We are proud to announce that all 6 Blue Diamond cars have successfully completed the grueling 2019 Monte Carlo Rally Classique. It was an incredible rally filled with every emotion. And we couldn’t have done it without the endless support from all of you. The messages, emails, facebook live comments, etc. were so helpful when spirits were low. So thank you for the continuous support, we really appreciate it.
We have to apologize for this delayed post – the last two days of the rally were exhausting and we were in need of some good rest once we arrived back home. Kev Haworth is our guest contributor this week - we were lucky enough to have him accompanying us on the Monte as our media support, providing updates via various channels, but most notably through our Facebook live videos.
Firstly, an apology.
The blog had to take a backseat after Langres, Kev was covering the live media and snaps as well as driving, Will Broadhead ventured further afield after the crews reaching Valence to cover the Historique for a number of publications, this left Kev as sole support and chase car for the Col de Turini team comprising of JLo/Marty and Adam/Craig. The other four crews decided to take the scenic route via the coast road into Monaco and the famous finish ramp overlooking the harbour.
Here are the final words from Kev after returning back to the UK as he recounts the last couple of days on the event.
I would like to take a little step back, back to Langres and to the amazing sights, sounds and smells that assaulted us there. This was in the middle of what has now been termed ‘The Longest Night’ and for me, this section will stay in my mind for a very long time. Will and I arrived at Langres about twenty-minutes before our trio of Gold Hunters were due at the halt, as you drive up to Langres, even in the dark, the imposing walls that surround this ancient town greet and warn you of its’ history. Once a Capital of the area and home to Gauls, Romans and Celts during its impressive span – it has been an important town for over two Millenia.
It was easy to lose track of the time we had travelled, since setting off from Calais and having had three-hours to kill in Reims, it had already started to feel like a long time awake. A look on the map and the distance we had yet to cover when we eventually left Langres was daunting, but more about that later. What greeted us at Langres was just astonishing, almost beautiful, whilst we parked up, we saw the early numbers just about to leave – a truly eclectic mix of Renault, Alpine, Ford Escort MkII, Dauphin, Fiat X1/9 and many other variants graced this gravelly car park on the outskirts of the town. What was apparent was the sheer passion and lust for the locals to see the cars, meet the crews and welcome them to Langres, in my thirty-odd years of being around the sport, I have never experienced anything like this. This became more apparent as first JLo and Martin pulled up shortly followed by Adam/Craig and Team Twelvetrees. It was a melee to see the cars, as soon as Martin was out of the Riley a diminutive lady thrust an autograph book in his hand proclaiming (from what I could understand) that they were crazy, wonderful and very brave for attempting this in such old cars. People were five-deep as spanner checks ensued, the light from the staging lights around the area bathing the service park in patches of stark light, the main area where crews were crossing a small ramp was lit up like a football field, several food stalls were set up there and the smell of barbecued Wild Boar was just mouth-watering. Even the stench of Gauloises couldn’t stop me drooling at what looked to be a feast, unfortunately, we couldn’t partake as we were too busy documenting and photographing the surrounding areas.
Things thinned out car wise and we headed out into the night just in front of our intrepid trio, they had been superstars for quite long enough and we had a long way to cover in time and distance throughout the French night. It was some night to come as we headed further south towards our terminus at Valence, one that would see us pass temptingly close to the city to the west of us, but we had several check points to encounter prior to this.
It was around 01:00 Hrs as we left Langres, the town was still and as we left the walls behind us and headed out into a still night, the fog fell, and when I say ‘fell’ it literally dropped on us like a freezing cold blanket. Visibility in places fell to less than 5 metres, short staccato breaks in the all-enveloping mist left you feeling optimistic and euphoric that it had ended, only to be smothered again as you rounded a curve to be greetwed with an almost erie silence, the small rear lights on the Rileys and MG almost disappearing a second or two in front of you. It continued like this for what seemed like an age, there were several checkpoints for crews to visit along the way, all manned enthusiastically by local motor clubs who were excellent in their welcome and execution. The night was long and seemed, just like the prevalent fog, it would never lift.
We visited Dole and Bourg-en-Bresse, relentlessly pushing to get through the darkness in the hope that the first morning rays of light would lift our flagging spirits. The first daylight check point was at Bourgoin-Jallieu and it was here the team ran into a very, very big wall, metaphorically speaking. Will and I had scooted on to be there in front of the cars, as it turned out, we had about an hour before they arrived, some very shallow cat naps were taken as the area was already thronging with cars, Stratos, Quattro, Porsche and other wonderful sounding beasts brought you in and out of a doze as they thundered past, this wasn’t a Reims or Langres by a long chalk, this was a check point on the edge of a very seedy looking industrial area, one that was welcome but if anything, a little un-nerving. The alarm went on our phones to get us awake and ready for the cars to arrive and they weren’t far behind our estimates. First up was the Sprite, JLo dragging himself out of the car for a live piece to camera and then falling on the floor in exhaustion, the fog, terrain and distance had taken its toll heavily on the crews. Adam and Craig both mentioned they had been at their lowest point during the whole event on that section with the Twelvetrees reporting a similar feeling. I can’t say how magnificent the Twelvetrees were, they played the Tortoise and the Hare throughout the event and were almost always one of the first of the Classique crews at Controls, a fantastic achievement.
