On January 21, 1911, the first Monte Carlo Rally began. The Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo is a rallying event organized each year by the Automobile Club de Monaco which also organizes the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique. The rally now takes place along the French Riviera in the Principality of Monaco and southeast France. Previously, competitors would set off from all four corners of Europe and ‘rally’, in other words, meet, in Monaco to celebrate the end of a unique event. From its inception in 1911 by Prince Albert I it was an important means of demonstrating improvements and innovations to automobiles.
In 1909, the Automobile Club de Monaco (Sport Automobile Velocipedique Monegasque) started planning a car rally at the behest of Albert I, Prince of Monaco. The Monte Carlo Rally was to start at points all over Europe and converge on Monte Carlo. On January 21, 1911, 23 cars set out from 11 different locations and Henri Rougier was among the nine who left Paris to cover a 634-miles (1,020 kilometers) route. The event was won by Rougier in a Turcat-Méry 25 Hp. The rally comprised both driving and then somewhat arbitrary judging based on the elegance of the car, passenger comfort and the condition in which it arrived in the principality. The outcry of scandal when the results were published changed nothing, so Rougier was proclaimed the first winner.
In 1912, the rally was won by Jules Beutler driving a car manufactured by Berliet. The Monte Carlo Rally was not held from 1913 until its resumption in 1924 which was won by Jacques Edouard Ledure. The race was suspended between 1940 and 1948. Held on January 24-30, the 1949 Monte Carlo Rally was the 19th Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo, the first since the end of the Second World War. It was won by Jean Trévoux. The 1957 rally was cancelled as fuel coupons weren’t allowed to be issued to drivers due to the Suez Crisis.
The 1966 event was the most controversial in the history of the Rally. The first four finishers, driving three Mini-Coopers, Timo Mäkinen, Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk, and Roger Clark’s 4th-placed Ford Cortina were all disqualified because they used non-dipping single filament quartz iodine bulbs in their headlamps, in place of the standard double filament dipping glass bulbs, which are fitted to the series production version of each models sold to the public. This elevated Pauli Toivonen (Citroën ID) into first place overall. Rosemary Smith (Hillman Imp) was also disqualified from sixth place, after winning the Coupe des Dames, the ladies’ class. In all, ten cars were disqualified. Teams threatened to boycott the event. The headline in Motor Sport read “The Monte Carlo Fiasco.”
At the time, the Monte Carlo Rally was structured as a concentration rally, with teams beginning competition in some nine different cities, with the first objective of the rally being to reach Monte Carlo, followed by two legs of competitive special stages around Monaco and southeastern France. Traditionally run on tarmac roads commonly covered in snow and ice, especially at higher altitudes, bad weather did force cancellation of two special stages in 1973.
In 1973, and for several years afterward, only manufacturers were given points for finishes in WRC events. Alpine Renault dominated the event, a portent of their further success during the season with their Alpine-Renault A110 1800 car. They would take all three podium positions and five of the top six places.
From 1973 to 2008 the rally was held in January as the first event of the FIA World Rally Championship, but between 2009 to 2011 it has been the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) programme, a championship for N/A 4WD cars, before returning to the WRC championship season again in 2012. As recently as 1991, competitors were able to choose their starting points from approximately five venues roughly equidistant from Monte Carlo itself.
With often varying conditions at each starting point (typically comprising dry tarmac, wet tarmac, snow, and ice, sometimes all in a single stage of the rally), this event places a big emphasis on tire choices, as a driver has to balance the need for grip on ice and snow with the need for grip on dry tarmac. For the driver, this is often a difficult choice as the tyres that work well on snow and ice normally perform badly on dry tarmac.
The Automobile Club de Monaco confirmed on July 19, 2010, that the 79th Monte-Carlo Rally would form the opening round of the new Intercontinental Rally Challenge season. To mark the centenary event, Glasgow, Barcelona, Warsaw and Marrakesh were selected as start points for the rally.
The rally features one of the most famous special stages in the world. The stage is run from La Bollène-Vésubie to Sospel, or the other way around, over a steep and tight mountain road with many hairpin turns. On this 19.263-mile (31km) route it passes over the Col de Turini, a mountain pass road which normally has ice and/or snow on sections of it at that time of the year. Spectators also throw snow on the road — in 2005, Marcus Grönholm and Petter Solberg both ripped a wheel off their cars when they skidded on snow probably placed there by spectators, and crashed into a wall. Grönholm went on to finish fifth, but Solberg was forced to retire as the damage to his car was extensive. In the same event, Sébastien Loeb set one of the fastest times in the modern era, with 21 minutes 40 seconds.
