If you are going to go rallying, where better than to start at The Top? There is probably no more famous endurance and speed road event than The Monte Carlo Rally. These days, it’s just one of the exciting World Rally Championship series which is beamed into our widescreen-TV homes, but with a history going back to 1911, it can claim to have been the mould from which all modern rallying was cast.
Of course, the differences between the Monte of old and the present-day event are many and obvious, but the principles of the Monte Carlo Rally endure to this day: stiffly-timed approach stages, followed by extremely-demanding mountain stages in the alpine area immediately behind the city-state of Monaco.
Some years ago, in celebration of the Monte Carlo Rally and its tradition, the Automobile Club of Monaco organised a re-creation of the event of years ago – effectively limiting entries to cars built before 1962. Thus the Monte Carlo Rally Historique was contrived. A key feature was the principle, embodied for decades since the Monte’s inception, of choice for competitors – the choice of a starting point from a list of European cities. Whether private or company entrant, you could select the city of your preference and begin your very own attempt to beat everyone else to Monaco, before going on to do your best among the alpine passes during the closely-timed tests. Routes to Monaco from each Start city were calculated and marshalled to ensure reasonable equivalence of mileage; the rest was down to one’s car, the terrain, road quality and the great leveller – the weather. Since the rally set off in late January, conditions could become extreme.
In 1926, John O’ Groats was added to the list of Starts. In 1949, cars rumbled off from Blythswood Square, in the heart of Glasgow, establishing a much-loved Scottish tradition. Some of us may recall the crackling, excited commentaries and reports transmitted on BBC Radio: Raymond Baxter’ss cultivated tones helped us be there, in the cockpit of the Sunbeam Rapier, driven expertly by experienced Peter Harper …..
But what was it really like? This year, we in the Blue Diamond Riley Services Riley will discover, at first hand! The Rallye Classique, a Heritage Run to Monte Carlo, celebrates the first John O’ Groats Start, and we’ll be there.
Our Story So Far …..
Our little 1931 Riley WD Tourer, designed originally for military use and powered by the inimitable Riley Nine twin-cam engine, has been carefully prepared by the team at Blue Diamond Services – for many of us who own and drive pre war Rileys, the holy grail when it comes to professional; restoration and parts. MD of Blue Diamond Services and fellow Scottish Riley Enthusiasts member, John Lomas, will drive our Monte car and at his request, I’ll do my best to navigate, and to take the wheel when John deserves a break. The event may prove gruelling, in terms of weather and duration; the terrain may also prove challenging in places, but it will be good to know that the Blue Diamond Services support crew, led by the SRE’s Duncan Whyte, will be heading to the Mediterranean Coast, using a similar route. We hope not to need their skills of repair, but the caramel wafers and other essential supplies they will carry will save overloading the Riley!
Our Route to Monte Carlo
Day 1: Wednesday 27th January. We set off from John O’ Groats at 8.00am and drive south for 300 very hard miles to join entrants in the Rallye Historique at the formal Monte Ramp Start, in the lee of the magnificent Abbey, in the centre of Paisley. Huge crowds turn out for this event, each year and we are very pleased that Victor Riley himself, the living link with the Riley Motor Company of Coventry, will be there. Please come and see us in Paisley, or give us a wave as we motor down the A9 at around 30 – 40mph average (time may confine us to the modern road, rather than the old – we are due to mount the Start Ramp in Paisley just after the Historique cars, at 18.00). From Paisley, we drive to Dumfries, aiming for a good night’s sleep.
Day 2: Thursday 28th January. At 230 miles, this should be the “easy” day. We shall see! Off down the A6 and over the spine of northern England on the A66, with our destination of Croft Racing Circuit, near Darlington, for a brisk lap. Then it’s out to the seaside at Scarborough, to savour the twisting hill circuit of Oliver’s Mount, before running south along the coast to the Hull ferry terminal. More excitement there: John’s determined to show what he and our Riley can do in the famous Monte Carlo Rally “Wiggle -Woggle”!
Day 3: Friday 29th January. Down the ferry ramp at Zeebrugge, heading for one of the other Monte Historique Starts at Reims, with time for a quick coffee with The Man from Wynn’s (one of the BDRS sponsors) en route. It now gets serious, for we have to complete more than 400 miles to-day, if we are to make it to Monaco to-morrow. All being well, we’ll be in Chalon-sur Saône for a few hours’ rest, this evening.
Day 4: Saturday 30th January. Rubbing sleep from our eyes, we’ll restart before dawn, for this last day of the Monte Carlo Rallye Classique will test us and our wee Riley even further. Initially, we follow the Rhône south, but soon swing due east into the mountains, for a taste of alpine conditions. Our destination, of course, is Monte Carlo, basking in the mild air of the Mediterranean, but we have to surmount the twists and gradients of the long haul to Sisteron, before easing the Riley (Good thing it has new brakes!) down the Route Napoleon and into the Principality itself, where our arrival will be celebrated in formal style. A quick shower, then it’s off to the official Dinner (Now you know why we had to be there on time!).
Day 5: Sunday 31st January. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ……
We hope that you’ll be with us in spirit, if not in person, to will us on during this rigorous test of stamina for men and machine. We can assist you in your imagined company within the cockpit of the WD Tourer, however. Using your Smart Phone, or PC, or Tablet, you can track us every mile of our way to Monte Carlo. The software with which we will transmit our progress is Locatoweb (no, you don’t need to have the App to see where we are), the web address is: http://locatoweb.com/user/monte2016
This adventure is, for all of us involved, the motoring adventure of a lifetime. We’ll carry the flag for Riley, for Blue Diamond Riley Services and for the Riley Clubs (The Riley Motor Club, The Riley Register, The Riley RM Club and The Scottish Riley Enthusiasts), to which members of our team belong, to a huge international audience. #MonteBD