The lowest point of the event for me also came here, I love French food but ‘Le Hot Dog and Café-au-lait’ here was about the vilest thing I’ve ever tasted!! It spurred both Will and I on though as we knew things could only improve, food wise!
Spirits lifted as we motored through the stunning Vercors and to the penultimate check point at Crest, the rain was torrential as we arrived in this small town and it seemed like the whole world had once again ventured out to greet us, a brief Pizza (this was lunchtime) stop and back into the cars, it was, along the whole route, the only place we came across an officious marshal. The rain had stopped and left us with a beautiful day to run into Valence or so it seemed, as JLo and Marty left they handed their time card to the official who refused to sign/stamp it, proclaiming that ‘they were not part of the event’. In true East-Lancastrian style, JLo was having none of this and remonstrated with the official who, toute-suite, decided he didn’t like the idea of angering this already sleep-depraved English chap in front of him, problem resolved we headed over the shortest route to Valence. This route held many memories for me as it had formed parts of Winter Challenge to Monte-Carlo events of years past, it was one I was able to get Will in front to take some great images of the crews climbing up the Cols and descending into Valence.
Being a Saturday, the Gilets Jaune were protesting in Valence, and, fair play to the organisers they had a massive task on their hands in moving the planned finish venue for the Historique concentration and end of route for the Classiques. You try sorting that, in less than a week, with over 400 cars and crews to cater for. Yes, it was a little flat and the downpour had joined us once again, but the people who came to view the cars and talk to the crews were magnificent, a lovely buffet Dinner was served, and it was time for Will to head off on to the Historique.
I got a call from JLo on my way back to Valence after dropping Will off for his hire car in Lyon, they were attempting to run over the Col de Turini, this had been the cause for much consternation the previous night as a large dump of snow was forecast, in the light of day, and I have to say it was a pretty beautiful day too, we viewed the webcams on the Col and made the call to go. To run from Valence to Monte-Carlo Ville isn’t that far in the grand scheme of things, but to travel through Sisteron and Die, through the achingly beautiful Drome region before the final assault through Villars and Bolène de Vésubie really eats into time. We reached the M70, the road up to The Col at around 4PM, we’d stopped for lunch in Sisteron where we met a wonderful young man from Wales who was cycling from Chepstow to Etna and then back again to raise money for a local Chepstow hospice. His motto was ‘Follow the Swallows’ an indication of the time this had taken him, since leaving Wales he hadn’t had a shower as such and had slept each and every night under the stars. John paid for his lunch and bought him a beer, he posed for several photos with us before making his way back to Chepstow some weeks later on in the future, what a wonderful person.
We paused briefly before heading up the Col de Turini, I headed up to try and get some images of the cars as they neared the top and the road up was clear, albeit, down to single-track in places but clear. I made the top and parked the Media car out of the way and waited, first up came the Sprite and this was soon followed by the MGTC, we had made it, the hallowed ground and theatre of the Col De Turini, one of Rallye Monte-Carlo’s most famous points. The snow was crisp but not as deep as I had experienced previously, it made for a stunning backdrop before we headed down the Col. Now, did I mention I was in a modern, two-wheel drive 310Bhp Golf? Unfortunately, the run down hadn’t been cleared and the next ten minutes or so were spent with certain parts of my anatomy clenched and crossed. The golf didn’t have a traditional handbrake (why, oh why can modern vehicles not be fitted with a ‘bar’?) so it was an all-feet-off descent in first, I swear I could see the two less powerful vehicles behind me looking to nip past on their narrow block-pattern tyres, thumbs to noses going ‘ner-ner’.
We dropped through Sospel with the light fading and descended into Monte-Carlo through Beausoleil, throwing the bags in The Fairmont we headed to the finish ramp on the Marina, close to Rascasse. Friends and family were there to greet the crews and it was fair to say it was quite a joyous and emotional time.
The cars were treated to a glass of Champagne and crews departed to dress for dinner which was being held at the Automobile Club de Monaco headquarters, a truly historic place. What a dinner it was, Cepe foam with Foie Gras, St Peter (John Dory) with Truffle and a Tuile with fresh fruit and sorbet, no meal in France would be the same without Cheese, the final course being three soft cheeses that were both delicious and pungent at the same time. I was away back up the road the following morning, an overnight in Reims before the final push to Liverpool gave me plenty of time to reflect on the adventure that gone before us. I’ve taken part in several Land’s End to John O’Groats rallies as well as other endurance events and this ranks up there with them in terms of difficulty. If you’re expecting a gentle run to the South of France, sampling fine hotels and foods at a leisurely pace, the Classique may not be the event for you. If, however, you want to test yourself and your pride and joy and to be part of and revel in the history and atmosphere of the world’s biggest classic rally, from the bottom of my heart, this is the event for you.