23rd Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique

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Peter Collins Reports on one of the most popular events in endurance rallying, with over 300 entries.

Consistency was the key to success for Henrik Bjerregaard and Jaromir Svec Photo http://promopub.org

The first cars to set off on the annual pilgrimage to Monte-Carlo were those from Athens at 12:40 on Wednesday January 29th.  Five crews had chosen to do this and they were faced with a 1,715km drive before they would finish on the harbour of the Principality.  A further two cars had chosen Glasgow from where they started, along with the Rallye Classique participants, at 19:00 the same day, faced with covering 2142kms to Monte.

The bulk of the entry however did not start until Friday January 31, led by 30 cars from Bad Homburg in Germany at 14:00, then 50 cars from Milan at 18:00.  Each of these had around 1000-1200kms to travel.  Fourteen crews left Barcelona at 19:00 at the same time as the 111 cars left Reims and finally 98 started from Monte Carlo itself, with competitors from these starting points clocking up about 950kms before they finished.

All would meet at the small town of Buis les Baronnies in the Drome, not far from Nyons where they were provided with their GPS by the organisers.  This enables the Automobile Club de Monaco to keep track of every competitor in case of any problems.  The advantages and disadvantages of current digital timing devices were made clear when those using the Crisartech system reported that it was much more accurate than the popular BluNik.  It was said that the former system was capable of sending its users 500 updates in 45kms. One regular competitor suggested that the ACM should go back to Haldas and stop watches.  “This is a rally for old cars after all!”

The competitive stages soon started with Montauban sur l’Ouveze to Saint André de Rosans to start with and the famous La Motte Chalançon to St Nazaire le Désert following soon after.  A celebrity entry this year was a Porsche 911 crewed by Walter Röhrl teamed with his period co-driver Christian Geistdorfer.  At the finish of the latter stage Röhrl quipped that he found it odd that to be competitive he had to keep to 50km/h in places where, during the Monte with a Lancia 037 or Audi, he needed to be at 130km/h!

Next day was the Classification Leg.  This was a Valence to Valence loop of 230kms with the first car away at 06:30 heading for St Agreve and twisting its way through the mountains west of Privas for 57kms. To give an example of how regularity events can even cars and crews up and make for interesting results, the 1957 Fiat 1400B of Josep Cassellas finished 11th ahead of Alpine A110s and Porsche 911s.  But the daunting Burzet followed, which started as usual at the eponymous town and climbed to the plateau above before finishing 49kms later at Lachamp Raphaël.  Two more stages, including the St Bonnet le Froid loop came before last control of the day at Tournon on the banks of the Rhone, before returning to parc fermé in Valence.

There had been four different stage leaders: Carlos Zorilla-Hierro from Spain (VW Golf on SR3); Roland Kussmaul from Germany (Porsche 911 on SR4); Florian Picoreau from France (Alfa Romeo GTV on SR5) and Polish pair Stanislaw and Andrzej Postawka (Zastava 1100 on SR6).

The first Common Leg run was on Monday and consisted of another long loop from Valence to Valence, but to the east of the city over such famous stages as l’Echarasson-La Cime du Mars and twice over the Col de Rousset, both up it and down it.  Again, there were four different stage leaders with only Postawka in the Zastava appearing for the second time.  By the end of the day however, the overall lead of the rally was held by Henrik Bjerregaard and Jaromir Svec in their Ford Escort RS2000 Mk2.  Second overall were Lars Hindsgaul and Arne Pagh in a Fiat 128 Coupe followed by the Hierro/Dominguez VW Golf Gti.

Tuesday brought the long grind of 433kms from Valence back to Monaco with only three tests en route.  Although new names appeared on each of the stage results as winners, consistency meant that the Bjerregaard Escort was leading overall at the end of the daytime stages, ahead of the Hierro Golf and Norbert Drexel/Christian Roessler in a Volvo 242.

And so it ran out.  After a tough night over the Alpes Maritimes, despite some very close stage results and Bruno Saby rising from 17th to fourth, Bjerregaard and Svec held their overall lead to win the 23rd Monte Carlo Historique ahead of the Lancia Fulvia of Rafael Fernandez Cosin and Julien Martinez-Huarte.

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