To tie in with the Rallye Monte Carlo, which took place last weekend, today’s post is written by my great friend and motorsport enthusiast, Sally Higgins. Despite living close to Monaco I’d never been to the Rally. It’s not really my kind of thing but Sally, my go-to for anything motorsports, came to stay at Lou Messugo for a few days and offered to show me around and write about it for me. Amongst other things Sally has worked for Rally Australia organising events across the world and has driven around the Andes with Carlos Sainz. She’s ridden an ancient Russian motorbike across the northern highlands of Vietnam and driven a solar-powered car from Darwin to Adelaide! More recently, she just got back from working on the Dakar Rally in Argentina and was in full rally-mode. Quite the expert!
Guest Post by Sally Higgins, motorsport enthusiast
It is more or less agreed that the Rallye Monte Carlo was the first official car rally ever to be held. This year, the 2015 Rally was the 83rd edition, which means that it started almost as soon as cars were invented. It is run by the Automobile Club of Monaco, which is celebrating its 125th year….
As the story goes, in the early editions of the rally, cars could choose to start from a number of different places including Morocco and travel to Monte Carlo. The 1911 winner travelled from Paris and was awarded the top prize not only for arriving first but also based on the elegance of his vehicle and the comfort of his passengers.
photo credit: bestofrallylive via photopin cc
This year was set to be the battle of two French Sébastiens – Sébastien Ogier the reigning World Champion and arch rival Sébastien Loeb – recently retired World Champion, heart throb and France’s darling. Sébastien Loeb was making a one-off appearance after 12 months of doing other things. Loeb was back with his Citroen team, driving a DS3 WRC and Ogier was competing for Volkswagon Motorsport in a Polo R WRC. Technical regulations mean that some parts of these cars are actually a DS3 or a Polo but the ‘WRC’ bit in the name means that there are significant modifications to the vehicles. Things like gear boxes, wheels, brakes, the weight of the car and the engine, the ability to tune the engine, the power, the windows, and of course the inclusion of safety enhancements such as the roll cage make the car secretly fantastic.
photo credit: jfhweb via photopin cc
So why is it fun to watch a rally and where are the best places to go? There are VIP packages available and these include catering and viewing by helicopter which is the bees knees, but also quite expensive. But the good news is that for non-VIP spectators, the Monte Carlo Rally is free. I personally quite enjoy getting out into the countryside, standing by the road and getting covered in mud and/or dust, honestly. That is how to see the cars going fast – and they do. The top drivers go breathtakingly fast. I’ve been lucky enough to be in the car with the likes of Tommi Makinen and Carlos Sainz, and you realise that these drivers are not like normal people. They have that absence of fear, along with the eye hand coordination that elite athletes have. Terrifying and exhilarating. Plus of course there is the noise. There is a thing called anti lag, to do with the turbo and maintaining power and it sounds like fireworks. At night time if you are standing in the right spot you can see flames coming out of the exhaust! And when they change gears it sounds as if the gear box is going to drop out onto the road. Seriously. But to the fans, this is the reassuring sound of the ‘dog box’ and apparently the metal on metal sound means that the gear box is much smoother, quicker and stronger. When you hear it, this actually sounds like a big lie to sell expensive gear boxes, but there it is.
A rally is basically a time trial. A particular section of public road is closed, and each car is timed between point A and point B. For the Monte Carlo Rally this is repeated 15 times. At the end of this the car that has recorded the shortest time wins. To condense the timing a bit, cars will start every 1 or sometimes 2 minutes, based on the assumption that if nothing bad happens they won’t catch up with each other. If something bad does happen then they are likely to be going slower anyway.
photo credit: bestofrallylive via photopin cc
The event is most famous for two things. One is fabulous backdrop of Monaco and more of that later, the second is the Col de Turini. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that die-hard fans of the World Rally Championship, if they had a choice of seeing any part of any rally in the world, they would choose either ‘El Condor’ in Argentina, the famous ‘yumps’ of Finland or the Col de Turini, a mountain pass that at its peak reaches 1,607m and includes a long series of hairpin turns and vertical dropoffs that winds up the side of the mountain.
