Written by guest contributor Gordon McAllan.
The race is on! The race against time, that is. In just 6 weeks from now, The Blue Diamond Riley Services Limited 1931 Riley WD Tourer will be leaving Monte Carlo, its work done.
That quietly-confident statement reflects what’s going on in the interim at Blue Diamond’s Rallye HQ, where our sturdy little Riley is being prepared with the thoroughness and precision which characterise the company’s restoration and maintenance. The gearbox has recently been overhauled and the rebuilt engine is about to be fitted. The electrics are being upgraded. Aboard, the cockpit is being readied to contain our crew and all the safety and other support items, as well as luggage for the 4-day drive.
4 days – and what a drive! This BDRS blog is being written while, in the background, the radio offers trenchant reports of heavy snow in the Highlands of Scotland. It serves to remind us, if it were necessary, that during the journey from John O’ Groats, on the northern tip of the Scottish mainland, to Paisley, just west of the city of Glasgow, to join the other Monte Carlo Rallye Historique entrants on the Monte Carlo Rallye Start Ramp, our Riley and its crew may encounter weather conditions as extreme as any in the alpine stages of the route.
On Wednesday 27th January, at 8.00am, when we are flagged off in the grey dawn of John O’Groats, we have to be ready for just about anything. South through the Highlands the Riley will scurry, using traditional roads where possible, rather than modern highways, to be in Paisley, 300 miles away, in time for the flashguns and cheering, as we roll down the ramp just after 6.00pm and into the night, heading for the first overnight stop in Dumfries.
Next morning, we will head south and east over the backbone of Northern England, to Scotch Corner; the turn southwards may be tempered by a detour to enjoy the high-speed delights of the two nearby racing circuits, Croft (near Darlington) and Oliver’s Mount, at Scarborough. Then, once we have our breath back, we head for the ferry terminal at Hull, and a welcome cabin on the night voyage to Belgium.
We won’t linger over Friday breakfast aboard, for this is a longer day’s drive, from the ferry at Zeebrugge, aiming to cover at least 300 miles to central France – and not an Autoroute in sight! En route, we will aim for the city of Reims, where the local main roads once hosted the French Grand Prix. If we’re on schedule, we hope to meet other Rallye participants, including those who start from Reims (their own route different from ours and calculated to equalise the respective mileages). We can’t afford to stop for long, however, with many miles to go before we can pause for a very brief night’s sleep – the intention is to keep Saturday’s final challenge, over alpine terrain, as short as possible. This, the last day of January, will test car and crew in what may be gruelling conditions of altitude, low temperatures and potentially very severe weather. Sisteron, here we come. And no, we aren’t fitting a snowplough!
From the outset, the determination we share is To Get There. We may, if circumstances prove unfavourable, have to amend our Rallye route, but the reward we hope for is to drive gently down into the Principality, through the world-famous streets of Monte Carlo, to the finishing line of the Rally Classique and Historique, able to congratulate ourselves and say, “We did it!”, and to give our intrepid Riley a well-earned pat.