Captain Fawcett at the Monte Carlo Rally
My vehicle of choice is a 1963 Saab V4 two stroke as driven by Erik Carlsson, who won the Monte Carlo Rally for two years in a row in the 1960s.
After a technical hiccup in Oslo and a major repair in Halden, we missed the blessed ferry from Gothenburg and therefore drove 1500km overnight to catch up the field in Germany and then move on to Monaco.
Having started yesterday lunchtime on the Monaco to Valence part of the route, a hefty total of 500km in one day, the team progressed well through four of the five stages. We climbed again ahead of them, through the picturesque Alps, through quaint villages and terrains, up steep hair pin turns to catch film and photographic images.
We settled in the village of Entreveaux with its beautiful medieval castle and fortress, and positioned ourselves half way up the hills to get some splendid photographs of the cars traversing through. The Blue Smoke Team in car 303, led by the characterful Norwegian Per Simble and his co-driver Tom Fjeldstad, were one of the last to start off from Monaco. We watched the other competitors come through, the numbers reaching higher and higher as we waited in the glorious Alps sunshine.
Eventually one could hear the 1963 Saab's two stroke engine coming up the hill before one sighted the car itself. Per and Tom looked in jolly good spirits as they passed us.
Next on to Sisteron! By chance we followed the team as they were called in to the gas station to refuel by their support crew. Here all the cars are required to pass through an official check point for their cards to be stamped.
As I approached the vehicle and the crew in the car park while they took a moment before moving on, the bonnet was up! Oh deary me. This was not a good sign. They informed me (with a grimace) that the alternator was in trouble. This could be bad news for the car and the race overall. With no time to change the alternator and the daylight closing in, the team decided to return to the road.
The crowds cheered as they left and we were silently egging them on too, hoping they would make it to Valence.
We made our way on a parallel route, missing out stage four of the course to get ahead again. The map showed another traversing climb up into the hills. With the head lights on now it made quite a picture seeing the vehicles make their way up the hills, sweeping around the bends and climbing as they went. As we reached the top the fog came down. There was snow and ice on the sides of the road as we came out of a long tunnel. There was no way we could continue driving now unless we wanted to get into a bit of a scrape.
What had started as a beautiful English spring-like day on the Côte d’Azur was ending in fog, rain and unsavoury freezing conditions. We were now very concerned about the Blue Smoke Team.
Eventually we reached our accommodation in Valence, and there was no sight of the team. Only rumours from the other competitors that they were having difficulties.
Then about two hours later, the official technological APP thingy-ma-jig confirmed our fears, that car 303, once a winner of the Monte Carlo Rally, had indeed been forced to abandon the race.
But hold firm dear chums, for as I write, the mechanics are fixing the vehicle and with the luck of the Irish, or the Norwegian Gods come to that, we will be back on the road to Monaco in the morning.
It isn't over till the moustache droops!
Captain Fawcett, keeping a stiff upper lip regardless!