BLAST FROM THE PAST
The historic Monte Carlo Rally is a Lollapalooza of antique cars that once ran the famous race, and is far more fun than the rally itself!
The first known use of the word rally –- rallier’ in French — to indicate a road competition was in Monte Carlo, for their first Rally, organized in 1911 by a group of wealthy locals, who formed the Sport Automobile Vélocipédique Monégasque, and bankrolled Monte Carlo’s Société des Bains de Mer organization, which had been created in 1863.
This extraordinary company participated in the evolution of Monte Carlo, playing a key role in adapting the Principality to modernity. The goal of the founders was to attract wealthy and adventurous motorists to their casino, built to a monumental scale in the famous, luxurious piazza of Monte Carlo. Casino de Monte Carlo became a strategic “rallying point” for the birth of the Monte Carlo Rally. Eleven decades later, the motives of the rally remain the same.
The earlier competitions of the Rally were partly based on the condition and elegance of the cars and required a jury to choose a winner. A true gentleman’s sport! And the Historique, as the modern version is known, is a reincarnation of that.
From January 24th to February 1st, a unique procession of rally-bred coupes, family sedans, classic car oddities, museum quality motors and rare designer one-offs, a total of 227 cars, completed the 25th Edition of the Monte Carlo Historic Rally.
Today, the 2500 km (about 1553 miles) rally continues with the same principles as it did in the beginning, adding only modern and technical modifications. It’s a faithful re-enactment of the world’s oldest road rally and the routes are about the same as when the race began in 1911. There are five cities in Europe where the drivers begin their journey to Monte Carlo: Bad-Homburg in Germany, Oslo, Norway, London, UK, Torino, Italy and Rheims, France. Their departure dates are different as each city has a different route and measured levels of difficulty to arrive. Along these routes which lead to Monte Carlo there are different time trials and “legs.” This magnificent motorcade of vehicles traveled through the rural roads of the French Alps, cheered on by spectators oblivious to the cold.
All of the competitors had to be in the Principality of Monaco by January 27. Once they arrived, there were daily trials until the end of the race on February 1.
Imposed speed limits, daily check points, mechanical breakdowns, weather conditions, multiple starts and stops all factored into the pace of the race. Every day the drivers convened at a common stage, presenting an opportunity for the locals and motorsports enthusiasts to get close to the drivers and their cars. Nightly layovers included eating gourmet and local cuisine, drinking fine wines, and, where needed, automobile maintenance. All very civil and non-aggressive, and very nice!
The finish line of the race is in Monte Carlo’s main port, Port Hercules. The open spaces of the port are surrounded by fine restaurants and glamorous bars offering music and a top-class social scene (which it’s probably redundant to say). The magnificent Monte Carlo Yacht Club sits above the port and affords a glorious view of the staggering, multi-million-dollar yachts docked below.
(But it’s not all strutting through the harbor, the first couple of days are through some wretched, icy conditions and require rally-level driving skills… observez-vous!)
The 2023 Monte Carlo Historic Rally was won by Swiss drivers Claudio Enz and Cristina Seeberger, of the Kessel Racing Team, driving a 1970 Lancia Fulvia Coupe Rallye 1.3 S. A prestigious Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony took place the following evening in the Salles des Etoiles at the Sporting Club Monte-Carlo. (So, in the end, everyone’s a winner!)
If you are interested in participating in a future Monte Carlo Rally, registrations are reserved for any cars that have participated in at least one Monte Carlo race between 1911 and 1983. Entry forms are first put up on the Automobile Club de Monaco site acm.mc in August, and applications close in November Every car must be inspected and certified by the Federation Internationale de l’ Automobile (FIA) and given a Historical Technical Passport. Participants must hold a valid, FIA-approved racing license or request a temporary license from the Automobile Club of Monaco. www.acm.mc
The race is open to all types of drivers, once you and your vehicle are certified. Who participates? Professional pilots, active and inactive, married couples, friends who are challenged by an adventurous travel and road trip.
And those seeking an extreme family outing! Father and son team Michel and Louis Chabran rallied this year, taking in a week-long opportunity to sample gourmet French food along the way. You can normally find Chef Chabran and his son at their Michelin starred establishment in Drome, France. www.chabran.com
For those who wish to forego trailing the tracks of the drivers, and — so to speak — cut to to the chase, Monte Carlo’s Société des Bain de Mer offers a fabulous array of Spa treatments, restaurant & nightlife, the Casino of course, and daily cultural events on their website: www.montecarlosbm.com