Special thanks to the Allard Owner's Club for letting us repost this story...
Notes from a Nervous Navigator on
Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique 2012 - 29 Jan to 4 Feb
Car No:239:- 1950, Allard P1
Driver – David Loveys, Co-driver – Roger Loveys
In January 2011 David announced his intention to enter the rally to mark the achievement of Sidney Allard winning the Monte-Carlo 60 years ago. It was only when I was presented with the application form to check that I knew this was a serious project. I immediately started my research and discovered Richard Disbrow, a driver who had completed the rally in 2011. Richard proved to be brilliant. I met up with him and he always responded immediately to my email requests for information and did his best to alert us to the extreme nature of the event – “Its unbelievable, a flat out road race from start to finish. I don’t know how the French allow it on their roads”. I also arranged to drive to Nice to visit friends so that I could check out part of the route and familiarise myself with driving and navigating in France, something I had not done for over 20 years.
Our acceptance for the race arrived at the end of November and suddenly everything seemed very close and scary. David’s Allard was the oldest car in the field with the majority of the entrants being classic rally cars from the 60’s and 70’s Minis, Escorts, Renaults, Lancias, Volvos, Simcas, Porches, etc.
I ordered up the dozen or so maps required and started trying to source studded winter/snow tyres and David started the serious work on the car:-
i) With help from Mike Knapman, James Smith and Dave Tuck the backaxle was removed and completely reconditioned.
ii) The gearbox was replaced by a reconditioned unit – specially prepared by Alan Brock
iii) Having had permission to run with an alternator, minor engineering was carried out and the alternator fitted along with spot lights, upgraded headlamps, extra rear lights, and internal fittings for map reading and the GPS(TRIPY) which the organizers would fit in Monte-Carlo.
iv) Dave Tuck designed and helped fit mountings for seat harnesses and fitted a new heater.
v) Minor jobs like fitting a sensor on the speedo cable for accurate distance measurement (our only electronic aid, which never worked!), mounting spare coil and condenser in situ for instant replacement and re-routing the housing for new plug leads around the new alternator took up (as usual) MUCH more time than expected.
vi) Being unable to obtain studded tyres I discovered a supplier of ‘screw-in’ studs so 10 winter/snow tyres were ordered and I fitted 4 with studs.
Countdown to the start:-
In the week preceding the start David took time off work so that the car could be fully tested and we could calibrate the trip meter and get some practice at night navigation and running at precise regularity speed.
7 days to go: A mis-fire develops during a test run and we barely get home. A new distributor is fitted and Mike and James assist with fault finding. Eventually it is decided that cooler running plugs are required. Once fitted the car again runs smoothly.
4 days to go: David and Dave take the car on a hard 50 miles – the engine doesn’t miss a beat. We decide it is time for a final grease and oil change. Whoops! A very loose trackrod end is discovered. After fitting new ones it is 11p.m. and we move on to oil changes. As the first of the gearbox oil hits the collecting tray David hears a clink(WHOOPS!!) and on inspection a piece of gear(probably the cluster gear) is found!!
3 days to go: I drive to pick up a second reconditioned gearbox. By the time I arrive back at the garage James, David and Dave have removed the engine and gearbox from the car. By 11 p.m. the new gearbox and engine are back in and the car is ready again!!
2 days to go: Mountings for rally plates are made and fitted and a ‘metallic box’ is made and installed for the GPS/TRIPY monitoring device. A previous competitor tells David that he got through 2 sets of brake linings on the rally so a spare set of brake shoes, supplied by Mike, is hastily relined. By the time all spares are checked and packed and those for the backup van stacked ready for loading it is 5:00pm. We eventually leave for Glasgow. Climbing towards Birdlip in heavy traffic the misfire returns. PANIC!! A change of plugs seems to do the trick and we get to Middlewich for some sleep.
1 day to go: A lovely drive to Glasgow. The hills in the Lake District and the borders are covered in snow, a taste of conditions to come. As our Brantz trip meter refuses to work, due to electrical interference, we spend time calibrating the car’s original trip against the 100m posts on the motorway. A ‘send-off’ meal entertains us for the evening and we get a chance to meet several of our fellow crews.
Sunday 29 Jan Scrutineering is passed successfully and after fitting numbers, rally plates etc we spend time answering questions about the Allard from the spectators who are drawn to the car and David does an interview for local radio. We join a parade of classic cars at Clydebank University before we are finally flagged off at 5:35pm. What a relief to be off! A circuitous route across the borders sees us experiencing our first inclement weather – fog and driving snow as we cross the Pennines at Brough. At our second scheduled stop at Scotch Corner we are very pleased to see John Turnbull who provides hot soup and rolls. After getting lost in the car park, much to John’s amusement, we set off on a trouble free drive to the Channel.
Monday 30 Jan After an hours sleep in the car we meet up with Paul, Dave and Andy, our invaluable support team, and cross through the tunnel at about 9:00am. Sometime during the night the trip meter on the car has ceased functioning and we are now left without any way of measuring distance, a real problem as most of the directions are given in terms of distance between turns. Our time for departure from the Calais time control is not until 3:00pm so we spend time chatting with the other crews and answering queries from interested spectators, whilst trying to keep warm in below freezing temperatures.
A steady drive to Reims and a mystery tour around some unscheduled back streets, after missing a vital turn, sees us at the control with enough time to get a quick meal. The Glasgow starters are now joined by about 90 cars who started from Reims. The sector from Reims to Langres(250km) is on more minor roads and time pressures increase. However, we arrive at the control in good time at about 12:30am.
