The Monte Carlo Rally is under way again. The Rally was created by Prince Albert I of Monaco 100 years ago in 1911. That first event featured 23 cars starting from 6 different cities; 16 cars completed the rally which was won by Henri Rougier in a Turcat Mery.
The first rally was organised by a group of wealthy locals and bankrolled by the Société des Bains de Mer (sea bathing company), the operators of the famous casino who wanted to attract wealthy sportsmen. Competitive elements were slight but getting to Monaco was a challenge in winter.
After a lull for WWI the event was resuscitated in 1924 and by 1930 it had become Europe’s premier rally with over 300 participants. The rally has been held every year since its resumption after WWII.
Initially after the war most cars were production saloons or sports cars with minor modifications to improve performance, handling, brakes and suspension. As interest grew car companies introduced special models and variants for rallying including the British Motor Corporation’s Mini and Mini Cooper S. In the 1960s, regarded as its best years, Mini Cooper S drivers won in 1964, 1965 and 1967. In 1965 conditions were so tough that only 37 cars of the 237 entrants made it to the finish. The Mini Cooper S took the first three places in 1966 only to be disqualified due to a dispute over the type of headlight in use. The BMC team managers were so annoyed by the decision that they threatened to never race again. Prince Rainier even left the prize giving in disgust.
Winners over the years have included many of the leading manufacturers such as Renault, Fiat, Ford, Jaguar and Lancia. Smaller companies including Amilcar, Hotchkiss and Delahaye succeeded in the earlier years
By the end of the 1960s ultra professionalism took over with factory teams employing leading rally drivers and mechanics. Since 1973 the race has become the first race of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Jean Marie Cuog driving his Puegot 307 WRC and Jan Matti Latvala driving his Ford Focus WRC 07 in a road section during the 2008 Monte Carlo Rally
(Author maurobroc - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic License)
The 2011 rally is due to finish in Monaco on 22 January.