The 18th annual Monte-Carlo Historique rally kicked off a little over a week ago and ended yesterday when a Italian team won the event behind the wheel of 1978 Volkswagen Golf GTI. This year, the participants left from five European cities (Barcelona, Glasgow, Copenhagen, Turin and Reims) and the common stages took place in the southeastern region of France.
Organized by the Automobile Club of Monaco, the Monte-Carlo Historique is open to all cars that participated in the rally from 1955 to 1980 and that were built between those years. The Alpine A310 was a common sight at the Monte-Carlo during the 1970s but a 1981 example is not eligible to participate in the historic event because it is not old enough. Similarly, a 1969 Renault 4 can’t be entered because the last year a 4 participated in the rally was 1966.
Contrary to what its name might suggest, the Monte-Carlo Historique is not a speed race and the point is to follow the timing of each stage as closely as possible, not to drive flat out and be the first to cross the finish line. Drivers lose point if they end a stage too early or too late. The participants range from well-off amateur drivers seeking an adrenaline rush to a handful of professional pilots such as Jean Ragnotti.
On that note, we were pleasantly surprised to see PSA Peugeot – Citroën CEO Carlos Tavares personally arrive at a checkpoint behind the wheel of a Peugeot 504. Renault and Citroën both sent out press releases before the event to announce their official participation but Peugeot stayed quiet – “that’s strange,” we thought, “why wouldn’t Peugeot announce that its CEO is racing and turn the whole thing into a PR stunt?” A life-long motorsport enthusiast, Tavares briefly explained that he was racing his own personal car and that he took days off from work to participate in the event. That’s beyond admirable, we doubt that there are other top executives in the auto industry who’d do the same. We didn’t see Sergio Marchionne fly by behind the wheel of an Alfasud or Rupert Stadler hoon a DKW Junior through the lower Alps.
It goes without saying that participating in the Historic Monte-Carlo Rally is far from cheap. The entry fee for a car, a driver and a co-pilot is €4,800 (about $5,400 / £3,610), up from €4,500 last year. The price includes insurance, plates and numbers as well as a buffet and two hotel nights in Monaco. The car must be adequately prepared and have a FIA Historic Technical Passport, and the driver needs to hold a valid race license. Transport to and from the race, spare parts, tires (studded snows are highly recommended), gas, a technical support vehicle loaded with tools and so forth are all extra, which can easily bring the total cost of participating in the event up to €15,000 (approximately $17,150 / £11,300) depending on where the competitors are from and what they’re racing with.
We traveled to a small town called Tournon-sur-Rhône in the Ardèche department of France to photograph the 317 competitors going through the checkpoint. This year the race was organized a little differently. In previous years, the cars arrived at the checkpoint in the order that they signed up in – car number one came first, number two came second, number three came third and so on, making it easy to get a good idea of what to expect next. Some were early and stuck around for a bit while others were late and raced through the checkpoint. This year, the order of the cars was re-organized every night to reflect the latest rankings, meaning that most of them spent less than a minute at the checkpoint and many didn’t even stop.
Part of the parking lot next to the checkpoint was reserved for classic cars. We showed up in our 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300D so we managed to get a spot in the lot, which was helpful because it gave us a mobile office just a stone’s throw from the action. The highlights of the vintage car lot included an all-original Panhard 24 CT that was impossible to photograph because there were too many people around it and a rare Talbot 1100 station wagon that drew a lot less attention.
People have asked us why we choose to shoot the rally at a checkpoint instead of snapping the cars in action. Ideally we’d do both but it would be too time-consuming; not unlike Tavares, we took time off from work to be at the event. Ultimately, we choose the checkpoint year after year because it enables us to get a wide variety of different shots including close-ups and candid moments between the competitors, and because we can keep shooting with a tripod after the sun goes down. The down sides? Well, for starters no cars in the snow and people – lots and lots of people walking in front of the camera.
We’ve condensed the 707 photos that we took over the course of the day into the gallery below. Email us if you want a high-res shot or more pictures of a particular car and we’ll send you what we’ve got.