The CRA Winter Rally to Monte Carlo

The detailed results book is now available on the Downloads page.
There is a selection of 18th Winter Challenge photographs >> HERE
View & buy Philippe Fugier's Winter Challenge photographs >> HERE

Leg Five – Digne-les-Bains to Monte-Carlo

Following the split hotels the previous night the restart was on the outskirts of town and most were in good spirit as they looked forward to the last blast across the mountains and down into Monte-Carlo.

There was no time to relax with the first regularity – Col de Corobin starting just five minutes from the restart, four crews shared the lead on three seconds, Gerry Brown and Rob Ellis had a good result with four seconds across the three timing points and just a second behind were Terry Mower/Paul Beeson/ John Green in the Ford Zodiac, this was their first European event and John had been brought along as he prepares the car.  It was good to see on this section that most crews were able to find all timing points, one marshalling crew did rather give the game away with their location as they had a small fire going to cook their breakfast – opinions vary as to whether it was the smoke or smell of bacon and eggs that did most to reveal their location!

Volvo 122S

Colin Weekley and Bill Granger - Volvo 122S

Col de Felines followed with both Ebus / Berkhof and Fennell / Savage on zero and three further crews on just one second including the Volvo 122S of Weekley / Granger, co driver Bill sporting a very brightly coloured bobble hat, every time we see Bill he asks if anybody has handed in the hat he lost on the ‘Tests several years ago – there is no danger of the current hat being mistakenly picked up unless Bill makes an unexpected trip to a Rastafarian party. It was good to see the Healey 100/6 of Swiss crew Schloemmer / Mueller up in the top 10 on this section with three seconds.

The Utelle regularity was to be the penultimate section and in joint top spot was the glorious Mercedes-Benz 300SEC of Manxman David Morgan with Martyn Taylor on the maps and clocks. It takes a brave man to hustle a car as big as this along the narrow lanes that dominate rural France. It was good to see again most of the field coming into the controls with very low penalties, many crews doing events such as this only rally together once or twice a year and it can take a couple of days before they settle into a routine and work properly together a team. It’s no surprise that the top ten is usually dominated by teams who rally together many times each year meaning they are on the button from the word go.

Lotus Elan Sprint

Graham Walker and Sean Toohey - Lotus Elan Sprint

The finale of the event was to be the regularity over Col St Roch with four timing points, Bloxide / Davies were best on seven with event winners Byrne / Tullie on 15, a penalty shared with Warren / Woodcock and just one second further back were Chester team mates Walker / Toohey, Sean doing his first event on continental maps. Some cars were starting to need a degree of nursing to ensure they could reach the finish  and this no doubt did lead to some higher than expected penalties on this section. Nobody did anything silly and amazingly the top 10 remained the same as it had at the start of Leg with Byrne and Tullie taking a well deserved win on what is Eamonn’s second continental event – both courtesy of Dermot Carnegie graciously lending him his car as he was unable to compete through ill health – Dermot is well on the road to recovery now and will, I am sure be doing his very best to emulate the Eamonn’s success. Iain has also been crowned as the FIA Historic Regularity Rally Champion co driver for 2011, the drivers title went to Joe Reynolds who had already confirmed his title.

When Eamonn Byrne and Iain Tullie checked into Monte-Carlo as overall winners of the International Winter Challenge their lead over second place crew Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton was just 37 seconds. Not a lot after five days of hard mountain rallying.  A further 48 seconds back was Frank Fennell and Kevin Savage in another Alfa Romeo, but this time a saloon, it was nearly not to be as Frank nearly didn’t make it out of the country at the beginning of the event having lost his passport!

First car home in the post 62 category was the Porsche 911 of Howard Warren and Guy Woodcock, with a penalty of 5m 50s, second were Renger Guliker and Pim t’Hart in a BMW 2002tii on 10m 46s and third category were former event winners Marcel and Alfons Geurts in a Mercedes-Benz 280SL on 11m 28s.

The weather, no snow anywhere this year and only a little ice to catch out the unwary, was perfect as cars arrived at the top of the Col de Turini and checked in at Hotel Trois Vallees. The Daimler V8 of Merryweather and Briggs finally claimed eighth place, while the McAllister Volvo increased its lead over the Pothoven/Van den Berg car. With the Triumph now in a distressed state John Dresser/Doug Brown drove the last forty hairpins in first gear to finish in 24th position. They then coasted all the way to the final control in Monte-Carlo.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint

Iain Tullie and Eamonn Byrne - Alfa Giulietta Sprint
Winners of the 2011 International Winter Challenge

On arrival at Monte-Carlo crews were greeted by the luxury of the Hotel Hermitage, recently renovated dirty rally cars soon gave way to marble corridors, plush carpets and the ever attentive staff in the Chrystal Bar where competitors were able to relive the highs and lows of their journey to Monte-Carlo, all were pleased to have made it to the finish, though there were a couple who were in different cars to those that they started in! Perhaps we should have had an award for the crews who had resorted to hire cars, thankfully there were not many of these as the resourcefulness of the sweep crews had ensured that unless it was a terminal problem cars could get to Monte-Carlo.

