/M11/M25/M20 to Folkestone. We’re hoping to be there in 8 hours, so around 2am Friday morning if the weather is kind and the running is good over that nearly 800km leg. Most of the Glasgow crews are booked into a hotel at the tunnel mouth, so we’ll try and grab a good slab of sleep before taking the Tunnel around 11.30am on Friday. The importance of this sleep will become obvious...
Once into France, we’ll have a while to wait before we check-in at the Calais Controle around 15.45pm then a quick 270km leg to Reims where we’ll have a final chance to grab something to eat and an hour’s rest before we set out on the toughest leg of the rally: We’re due over the ramp in Reims just before 9pm and we’re due into Valence 22 hours later around 7pm (and no we’re not taking the direct route, we get as far South as Gap at one point!). There will be no respite for driver or co-pilot over this period of time, hence why it’s so important to sleep as late as possible in Folkestone as I’ll have been awake for some 33 hours by the time we finish the Concentration Leg! I’ll also have driven well over 2000km since we left Glasgow... a big test for a car we’ve never even seen in the flesh, let alone competed in!
Also keep in mind that from the point where we leave Reims, there is just 40km on Motorways of the 1000+km we drive through that night and the following day, most of the time we’ll be in the freezing fog and snow on high cols and plateaus. And of course, it wouldn’t be the Monte without a competitive stage on the first leg, so around 5pm on Saturday when the crew are at their most tired we have the first “ZR” (zone regularity) albeit a reasonably short one in Monte terms, just 7km flat out over a Col compared to some of the 50km monsters we’ll experience later in the rally. Yup, that’s right, after 2000+km we’ll only have completed the “Concentration” run! Sunday brings another 156km and 8 hours in the car on the roads of the Ardeche West of Valence, while Monday is very similar but in the hills to the East.
Then Tuesday brings the sting in the tail of the rally: the 10 hour leg from Valence to Monaco, a 2 hour rest, then the legendary “Night of the Turini” where Ogier and co. were doing battle just this last weekend. We’ll do another 4 hours in the darkness to finally, hopefully, take the finish around 4am on Wednesday morning.
It is without doubt a huge adventure, and a massive undertaking. We don’t go looking to win, merely to have fun, finish and to be able to tell the grandkids the stories. Surely the best reasons for any adventure?
Your “somewhat worried how the car will handle with all those tyres on the roof” correspondent
1970 Lancia Fulvia