photo credit: bestofrallylive via photopin cc
Phoebe’s husband JF and I made our plans. It would mean an early start on Sunday to get up there by 10.50am, when the first car was due. All this information is available on the website. We plan our route by simply putting ‘Col de Turini’ into Google maps, and calculate that it would take about two hours to get up there. It’s going to be crowded but that’s ok, we have time and can walk a bit. Did I mention that I’m from Australia? The max temperature forecast was 4 degrees, sunny but with plenty of snow underfoot. I would borrow clothes and look like the Michelin man, but that’s ok. Appropriate I guess. Then we went out on Saturday night. Oops. On Sunday morning JF rang the Auberge at the Col de Turini who said that there was a lot of snow and that we would need chains to get near it. The End. We didn’t go. I think that to get up there would require better planning and an overnight stay a bit closer to the Stage. It is something that I’d like to say I’ve done, but after brief but persuasive discussion we decided that coffees by the Port in Monte Carlo, and perhaps some ice skating as we watch the cars come in was a much better option.
The only road that was closed in Monaco was la Route de la Piscine. This is where the Service Park was set up. The first cars were due at 1.30 pm, we left Roquefort les Pins at about 11.45 am and were parked and at the Service Area by about 12.30. We strolled through the service area to get our bearings. Access is free and the cars were so close as they came in that I almost had my feet run over by Ogier, (how good is that!) The weather was sunny, mellow and hovering around 20 degrees (celsius). Phoebe and I had coffee at the Brasserie de Monaco while JF and their son made use of the ice rink that in summer is the swimming pool. Once the cars come in, you can watch as they are given a quick clean up before heading up to the la place du Palais Princier de Monaco for the Finish Podium. At this stage I should declare an interest and say that my partner works for the French rally team SaintEloc. So when their driver, Irishman Craig Breen came in for the service we could get to watch from the inside of the service area.
To get to the Podium there are steps up to the Palais, or there is a leisurely stroll following a path that takes in the Musée Oceanographique de Monaco before heading up to the square. At 3 pm the first car is on its way back down the Port and to the Parc Fermé where they assemble for an hour or two before they are released. Unfortunately for him Sébastien Loeb smashed a rear wheel on Day 1, but fortunately for us he was not out of the race. He lost time because of the damage to the car and so was out of contention for the top prize.
Lets face it, any excuse is a good excuse to visit Monaco and maybe next year I’ll make it up to the Col de Turini.
So what do you think? Have you been to a car rally? Sally has written for me before, about the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, so if you enjoyed this why not pop over and read all about that too. And don’t forget to leave a comment, encouraging my lovely guest blogger to continue writing!
Sally writes at her own blog Agatha Bertram Travels, which is full of unusual stories and curious adventures. If you enjoyed this do pop over and encourage her, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
Hi Lisa, yes the rally is free to watch and staying in Cannes is totally feasible as you can take the train in to Monaco easily if you don’t have a car. On the other hand if you have a car you can drive out to somewhere along the route but that means getting up very early and waiting a long time for the action. By doing what we did, just wandering around at the finish line you get to see everyone and are right in the action. By the way if you have a car, we have availabilty at Lou Messugo, just click on the link in the article to see our TripAdvisor ad for more info but if interested please contact me direct (NOT through TA) as you’ll save money!
Hey ! Very informative blog, thank you .
I was wondering if you know if the Monte Carlo Rally is free every year ?
I’m planning to take my boyfriend there this year as a surprise cause he is very into WRC and seeing Monaco rally is his dream. I have an option to stay in an apartment in Cannes, do you reckon it’s too far to go from there every day ? I think I’m too late now to book something in Monaco as the rally is in a month already.
Thank you in advance 😉
Those photos are amazing,what a beautiful place to watch it in.thanks for sharing us.
I would love to visit Monte Carlo and I love motor sport – sadly its not my husbands cup of tea though. This looks amazing
This looks like so much fun and what a beautiful place to watch it in!
I haven’t been to a car race; they didn’t interest me much But this rally looks interesting and exciting especially if I can watch it from the countryside and not in a confine of a race track. It’s interesting to note that the prize is given also based on elegance of the car and comfort of the passengers.
I would enjoy this
Awesome…seems a lot fun with the rally too
I don’t know anything at all about car racing but in that setting, it looks amazing!
I always watched motor racing with my dad when I was little! I miss watching it now.
Phoebe, I’m not much of a car enthusiast either, but I think I would love to watch the rally. What fun!
Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration! You always have such awesome posts!
