|When all goes
well in the Monte Carlo, Europe's most famous
automobile rally, almost nobody finishes. Last
year went beautifully, and rally organizers
rubbed their hands in glee. Snowbanks 16 feet
deep blocked everyone unfortunate enough to have
started in Athens. Of 296 starters, only 98 made
it to the Mediterranean principality.
This year, striving for
even better things, perhaps with nobody
finishing, officials changed the date of the
competition to insure the worst possible weather
and then added Minsk to the list of starting
places. The latter move was a stroke of good
fortune. While starters from Oslo and Glasgow and
five other cities were running into depressingly
balmy weather, a fast-talking, faster-driving
little Irishman from Belfast named Paddy Hopkirk
was having a colorful time, and colorful
troubles, in Minsk.
actually started in 1912 in the days of the czars
when a mad fellow named Nagel negotiated the
2,000 miles between St. Petersburg and Monte
Carlo in eight days, in an open car. "Now,
could I do anything less than Nagel?" asked
Paddy. So with 21 other Westerners he drove to
Brest-Litovsk and then to Minsk. On hand to greet
him with caviar and vodka were five Soviet rally
teams and Leonid Afnassiev, president of the
Soviet Automobile Federation. "We never
imagined," said he, "that there would
be more than two Soviet vehicles and five foreign
cars wanting to start here."
Right from the
outset Paddy was a great success with the
Russians. "They had never seen a Republic of
Ireland passport before," he explained
modestly. "I'm from Belfast, but I was
educated in southern Ireland in a church school
and later studied engineering at Trinity College
in Dublin. That's when I acquired my passport,
and I've never changed to a British one. Some
silly Englishman told the Russians I had worked
with the Irish Republican Army and that made me
early in the morning to look at the Western rally
cars. "Humiliating it was, too,"
remarked Paddy, who was driving a little
Morris-made Mini Cooper, "because it was so
bloody cold that we could never get our motors
going. They said it was only 20? below zero but
it felt more like 50?. Anyway, we pushed our cars
or had them towed to the main square. The
Russians asked us seriously whether that was the
way we normally started an automobile in the
winter in England."
While Paddy and
his navigator, Henry Liddon, a Morris car
salesman from Bristol, were fighting to survive
in Minsk, Monte Carlo rally connoisseurs were
freely predicting a smashing victory for a
newcomer to European rallies, Ford of Detroit.
Last year these same experts snickered and
chortled when, for the first time, the American
firm started three Falcon Sprints in the Monte
Carlo. But they were "laughing yellow,"
as the French say, when big Bo Ljungfeldt of
Sweden in an "oversize, unwieldy"
Falcon swept all five speed stages, establishing
an alltime record. Had it not been for an early
rally penalty, "Le Grand Bo"
would have won, and it was only his first
This year Ford
decided to enter six factory Falcons and hire the
finest crew of rally drivers of any manufacturer.
Besides Ljungfeldt, there was the 1962 world
racing champion, Graham Hill; the top French
drivers, Jo Schlesser and Henri Greder; and Peter
Harper of Britain. Ford also bid for the women's
cup by entering a seasoned English rally driver,
Anne Hall, with the 1964 rally's only American
girl, Denise McCluggage of New York.
But Ford had no
monopoly on American participation. Chrysler made
its European rally debut with three Plymouth
Valiants powered by new V-8 engines. Unlike Ford,
Chrysler spent little time reconnoitering the
five dangerous speed stages between the Alps and
Monaco. They also counted on Americans to drive
and navigate. One of them was the U.S. rally
champion, Scott Harvey of Detroit but, as old
Monte hands saw it, Chrysler was "un bon
Many European car
people, who resented the "big push"
from Detroit, confidently predicted a third
consecutive victory for the towering, potbellied,
pleasant-mannered SAAB engineer from Sweden, Erik
Carlsson. Interest in Carlsson was greatly
increased, at least sentimentally, by the fact
that his wife, Pat Moss (Stirling's sister),
would also drive a factory SAAB from Oslo.