Sospel has an elevation of 1,571 feet (479m) and the D70 has a maximum elevation of 5,259 feet (1603m), for an average gradient of 6.7%. The Turini is also driven at night, with thousands of fans watching the “Night of Turini”, also known as the “Night of the Long Knives” due to the strong high beam lights cutting through the night. In the 2007 edition of the rally, the Turini was not used, but it returned for the 2008 route. For both the 2009 and 2010 event the stage was run at night and shown live on Eurosport.
The 2019 Monte Carlo Rally (formally known as the 87e Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo) will be held starting later this week. It marks the eighty-seventh running of the Monte Carlo Rally, and is the first round of the 2019 World Rally Championship. It is also the first round of the World Rally Championship-2 and the newly-created WRC-2 Pro class. The 2019 event is based in the town of Gap in the Hautes-Alpes department of France and consists of sixteen special stages. The rally covers a total competitive distance of 200,58 miles (322.81 km).
The opening of the 2019 rally is scheduled for Thursday, January 24, starting at 18:50 from the Place Desmichels in Gap. During this first nocturnal leg, there will be two unprecedented special stages of a total of 25.69 miles (41.35 km). These two specials, “La Bréole/ Selonnet” (SS 1 – 20.76 km – 19:38) and “Avançon / Notre-Dame-du-Laus” (SS 2 – 20.59 km – 20:41), are in the departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and of Hautes-Alpes.
Reigning World Drivers’ and World Co-Drivers Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are the defending rally winners. M-Sport Ford WRT, the team they drove for in 2018, are the defending manufacturers’ winners. The Škoda Motorsport crew of Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler are the defending winners in the World Rally Championship-2 category, but will not enter the rally. In the World Rally Championship-3 category, Italian privateers Enrico Brazzoli and Luca Beltrame are the reigning rally winners, but will not defend their title as the WRC-3 category has been discontinued in 2019.
The rally route is made up of 200.58 miles (322.81 km) in competitive stages, making the 2019 route the shortest since the 2004 event. The route will be 44.7 miles (71.93 km) shorter than the one used in 2018. The Thoard — Sisteron and Bayons — Bréziers were removed from the itinerary and replaced by a new stage from La Bréole to Selonnet and the revival of the Avançon — Notre-Dame-du-Laus stage, which had not been contested for a decade. The opening day’s stages were also revised to be better-centered around the rally base in Gap. The second and third leg of the rally are unchanged from the 2018 event. The route was revised after the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile introduced rule changes for the 2019 championship that limited the maximum distance of a route to 217,5 miles (350 km).
Following the Monte Carlo Rally, the Historical Rally begins. In 2019, the 22e Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique is reserved to those cars which participated in the Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo between 1955 and 1980. The start of this 22nd edition will be Wednesday January 30, with the concentration leg from Athens (1497km / 12:40) and Glasgow (2149 km / 18:00). Those who leave on Friday February 1 will follow Bad Homburg (1165 km / 14:00), Milan (840 km /18:00), Barcelona (928 km / 19:00), Reims (940 km / 19:00) and Monte-Carlo (729 km / 20:00). According to tradition, the Gala and the Prize Giving will take place on the evening of February 6, 2019, in the Salle des Etoiles du Monte-Carlo Sporting Club (evening dress mandatory or dark clothing mandatory).
At least two movies have been made based on the Monte Carlo Rally. Monte Carlo or Bust! is a 1969 British/French/Italian co-production comedy film, also known by its American title, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies. The story is based on the Monte Carlo Rally — first raced in 1911 — and the film recalls this general era, set in the 1920s. A lavish all-star film (Paramount put $10 million behind it), it is the story of an epic car rally across Europe that involves a lot of eccentric characters from all over the world who will stop at nothing to win.