It looks great fun and so exciting – I love what the prizes were awarded for in the first race though 🙂 #wkendtravelinspiration
I would really love to hear about Sally’s trip in a solar car from Darwin to Adelaide. I’ve never been to any sort of car race. I’ve always imagined that the races in one of my fave childhood cartoons, Speed Racer, took place in Monaco. It must be so exciting to see and hear this rally in person. And I think it’s so cool to have a skating rink right by the route.
Those photos are amazing, not personally a fan of motor racing but with scenery like that, I could be persuaded!
Hi Nancie, I would have loved to spend more time researching the history of the Automobile Club of Monaco. Also the history of the FIA – so many interesting stories of ‘gentlemen (and women) drivers’. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Richard. I bet you have some stories to tell fhe from the 3 ton truck rallies. I’m just back from the Dakar Rally where the Russian trucks (Kamaz) do amazing things. All the best, Sally
Hi Mina, I’ve heard about the East Africa Safari and have seen some fantastic photos from it. One in particular of a submerged car coming up out of a river crossing and others with animals like giraffes as backdrops, as you say. Amazing. Thanks for your comment.
Great post, and I must say I didn’t realize that so much snow could fall that close to Monaco. For a couple of years back in the 1990s ( I think) my hometown, Halifax, Nova Scotia, hosted an Indy 500 event. I did watch one year, and it was exciting. Unfortunately, citizens hated the race, (noise and inconvenience) and the annual even only lasted a couple of years.
Fab photos, my OH would totally love to do something like this 🙂
It sounds like a great event – I’ve always quite fancied a go at rally driving myself! What a stunning backdrop for it too.
What an interesting post, and great pictures. Oddly, motor-racing seems to follow me around. The birth of motor racing took place on my doorstep when, on Thursday, 2 July 1903 (waaay before I was born I hasten to add), the Gordon Bennett Cup ran through my hometown of Athy, Co Kildare. It was the first international motor race to be held in United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and as a child I often read the commemorative plaque at the Moat of Ardscull on the lip of the land that belonged to my father’s farm, Ardscull House.
Years later, emigrated and living in Oxfordshire we had links through my step-father to the highly successful Williams formula one motor racing team based in Didcot.
Now we’re in Canada I’d love to get up to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix.
I’ve heard of it before, but this is the first and best report I have seen of it. Great photos and most informative narrative!
When I was in the army we used to do all-night rallies in Three-Ton-Trucks. They were 4wd and would go more or less anywhere. I was in my twenties and loved it. But like Catherine I think it’s not for me any longer. But thanks for all the information and photographs.
My parents are motor sport fanatics and have been a couple of times – always have a brilliant time!
Some beautiful photos – the sunset one is incredible. I’m not massively into motorsport, but my hubby is and he would love to go and watch this.
Your Post brought back memories of Kenya where I grew up. Every Easter – they used to run the East African Safari rally. The course varied from every year and used to travel though Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Nowadays,the rally is run within the borders of Kenya. The race is tough and because it’s often wet and slippery and some of the route is through areas where there is wildlife and farm animals.
I’m not a motor sports fan but some of my relations are huge fans and race cars themselves. I’m sure they would love to watch this in person x
great photos! My dad used to love watching the grand prix
Hi Emma, if your boys love cars then they would love this. For a day in Monte Carlo it is something everyone can enjoy or if you are prepared for a bit of discomfort, and some pre-planning then rallies ‘in the wild’ are very accessible. Thanks for your comment 🙂
Wow oh wow the motor sports looks so good my hubby would love this so much.
I’m not a motorsports fan either, but I can imagine that this event, in such a location, would be so much fun to experience.
I am not into car racing but I wouldn’t mind tagging along it looks beautiful!
I would love to take the family somewhere like that. My boys are totally car mad and would adore the whole experience.
Wow this looks amazing!Even though I am not a fan of racing this would be an event I would love to go to, amazing to even go to Monte Carlo!!
I’ve not been to a car rally before. Monaco looks like a beautiful place.
Thanks Catherine. Too bad you are not a convert!
I wouldn’t know the first thing about cars and rallys but my boys would love it. The place it was held looks absolutely beautiful though and I really miss the sun!
Although i’m sure this would be amazing fun to experience I think it’s more up my husbands street than mine, though i’d be happy to walk around the marina pretending I live on one of the boats! 😉
Well done Sally. I knew nothing about car racing except that there is a race in Bathurst N.S.W. Now I know a lot but I don’t think I want to go and watch one even if it is in lovely Monaco. Thanks for sharing.