Here are a couple of videos – 62 years apart. The first shows the arrival at Monaco Harbour of Gregor Grant at the finish of the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954. Little did he know he was soon to be disqualified for missing the final time control.

The second video shows my arrival at the same place in the same car at the end of the Rallye Monte Carlo Classique in January 2016.

Advertisements

The route from Saint Andres-les-Alpes to Monaco was relatively straightforward and downhill all the way. Within a few hours we reached Nice on the coast where it was sunny and a good 10 degrees warmer than up in the mountains..

As we were so close to Monaco we decided to sprint to the finish by taking the peage from Nice to the principality. What we had not recalled was that the 30 or so miles is for the main part uphill. The strain on the engine pulling the car uphill non stop for 30 minutes in the warm air caused her to overheat. We pulled over some 10 miles from Monaco and let her cool down a bit. Then very gingerly motored on to La Turbie where we turned off the peage and coasted down several thousand feet to the finish line at Monaco harbour.

As we were so close to Monaco we decided to sprint to the finish by taking the peage from Nice to the principality. What we had not recalled was that the 30 or so miles is for the main part uphill. The strain on the engine pulling the car uphill non stop for 30 minutes in the warm air caused her to overheat. We pulled over some 10 miles from Monaco and let her cool down a bit. Then very gingerly motored on to La Turbie where we turned off the peage and coasted down several thousand feet to the finish line at Monaco harbour.

 

UMG Monte 16 36 Monaco Finish

When we arrived at the finish we found the ACM still setting up. We were the first car in of all the Classiques and indeed all the Historiques too! Here Per can be seen chatting Claude Plasseraud of the ACM who had scrutineered and seen us off from John O’ Groats and who was at the finish to welcome us. The hospitality and efficiency of the ACM were first rate.

UMG Monte - Finishing ramp

UMG 662 on the finishing gantry at Monaco Harbour. We are proudly flying the new Caithness flag that had been carried down from John O’ Groats. This was the first time that UMG 663 had been classed as a finisher on the Monte having been a non competitive press car in ’53 and having been disqualified in ’54 on arrival in Monaco.

UMG Monte 16 37 Cafe de Paris

A well earned celebratory drink at the Café De Paris in Casino Square. A £15 bottle of beer never tasted so good!

UMG Monte 16 39 At the finish

The Classique cars were allowed to park right at the finish on the quayside.

UMG Monte 16 40 At the finish

Douglas Anderson, the organiser of the UK Monte start arrives on the quayside in his smart Triumph Herald Coupe.

UMG Monte 16 43 at the finish

John Lomas’ Riley 9 Tourer arrives at the finish. A tremendous result and a testimony to the quality of the preparation by Lomas’ company, Blue Diamond Services.

UMG Monte 16 47 Monaco

The sun shines on (as Somerset Maugham so memorably put it) “the sunny place for shady people”! If you look carefully at the quayside above the white marquee you can see the Classique cars parked up.

UMG Monte 16 46 in the tunnel

Its always fun driving the Grand Prix circuit at Monaco. Here UMG 662 speeds through the tunnel towards Tabac, with somewhat less velocity and howl than an F1 car!

UMG Monte 16 44 at the finish

One of several Renault 5 Alpines on the Rallye Monte Carlo Historique, this one the Verneuil / Rollin car that started from Rheims.

UMG Monte 16 41 At the finish

The Simble / Fjeldstad Saab 96 that started in Oslo.

UMG Monte 16 45 at the finish

A relatively timeless photo of the Monte Carlo Rally. The Priam’s Simca Coupe 1200S climbing up to Casino Square at the start of the Day Two regularities for the Historique cars. The Priam’s started at Rheims.

After arriving late in the evening at Calais we were keen to find somewhere to catch a few hours sleep before heading off to Rheims early the next morning. Unfortunately all the hotels near the coast were full and we were lucky to be able to get the last couple of rooms at a motel near Arras.  Whilst that meant we did not get much sleep it did mean the drive to Rheims the next morning was relatively quick.

UMG Monte 16 18 Rheims Mumm!

On arrival in Rheims we had a little bit of time to spare so stopped at Mumm to pick up some samples of the region’s most popular export!

UMG Monte 16 21 Rheims ramp 3

We faced a dilemma. Start cracking on South or follow the Historique cars after their start from Rheims that evening? As there was no penalty in starting immediately we decided to crack on to cover as much of the route south as possible in daylight. The downside was that we left Rheims in front of some rather sparse grandstands!

UMG Monte 16 22 Town south of rheims

Cooling off in the Place d’Armes, Vitry-le-Francois where we grabbed a late lunch

UMG Monte 16 24 Roads of France 2

Ever South! The endless, straight and empty roads of France

UMG Monte 16 25 Langres dusk

We arrived at the old fortified city of Langres at dusk and met up with a large group of German Historique cars that had arrived shortly before us from Bad Homburg near Frankfurt. Although the Historique caters for cars built after 1955 and before 1981, these German cars illustrate what is needed these days to be competitive on the Historique.