With 91 of the 299
competitors beginning there, the Norwegian
capital was the favorite starting spot. This is
explained by the Scandinavian drivers' passion
for driving on ice and snow, the Nordic
authorities' competence in clearing snowbound
roads (in Yugoslavia or Spain or southern France
it is quite another story), and the relaxing
ferryboat rides to Denmark. The drivers'
confidence was not misplaced, for nine of the
first 11 finishers started from Norway.
was not much to choose among starting from
Frankfurt or Lisbon or Monte Carlo itself. The
distances of the different itineraries varied
very little, from the 3,013 miles from Frankfurt
to the 2,760 miles from Minsk. As always, all
drivers had to take the "common route,"
a winding, 875-mile journey from Reims to Monte
Carlo via the Jura Mountains, 3,000- to
5,000-foot Alpine passes and the tortuous
Maritime Alps. Sprinkled through the mountainous
route were the five speed stages that were meant
to separate the sheep from the goats.
Alas for the
Scandinavians, who prayed for snow. There was
none. Disgusted drivers had to settle for a wee
bit of fog and sparse patches of ice. The
Carlssons, who had started 70 minutes apart, were
both so far in advance that they had time in
Germany for a family chat. At Reims, drivers
sipped champagne in an improvised barbershop
where many were shaved. "This isn't a
rally," sighed Chrysler's Harvey, "it's
While the experts
continued to watch the Fords, Chryslers and
Carlssons waltz around western Europe, nobody was
paying any attention to the little Irishman on
the Caviar Road from Minsk in his "little
red biscuit tin on wheels." Hopkirk slept
every night from midnight to 8 in the morning
while Liddon droned on at 85 or 90 miles an hour.
Their worst obstacle was Paddy's Irish passport.
At the Polish and Czechoslovak frontiers, customs
guards inspected curiously, delaying progress
miserable Irish passport," groaned Liddon.
"English pig," retorted Paddy.
"Irish bum," replied Henry.
The longest delay
came at the Czech border, where officials poked
sticks into every corner of the car. "I half
expected them to ask me," said Paddy,
"if I had anyone to declare. The main thing
is they didn't touch that caviar we brought from
Russia. We figured on selling it for more profit
than we could make winning first prize
Meanwhile the two
Soviet Moscovitch 403s and the three Volga M 21
ms were having trouble. They had taken the rally
rule book literally and concluded that service
cars in front of and behind them were illegal. So
they loaded hundreds of pounds of tires and spare
parts in each of the five cars. By way of
contrast, Erik Carlsson said to his navigator:
"Get rid of those loose coins in your pocket
or change them into bills. No extra weight in
this SAAB, please."
The Soviet drivers
were also having map trouble. They had ordered a
set of five maps from a French automobile club
well before the rally, but somehow only one set
ever arrived. That obliged the five cars to stick
pretty much together. In Li?ge, Belgium, they
rushed into the automobile club and finally
acquired four extra maps of the Reims-Monte Carlo
were dismayed when they counted noses at Reims.
No fewer than 274 out of 299 starters had reached
the city of champagne, most of them un-penalized.
If any old Sunday driver could complete the great
Monte Carlo rally, they reasoned, who would ever
take the race seriously again?
"Then all of
a sudden the joyride somehow turned into a
nightmare," recalled Harvey. "We
knocked ourselves out trying to stay on time. We
would roar into a gas station, help ourselves to
a tankful, toss a couple of what we hoped were
big enough French bills at the bewildered
attendant and speed off."
What had happened
to turn the rally into a rat race? A far tighter
time schedule, the speed stages, the accumulated
fatigue of 72 hours of nonstop driving, nightfall
and scary Alpine roads.
Trant Jarman and
his American teammate, Sam Croft Pearson, began
to feel groggy. "We may have been breathing
gas fumes," Jarman said. "We had a
cockeyed conversation in which I asked Sam how
much time we had left and he replied that double
rooms were more expensive than single ones. At
one point when I thought I was going pretty fast,
a woman on a bicycle passed me by."
problem for all drivers was deciding what kind of
tires to use in the Alps above Monaco. Here the
road was dry, there it became icy. The Misses
Hall and McCluggage put on the wrong tires, those
with big studs, and their Falcon advanced on the
last speed stage like a crab. "The car was
absolutely unmanageable," Anne said.