Tuesday 31 Jan We are allowed about 3 hours as we continue cross-country on the 160 km sector to Champagnole. We arrive on time and as snow starts to fall we set off on the leg to Annecy. The snow increases and soon the roads are treacherous. Visibility in the Allard is exceptionally poor as the wipers are unable to cope but David carries on regardless. We are waved past several competitors who have run off the road. Pressing on, under time pressure, we frequently skid. One slide in particular David handles very skilfully almost unbelievably keeping us out of a deep ditch.
As daylight dawns we are approaching Annecy and join more major roads along with local traffic. The snow continues and the traffic slows and slows and the engine misfire returns. We finally come to rest in a massive traffic jam on the outskirts of Annecy. Amazingly the support team have kept up throughout the severe conditions of the night and are on hand to assist with a plug change and a delicious piece of homemade cake.
It is soon evident that we will not make our time at the next control. We ring Rally Control to seek advice and we agree to aim for Barcelonette and the next time control. An hour or so later, still in the jam, we seek further advice and agree to make straight for Monte Carlo. Because of the worsening road conditions we decide to take the motorway to Marseilles and then the coastal motorway to Monaco. The car is running well again as we make our way down to Marseilles but when we start along the coastal stretch it starts snowing again and the authorities decide to take all lorries off the road. The result is a major hold up for us! The snow increases and we soon find ourselves behind a convoy of snow ploughs, crawling along.
Eventually we leave the motorway at La Turbie on the outskirts of Monte Carlo and find the slip road jammed with cars unable to get up. The Allard sails proudly past. By the time we find the Beach Hotel we are about 4 hours late and the time control is closed. We eventually get to the Parc Ferme at about 10pm. The shuttles taking crews to their hotels have stopped running so we ask the park stewards to call us a taxi. During our wait several other cars arrive. After about 30 minutes standing in the freezing cold it is suggested that we take the car to the Fairmount Hotel.
Wednesday 1 Feb At breakfast the talk among the crews is that all penalties from the previous day have been cancelled because of the exceptional weather conditions. However we arrive at the start to find we are not on the running list. None of the starting marshals can explain our position so I ring Rally Control to try and discover why we are seemingly being treated differently from some other competitors. I am told it was the decision of the clerk that due to an error in the section from Champagnole we had been disqualified. It is agreed that we can complete the rally but will not be given a score. We consequently start the Classification Leg at about 11:30am. We are hoping to meet up with our support van and fit studded tyres but they are delayed by a puncture.
After about 2 hours of very tricky driving along narrow mountain roads, with about 1 metre of snow on some house roofs we arrive at the first Regularity (ZR). There is a long queue waiting to start and we have to wait for over 1hr. We take the stage quite cautiously on the snowy roads and are amazed at the number of people who have found their way to the most severe corners and are cheering us on. We then have the remainder of the leg to Tallard, about 150km, to be completed in about 3 hours on very icy/snowy roads. We press on with just one nasty incident when, at speed, we hit some icy snow on a bend and in a controlled slide across the road just manage to get round, hitting the rear wing on the Armco barrier. At Tallard we finally meet up with the support team who have made an equally difficult cross-country journey to get in front of us. Together we change to studded tyres whilst gobbling down another welcome piece of cake. The ZR at Sigoyer is completed in the dark and we decide to skip the next one to ensure that we arrive in Valence to complete the 500+ km stage within the time limit.
Thursday 2 Feb: A day in the mountains of the Ardeche returning to Valence. We complete all 4 of the ZRs but are unable to get close to the designated speed, even when there is little ice on the roads. Again there are enthusiasts on the spectacular corners, often gathering around fires to keep themselves warm in the freezing conditions. The Allard goes well all day and we arrive back in Valence within our allotted time.
Friday 3 Feb: Another beautiful run through the mountains back to Monte Carlo. Once again we are well down on speed for the 2 ZRs but are able to complete the stage in the overall time allocation. There is quite a bit of snow on the minor roads but the major roads are clear, allowing us to make up time. On arriving at the final ZR of the day all cars are being turned back as it has been shut, because of a rock fall. The car goes well all day but during the final 5 miles along the motorway to La Turbie the misfire returns and we struggle back to the Parc Ferme
Saturday 4 Feb: With atrocious freezing conditions and a misfiring engine we decide not to take the car on the final night sector. We will have to run at the back of the field and the possibility of breaking down with no-one to notice our predicament seems an unnecessary risk to take.
We were disqualified during the Concentration Leg , but continued and completed sufficient ZRs within the allocated time to have qualified for a finish if the earlier disqualification had not been in place. Probably most of the other 80 or so disqualified cars would have similar stories to tell.
The final dinner was a suitably grand affair for such an amazing event and we were pleased to see footage of the Allard in the video summary of the rally.
The return to Wiltshire was somewhat of a nightmare with the engine misfiring virtually all the way. We changed everything we could think of:- timing, plug leads, coil, condenser, distributor and plugs at least 6 times. At one time we were changing plugs when the temperature was showing -14 on the support van thermometer and there was a stiff breeze – very uncomfortable!! Anyway we finally made it back to Devizes on Monday evening. We came to the conclusion that the Allard was understandably reluctant to return to the Devizes workshop after tasting the ‘high life’ in Monte Carlo
The stresses, strains and discomforts of the rally are soon forgotten and we are left with amazing memories of a fabulous event.
Very many special thanks to Paul, Dave and Andy who were always at hand, providing essential tools and spares, remaining positive and offering us very welcome home-made cake at crucial moments. Most of all thanks to our better halves, Jane and Terry who have encouraged and supported us throughout and kept the home fires burning.
Distance driven - 5716km
Yes Richard you were right – a flat out road race!