The challenge of driving the worst roads in Europe in the thick of mid-winter – and the satisfaction of surviving and finally descending from the Alpine snow and fog to the brilliant sunshine of the Mediterranean, gathered the crews (from UK, Switzerland, Ireland, Netherland, Deutschland, New Zealand and Australia) and their classic cars in Le Touquet (France) for the XXI edition of the Winter Challenge to Montecarlo.
Brilliantly organised by the Historic Endurance Rallying Organization, the rally started easy from the flat roads of Northern France (Leg 1: Le Touquet – Beaune) to reach soon the twisty roads over the Jura mountains and the never ending forests (Leg 2: Beaune – Aix Les Bains); the route then nestled in between some of the most stunning scenery in the Vercors, Ardeche, Cevennes and Luberon National Park, going high to find more snow and test both the crew and the vehicles.
The Leg 3 (Aix Les Bains – Valence) didn’t fall short of expectations; the drivers had a lot of fun on the ice circuit in Lance-en-Vecors ski resort and in the following Reg some competitors found themselves embedded on a snow bank needing some deft excavations to free themselves… On the other side of the car, 20 regularities, a map-based navigation and a night TC section kept the navigators awake! Any competitive strategy was suddenly forgotten when the cars reached the Route de Combe Laval, a tiny road through the stone tunnels, under the Icicles, with a breathtaking view that many crews wanted to capture with a stop for photos.
On Leg 4, (Valence – Mallemort) the scenery and terrain were incredible as the south of France loomed closer. The Provence provided the crews with dusty roads through endless vineyards typical medieval villages and some changes in the results… On the final day everyone’s thoughts were just for the final regularity on the well known Col de Turini, a truly iconic rally road. It didn’t matter if the drive was a Ford Consul Capri or an Austin Morris 1800, a Bristol 411 or a Triumph TR4, the road’s legendary status in the Monte Carlo rally made it success for everyone who reached here.
On the Finish line, two Porsches 911 and a Triumph 2.5 PI grandstanded in front of the Hotel Les Trois Vallees with the winners Daniel Gresly and Elyse White in the white Porsche 911 SWB. A really enjoyable drive down the Col de Turini to Montecarlo was the final act of this amazing experience that found its suitable ending with an Awards Presentation and Gala Dinner in the astonishing Hotel Hermitage with classic cars park in front of the casino and cheerful people raising a toast of champagne to a successful event. Words by Roberta Roccati / Photos by Blue Passion Photo & HERO