Bo Ljungfeldt had
similar trouble. "I never knew just which
tires we should have on," he said, "and
if I were to do the rally all over again
tomorrow, I still wouldn't know."
Nevertheless, Bo won every one of the speed
tests. Well, not quite. On the third lap the big
Falcon was tied by that little red Mini. Paddy
was making his bid for victory. When rally fans
in Monte Carlo learned Hopkirk's and Ljungfeldt's
times, they exclaimed: "It's David and
Goliath!" A 6-foot 4-inch Swede in the
rally's biggest car against a 5-foot 8-inch
Irishman in one of the rally's smallest.
Battling for what
seemed like third place were the two Carlssons.
"Bravo Erik," shouted rally spectators
in the Maritime Alps, as the small red SAAB
whipped by, but the driver was often Pat, not
Erik. Driving brilliantly, powerfully, Pat Moss
beat her husband by 17 seconds on the fourth lap
and was less than 50 seconds behind him after the
speed times were totaled.
and Monte Carlo about 100 cars fell by the
wayside. George Parkes and Arthur Senior, two
Britons in a Reliant Sabre, had a blowout,
somersaulted over an embankment and landed right
side up at the foot of a wall, a bit shaken. Few
drivers were seriously injured. Even Pauline
Mayman, whose Austin Cooper collided with another
car and was burned, escaped with a broken rib and
In all, 163
competitors completed the rally within the
allowed time, among them Prince Michel de
Bourbon-Parme. All five Soviet cars finished but
were disqualified for being late. "We will
be back next year and hope to do better,"
their drivers said cheerfully at a cocktail party
given by the U.S. Ford team.
For several hours
after the rally no one knew who had won. That was
because of a complicated handicap system based
upon the car's class and its cylinder capacity.
In other words, while Ljungfeldt obviously had a
much more powerful automobile than Hopkirk, Paddy
had the advantage of a better handicap. So did
the Carlssons in their little SAABs. When the
results were announced, Hopkirk was leading Erik
Carlsson by 31 seconds, Pat by 46, Timo Makinen
of Finland (who also was in a Mini Cooper) and Bo
Ljungfeldt, both by 64 seconds.
But there was
still a three-lap, just-over-six-mile pure speed
race on the Grand Prix circuit, with no handicaps
for size or power, to decide the overall winner.
Ljungfeldt was expected to pick up one place in
the standings by going faster than Makinen. Bo
did better than that. He picked up 30 to 50
seconds, enough to pass Makinen and both
Carlssons and win second place behind beaming
Paddy. For Carlsson it was a great disappointment
not to win a third straight rally, but he (and
SAAB) were consoled by Pat's superb fifth-place
performance, the highest that any woman has ever
finished in Monte Carlo.
Valiant placed 88th, which is obviously nothing
to write home to Detroit about. But, in all
fairness, Chrysler made nothing like the massive
effort of Ford. As for Ford, officials in Monte
Carlo were understandably jubilant about
Ljungfeldt's remarkable performance and satisfied
with, if not elated over, the showing of all the
other Falcons, two of which were in the first 11
finishers. "We missed winning the Monte
Carlo rally by a mere 30 points," said Team
Manager George Merwin. "We will be back next
year, to win."
But the happiest
and most surprised fellow in Monte Carlo was
31-year-old Paddy Hopkirk. "We knew we had
run a good rally," he said, "but when
we saw the dry roads and sunny skies in the
French Alps, we said to ourselves, 'The Fords
have it clinched.' " Far from it, the
Morrises enjoyed a team triumph with first,
fourth and seventh places. Paddy, however, was
pleased for another reason. "I shall meet
Princess Grace. She has an Irish background. Do
you think I ought to tell her," he asked
with a brogue, "that I'm Irish, too?"
Written by: Paul