The prize giving dinner in the fantastic Salle Belle Époque was a fitting end to the event. The International Winter Challenge will run again in 2013, it’s place in the CRA’s 2012 calendar being filled by the 11th Rally of the Tests running from Torquay to Chester in November. This event will also have overall winners from the pre 63 category.

The Classic Rally Association’s next event is the 2nd Three Legs of Mann Classic Reliability Trial in March, open to all cars up to 1981. Following on from this we have the 24th Classic Marathon taking place for the first time in Ireland between the 23rd and 29th June. In addition to the competitive Marathon in parallel we’ll be running the Emerald Isle Classic Tour – this will allow crews to sample the atmosphere and organisational standards of a CRA event but without any time pressures. A tulip route book will follow parts of the Marathon route but will deviate at times to visit place of interest meeting up with the Marathon route again at lunch and at the end of the day. The tour will have its own dedicated support crews, it will be suitable for all types of classic and sports cars with no restrictions on vehicle specification or age but preference will be given to pre 1990 vehicles.

September sees the return of the Mountain Challenge, this event was first run in 2010 and proved very popular, there is no set route and any form of navigational aids may be used. Depending on the age of your car you are set a target height to climb each day and given details of a range of cols in the vicinity of the route on that day. You choose which ones you visit and the route between them. We’ll be starting and finishing in Switzerland with a route that will also visit the Italian Lakes and Alps. Further details will be published in the New Year but best put the dates in your diary now – September 2nd – 7th.

We end the season in November with the 11th running of the Rally of the Tests, this like the Winter Challenge has the overall awards restricted to cars of a type that were in production prior to the end of 1962. Period dress adds to the atmosphere and class based scoring systems help equalise the performance differential between sports and saloons of varying capacities.

Leg Four – Gap to Digne-les-Bains

Crews were handed the ‘two’ marked maps an hour before departure giving ample time to transfer the information onto the official Michelin and IGN maps. There were ten time controls, three regularities and a short ‘tulip’ section. In the next few hours route planner Keith Baud intended to sort the men out from the boys.

There were some navigational issues on the first regularity with some crews even failing to find the start, two thirds of the field getting maximum penalties. Byrne / Tullie did best but even they had a 14 second penalty and next best was Goedegebuur / Uitenbrock a further 16 back. On this section Mark Appleton made a very uncharacteristic error and started the section a minute early turning what would have been a total of six seconds penalty to a minute.

On the second regularity form was retained with Byrne / Tullie taking top spot closely followed by Wignall / Appleton. Again the section was very challenging for crews with many missing the second timing point and consequently getting big penalties. The final regularity saw yet another new name at the top with Terry and Pip Secker on just one second, just having one timing point made it slightly easier in relative terms with most of the field managing to at least find the control albeit perhaps not by the route that the organisers intended.

Porsche 356

Jan Ebus and Jan Berkhof - Porsche 356

It was certainly a night of classic rallying with Eamonn Byrne and Iain Tullie snatching the lead from Paul and Mark, Frank Fennell and Kevin Savage moving up to third and Jan Ebus/Jan Berkhof, fourth. And, for the first time making up the top five after a magnificent drive was the big Mercedes-Benz of Nicky Porter and Colin Francis – Nicky won the 1994 event in this same car, his navigator on that event was Andrew Bodman. Andrew was the chief marshal on the first Challenge in 1990 and marshalled the Passage Control in Newton Burgoland this year..

Further down the field Bill Ainscough/Vincent Fairclough sadly retired from the proceedings with a broken clutch. The Wolseley 18/85 of Keith and Michael Wheatley were severely delayed by an ‘off’ caused through front suspension failure. As the cars arrived at Digne-les-Bains Jeremy Dickson was on hand to welcome everybody in and ensure they had somewhere to sleep – one of the two main hotels in town had decided to close meaning we took up virtually every other bed in town – the Tourist Office were aghast that in November it had been possible to accommodate our rolling group of nearly 200 people in the town.