The film is a sequel to the 1965 hit Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. Terry-Thomas appeared as Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage, the equally dastardly son of the Sir Percy Ware-Armitage, which Thomas had played in the earlier film. Some others of the cast from the first film returned, including Gert Fröbe and Eric Sykes. Like the earlier film, it was written by Ken Annakin and Jack Davies and directed by Annakin, with music by Ron Goodwin. The title tune is performed by Jimmy Durante. The credits sequence animation was the work of Ronald Searle, who was also featured in Annakin’s earlier Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. Tony Curtis and Susan Hampshire played other contestants in the race; Curtis also starred in the similar period-piece comedy The Great Race (1965) from Warner Bros. The film was originally intended to be called Rome or Bust. The American distributors Paramount Pictures re-titled it Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies to tie it to Annakin’s 1965 film; re-editing also meant cuts, up to a half-hour, from the original UK release.
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo is a 1977 American comedy adventure film and the third installment of the Herbie franchise made by Walt Disney Productions starring Herbie — the white 1963 Volkswagen racing Beetle with a mind of its own. The film stars Dean Jones as returning champion race car driver Jim Douglas, joined by his somewhat cynical and eccentric riding mechanic Wheely Applegate (Don Knotts). Together with Herbie, the “Love Bug”, a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, they are participating in the fictional Trans-France Race, from Paris, France, to Monte Carlo, Monaco. According to dialogue, they hope to stage a racing comeback in the event.
Scott #333 was released by the Principality of Monaco on January 14, 1955, to mark the 25th Monte Carlo Rally, the first time the rally had been commemorated on a postage stamp. The unwatermarked 100-franc dark brown and red stamp depicts an automobile and representation of the eight European cities which served as starting points for the 1955 event. Recess-printed in a quantity of 43,600, it was comb-perforated 13.
The following year, on April 3, 1956, a square-formatted 100-franc stamp was released to mark the 26th Monte Carlo Rally and highlighting the Glasgow to Monte Carlo Route (Scott #365). This design would be used each year until 1966 (except for 1957, when the rally was cancelled):
- Scott #411 — Munich to Monte Carlo (May 15, 1958); 100 francs
- Scott #437 — Athens to Monte Carlo (May 16, 1959); 100 francs
- Scott #460 — Lisbon to Monte Carlo (June 1, 1960); 25 centimes
- Scott #483 — Stockholm to Monte Carlo (June 3, 1961); 1 franc
- Scott #500 — Oslo to Monte Carlo (June 6, 1962); 1 franc
- Scott #539 — Warsaw to Monte Carlo (May 3, 1963); 1 franc
- Scott #549 — Paris to Monte Carlo (December 12, 1963); 1 franc
- Scott #600 — Minsk to Monte Carlo (December 3, 1964); 1 franc
- Scott #629 — London to Monte Carlo (February 1, 1966); 1 franc
Additionally, Scott #484, was released on June 3, 1961, to commemorate the rally’s 50th anniversary. The diamond-formatted 1-franc stamp the Turcat-Mery car which won the 1911 Monte Carlo Rally as well as a 1961 car. Due to the controversies surrounding the 1966 event, the stamp series was suspended. The 50th running of the Monte Carlo Rally was commemorated with a 1-franc stamp issued on November 5, 1981 (Scott #1314) and the 75th anniversary of the rally saw a 3.90-franc stamp issued on May 22, 1986 (Scott #1542), which portrayed 1911 winner Henri Rougier and his Turcat-Mery car.
The 60th Monte Carlo Rally was marked with a 4-franc stamp released on March 13, 1992 (Scott #1805) and the 70th rally was commemorated with a souvenir sheet bearing two stamps (1.07 euros and 1.22 euros) issued on January 16, 2002 (Scott #2240). A se-tenet pair of 60-euro stamps was issued on December 1, 2006 with Scott #2560a promoting the 65th Monaco Grand Prix while Scott #2560b commemorates the 75th Monte Carlo Rally. Most recently, the 100th anniversary of the rally was marked with a single 1.40-euro stamp released on January 12, 2011 (Scott #2615).
In addition to the above-mentioned stamps released by the Principality of Monaco, several other nations have released stamps portraying the Monte Carlo Rally including Ireland, the Qu’aiti State In Hadhramaut (a protectorate of Aden, now South Arabia), Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. It makes for an interesting topical by itself, or as part of a larger “racing on stamps” thematic collection. I’m having fun adding these stamps and covers to my stock books.