Motor-rallying - and more than two hundred and thirty competitors faced gruelling weather conditions as they set out on the first stage of the forty-seventh Monte Carlo Rally on Saturday (20 January) from nine European cities.
Motor-rallying - and more than two hundred and thirty competitors faced gruelling weather conditions as they set out on the first stage of the forty-seventh Monte Carlo Rally on Saturday (20 January) from nine European cities. The unusually severe winter weather had coasted many of the mountain roads leading to the tiny Mediterranean principality with ice and snow.
SYNOPSIS: Nineteen drivers elected to begin the rally from St. Peter's Square in Rome. The four stages of the event take six days to complete and the original number of contestants is whittled down to a final group of a hundred.
Pope John Paul the Second delivered a short speech and blessed the drivers from his Vatican balcony window overlooking the square. The Pope is interested in sport and was a keen skier before his election last year. The first stage of the rally to Vals-les-Bains in southern France is two thousand kilometres (about 1.200 miles). From there the contestants take part in the joint stages of the rally, reaching Monte Carlo on Monday (22 January). Speed and time trials in and around Monaco along the final eliminating stages of the rally.
Other drivers set out from West Germany, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Monaco, Britain and Poland, but most chose to start from the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Among the eighty-three crews was 1st year's winner, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Nicolas, who is one of the few amateurs to have beaten the professional works teams sponsored by car manufacturers. The rally is traditionally dominated by the factory teams, but Nicolas' success has inspired many other drivers to enter the rally privately.
The Paris entrants passed through Rouen on their way south to Vals-les-Bains. By the end of this first stage rally only six of the original number of two hundred and thirty-three contestants had dropped out of the rally, and all the favourites, including the Fiat, Ford and Renault teams, were still in the running. But the real test for the drivers will come on the ice-covered mountain roads around Monaco.