A Run to Monte Carlo
After 2 years of almost no events, it was fantastic to get back in the rally car. And what could be better than setting off on a trip to Monaco?
(by Jan Gerring)
Older cars benefit from regular use and so it was with trepidation that we set out. We had a shakedown run of 600 miles in 2 days to get to the start at Troyes in the Champagne region. Far enough to make sure everything worked but with time to fix anything that didn’t before the rally started.
After an overnight at Folkestone, by chance we met up with a few of the other competitors at the Eurotunnel terminal – I think we’d all done the same calculation of how long the journey was likely to take and when signing-on started.
A gentle run to Troyes saw 40 cars arrive at The Golden Tulip Hotel for signing-on and a chance for us all to carry out the calibration of our trip meters. The priority for all Navigators is to get to work on the road book while the drivers congregate in the car park for a catch up… and then more catching up in the bar afterwards.
We had been given a list of the maps we needed and so I started plotting the route. On this event you get some ‘inter-distances’ on some of the sections which is why it’s useful to calibrate your trip meter to the rally organiser’s settings.
It was great to be back doing a real ‘plot & bash’ event (I did a couple of table top rallies during lockdown, but it’s not the same as knowing we could get lost if we plot the wrong route). So with my brain back in gear, I sorted out maps and started marking them up in combination with the route book. With 4 days of competition, you are unlikely to plot it all before the start so I worked on day 1 and day 2. I aim to keep at least half a day ahead in case we have a problem and arrive late in the evening.
The first car was due out at 8:01 and the most important task of the morning is to be on time to sign-out. On this event you have to look out for answers to questions, Code Boards and PCVs (Panneaux de Code Visuel). There were also sections when odometer readings had to be declared (we all had to calculate the variance of our odometer to the calibrated distances provided by the organisers). If you drive the correct route you should get all of the answers, with penalties for wrong or missing answers as these were all designed to ensure that you drive the organiser’s route. The winner would be the team with the lowest points scored and that covered the shortest route.
The first day was 3 sections totalling 361km to finish at Macon. It took us a while to get back into Rally mode. An early stupid mistake, when we should have gone back to check a question answer, gave us 50 penalties, but we were having fun just being there.
Day 2 was 303km from Macon to Privas, with the afternoon section distance being measured.
Day 3 again had measured distances and was 316 km to Les Salles sur Verdon.
The final half day was 170km to finish at the Col de Turini, again measured and with some very tricky navigation in Carros. Big towns and cities are always hard, as it’s more difficult to stop to check the direction on a sign (if you can find it) and if you go wrong it’s almost impossible to turn around easily.
We were pleased to see snow as we went up to the Col and even happier to get to the Hotel Trois Vallees which is where so many Monte Carlo rallies have passed through. If you ever get the chance, call in for a coffee or omelette just so you can look at the rally memorabilia.
A gentle run down into Menton meant the competition element was finished.
For the last day of the event we didn’t even get into the cars as a Charity Luncheon had been organised at the Automobile Club Monaco. It was much easier to catch the train to Monaco, especially with the promise of suitable liquid refreshment to accompany the meal.
Beautiful weather meant we could enjoy the sun whilst sitting in a café by the harbour and watching the stand being constructed for the Monaco Historique and F1 events. We enjoyed being able to look at all of the fabulous photos, pictures and racing memorabilia, followed by that lovely lunch.
Back at Menton we had a blustery walk on the beach and an early night in preparation for a long drive back to Troyes (about 875km). Next time we’ll definitely make this a shorter leg! Then home with a happy but tired crew, a fully functioning Lotus Cortina… and 2 positive covid tests! 🤔
I’d love to give you some wonderful prose about the scenery, the roads and the beautiful villages we passed through, but that’s what you can do on a leisurely trip through the countryside on a holiday. On a competitive event I spend most of my time looking at the road book, the map or, for a change, at the verge searching for boards and answers (this by the way should be the driver’s job as they are on that side on the road). Occasionally I try to look at something spectacular, especially if I know there isn’t a turning or question nearby. In the case of the goats, you get a warning aroma.
These events are challenging and enjoyable but not restful. The real joy however, is not the scenery but the people you meet. Lots of hopefully likeminded individuals to chat with, debate current motoring happenings (like the future of E10, or electric cars v. petrol) and to solve the puzzles of the day, such as “Where is that knocking noise coming from?” “Why does my ignition light come on intermittently?” and “How do I fix this?” – ‘this’ being whatever has broken on someone’s pride and joy during that day.
I think the honest answer to the question “Is it fun?” is what do we do when we get home. We fix the things that are broken or damaged, we try to learn from our errors (always plenty of these) and then we book up for the next event!