2006-001PHIL-1953-b1_2.2_0018_full

Here is UMG 662 heading South on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1953 when she was the Autosport press car. Waiting with her at the level crossing is a British registered Renault 4CV which is actually competing in the rally. This atmospheric photo was taken by George Phillips, Autosport photographer and sometime MG Works Le Mans driver.

UMG Monte 16 26 Early morning check point Bourgoin - Jallieu

We left Langres as it got dark. From then on we made great use of our LED headlamps and spot lights as we ran on through the night (and thick fog) past Lyon and Dijon stopping at all the main time controls. Some were harder to find than others. This one (reached at 2am) at Bourgoin – Jallieu was hidden away on a service road on an industrial estate a mile from the town centre.

UMG Monte 16 27 Dawn Alps Maritime

After a brief rest stop in Grenoble we started climbing up into the Alpes Maritime just as dawn was breaking. Whilst there was snow on the mountains the roads were clear. This was something of a relief as we had no snow chains. Funnily enough the weather mirrored that in 1954 when UMG 662 last passed this way. Sunshine and no significant snow!

UMG662 Col Leclercs Monte Carlo Rally 1953 (press car)

The weather was very different in 1953 as this action shot on the Col Leclercs shows.

UMG Monte 16 28 Col

Much to my surprise UMG 662 had no trouble tacking the mountain passes, mostly in third gear but sometimes in second. The bitter cold (it was -5 c) certainly helped in preventing overheating. Here is UMG 662 at the top of the Croix Haute pass (3,900 feet).

UMG662 Coming out of the Col Leclercs - Monte Carlo Rally 1954 - Phillips driving

A great photo of UMG 662 coming over the Col Leclercs during the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally. No snow at all in ’54! Note the leak hanging from the radiator. A number of the Glasgow starters that year carried this strange mascot although no one is quite sure why!

UMG662 - Watching the action - Gregor Grant on right - Monte Carlo Rally 1953 (press car)

Another period photo of Col Leclercs, this time in 1953. UMG 662 can be seen, as befits a press car,  parked up in the background out of the way. The imposing figure on the right watching the Porsche 356 navigating the hairpin is Gregor Grant, founding editor of Autosport and then owner of UMG 662.

UMG Monte 16 29 Saint Andre Les Alpes

We arrived at Saint Andres-les-Alpes in the late morning by which time we had been caught up by the Historique cars. Its fair to say we caused quite a stir. This camera crew filmed an interview with Per that is included at length in the official ACM TV programme on the Historique and Classique Rallies.  The rally fans seemed a bit bored with the endless parade of 911s, Golfs and Opel Kadettes. Anything unusual and / or old attracted lots of attention.

UMG Monte 16 30 Saint Andre Les Alpes 2

We were not the only MG in town. This Swedish crewed MGA started the Historique at Bad Homburg.

UMG Monte 16 35 Saint Andres Les Alpes 6

Another Historique MG, this time the Livingstone / Skelhorn MGB that despite being British crewed also started at Bad Homburg.

UMG Monte 16 34 Saint Andres Les Alpes 5

Per chatting to the Franco Swedish crew of this rare Fiat 2300 S Coupe

UMG Monte 16 32 Saint Andres Les Alpes 3

Busy morning at Saint Andres-les-Alpes!

UMG Monte 16 31 Saint Andres Les Alpes 2

Leaving Saint Andres-les-Alpes for the final stretch into Monaco via Nice.

Gregor Grant, the founding editor of Autosport Magazine, owned an MG YB saloon which was his personal transport as well as the office hack. He bought it new from the MG factory and kept it for two years. In that time it was used as a press car for numerous UK and continental events including the Mille Miglia and the Monte Carlo Rally.  Gregor and his close friend (and sometime MG Works driver) George Phillips also used the car competitively, including in the Scottish Rally in 1953 and the Production Touring Car race at Silverstone in the same year.   They also competed in the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally. Whilst they completed the rally they were sadly disqualified for missing the last time check. 

I bought Gregor’s old car, UMG 662, last year with the intention of running it on the Monte Carlo Historic Rally. Sadly I found out that that rally now only caters for newer cars. However, in December I discovered that the Automobile Club De Monaco were running a special one off Classic Monte Carlo rally celebrating 80 years since the first British  winner. They were keen for Gregor’s old car to take part so I set about frantically getting the car ready. 

The car is now set up and is ready to be trailered off to John of Groats for the start on Wddnesday. The route is through the Highlands to Paisley where we will join the cars doing the historic rally. From there we go to Dumfries, stop overnight before heading to Hull the next day via Croft race circuit. We then take the overnight ferry to Zeebrugge and meet up with the historic cars again in Rheims on Friday. From there it is 36 hours non stop through France, over the Alps Maritime to Monaco.  

A full post will follow but in the meantime, if you would like to follow our progress to Monte please follow me on Twitter @mctrhanson or search #MG2Monte.