A lack of snow on the Monte Carlo Historic Rally created a false sense of security. By Johnny Tipler THAN IT LOOKS
he Historic iteration of the big-time FIA rally follows in its tyre tracks a few days later, spilling over from late January into February, and this year’s was the 19th edition.
Most of the varied entry comprises committed amateur rallyists helming semi-exotic historic cars built between 1955 and 1980, from tiny Vespa to Lancia Stratos, and there’s always a handful of former French superstars such as Jean Ragnotti, Daniel Elena, and ‘Biche’ (co-driver to Jean-claude Andruet). It’s an extremely popular challenge for northern Europeans who relish a blast of mid-winter Mediterranean heat after five days battling the elements in wild country.
An entry of 297 cars set out from five widely scattered cities – Oslo, Glasgow, Bad Homburg, Reims and Barcelona – for this year’s convoluted Concentration Routes, making the long haul through the night to converge on Port Hercule in the Principality on Saturday January 30.
The following day, the entire retinue left town, heading for the Ardeche stages, 186 miles back in the direction most had already come, tackling four Regularities between Sisteron, Saint-nazaire-en-royans and Valence on the Classification Leg along the way.
Heading out from Valence at crack of dawn, the first part of the Common Leg comprised a loop through remote, forested, high hill country, tackling four Regularities between Le Moulinon, Antraigues, Burzet, the aptly named SaintBonnet-le-froid, and Lamastre, with service halfway round at St Agreve, then back to Valence for the night.
After the 12th Regularity, the Lancia Fulvia 1600 HF of Giordano Mozzi/stefania Biacci was leading, hotly pursued by the Ford Escort RS2000 Mk2 of Jean-luc Hasler/ Sylvain Blondeau, just 26 points behind the Italian machine.
The entourage then climbed southeast again via the Vercors and Alpes-de-haute-provence, encountering two Regularities en route back to Monaco. There was little respite.
At 2000hrs, cars were flagged off at one-minute intervals, making for the Alpes-maritimes and the innumerable hairpins of the daunting Col de Turini section, where normally snow, ice and deformed road surfaces govern the action. This year the snow was completely absent from the roads, but an unforeseen hazard replaced it: fog, with drizzle.
Two Regularities altered all the classifications. First, Sospel/ Moulinet/col de Turini/la Bollene – 52.8 twisting kilometres (32.8 miles) of part-forested hilltop lanes. The two leading crews over the last five Regularities –Mozzi/biacci and Hasler/blondeau – were well matched, and the lead remained unchanged. However, a stage win for the Opel Kadett GTE of Raymond Durand/sebastien Chol reduced the gap to the leaders, while second for Gianmaria Aghem/diego Cumino in a Fulvia elevated them to third overall.
Finally, the Lantosque/coaraze stage presented 47.2km (29.3 miles) run in thick fog, cost the leading Lancia crew victory. Their tyre choice was ill-judged and they ended the stage 158th and fell to 92nd in the general classification: that’s how dramatically the order can change.
Thus, Daniele Perfetti and Ronnie Kessel (Alpine-renault A110) stole a march on everyone else, having accumulated fewer penalties to achieve the victory, even though they hadn’t won any of the Regularities. It’s notable that Perfetti has another string to his bow, having won the British GT Championship in 2012 in a Porsche 997 (also without scoring a win!).
Second were Hasler/blondeau, while the Coup des Dames was won by regulars Steffi Edelhoff and Birgit Binder in their Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1 in 62nd overall. Elena and Olivier Campana took the trophy for the first Monegasque crew, finishing 11th in their VW Golf GTI.
While it was great to see ‘proper’ competition cars like Alpines, 911s and Fulvias heading the running order, the constantly updating production timespan elicits ever more hot hatches and thus reliability and modernity, with Golf GTIS and Sciroccos increasingly numerous. Next year, being the 20th Historique, it should be quite a party. ■