It had been a great night of motorsport, leaving just Leg Five, with its final batch of regularities and the glorious run into Monte-Carlo but many a competitor has come to grief on the final stages of an event…

Leg Three – Aix-les-Bains to Gap

As competitors left Aix-les-Bains at the start of Leg Three the Alfa Romeo of Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton held a slender lead of just 24 seconds over the similar car of Eamonn Byrne and Iain Tullie, with Jayne Wignall and Peter Rushforth, also in a Alfa Romeo, a further twenty one seconds in arrears. Surprises of yesterday included the unruly Daimler V8 saloon automatic of Paul Merriweather/Mick Briggs now up to thirteenth with the, three up, Ford Zodiac of Terry Mower/Paul Beeson/John Green in the top thirty, just behind the Lotus Elan of Graham Walker and Sean Toohey.

Ford Zodiac

Terry Mower, Paul Beeson & John Green
Ford Zodiac

There was a dramatic start to the leg when the Porsche 356 of Hank and Nicole Melse burst into flames outside the Radisson Hotel. Luckily hasty action by Mick Briggs and others got things under control and after Peter Banham replaced a plug lead they were able to continue to the first regularity of the day, over the classic Col du Granier.  Wignall and Appleton continued their fine form by being the only unpenalised crew, Merryweather and Briggs continued their climb up the leaderboard with a one second penalty, Melse and Melse were obviously unflustered by the far as they managed a five second penalty and just a further second back was the fabulous Chrysler 70 Sportsman’s Coupe of Chris and Ross Paveley – a fantastic effort in a car designed for anything but a climb up a mountain pass! Although not intended to be navigationally challenging the section tuned out so with many crews getting a minute penalty or missing the control altogether. On CRA events many of the penalties applied have a low “cap”, on a long event this can be important as it keeps crews involved and does not mean that one mistake means the end of any chance of doing well.

This was followed by the demanding climb of the Col de Porte, here we saw a new batch of names up at the top with both Ebus / Berkhof in a Porsche 356 and Geurts / Geurts in the Mercedes 280SL getting zero penalty. Most crews found this section easier and with a couple of exceptions penalties were all under one minute. Riley and Melville held up the pre war honours this time with a two second penalty in their Lancia Aprilia. After a break for coffee it was another regularity over the Col de l’Allimas. Different names again at the top with three crews getting just one second total across the two timing points. New to the top rankings were Denham / Pengilly in the MGB, Ellis / Fowle in the Porsche 911, again the co drivers had a better time on this one with most crews under 20 seconds. New pairing Powell / Thorp in the Porsche 912 had some mechanical issues before the first timing point and gained a big penalty but must have then got the car going too well as by the second timing point they were  nine seconds fast!

After a lunch stop in the sun atop the Col de la Croix-Haute three more regularities were on the maps for the afternoon. The Col de Grimone was run as a self start from the lunch halt. Nobody was clean but yet another crew made their way to the top – this time the MGA of Gillingham / Taylor had just two seconds across the two timing points, with White / Scott in a Volvo 122S just a second further back, the other top ten spaces being filled with familiar names. This regularity though was to see the end of the event for the Ford Escort of Peter Naaktgeboren and Bart den Hartog, they broke the axle and after the car was recovered joined the hire car class.

Triumph 2000

Richard and Jon Sandilands - Triumph 2000

The Col de Pennes followed and current leaders Wignall / Appleton shared the top spot with Proisser and Gibson in the Sunbeam Alpine.  Moss / Moss brought the very unusual Fiat 2300 coupe in a second behind. Actman / Elcomb had a three second penalty in the diminutive Lenham Sprite.

The afternoon was completed with the Col du Reychasset. Nobody was clean but another new pairing, Bloxidge/Davies in a Porsche 911, Jayne Wignall / Peter Rushforth had a good result on this section with a total of four seconds. Sandilands / Sandilands were just a second behind in the big Triumph 2000. The crews started to arrive at the supper halt in the Hotel Azur around 17.30 and for those who felt able to eat a hearty meal was on offer before the start of Leg Four - the marked map section leading to the overnight halt in Digne-les-Bains. This type of section is what the event is really about for many crews and close in style to some of the sections that used to be set when the Winter nee Monte Challenge was in it’s heyday in the mid 90’s. 

Leg Two – Beaune to Aix-les-Bains

When Jan Ebus and co driver Jan Berkhof lined up this morning at Beaune as the leading crew after the first thirty hours of the 2011 Winter Challenge they must have been very happy that at last the fog had given way to sunshine. But this is an event where positions change place, sometimes every two or three hours, and as the tired crews arrived in Aix-les-Bains tonight it was Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton with the lowest number of penalties, closely followed by Eamonn Byrne and Iain Tullie.

Alvis Silver Eagle

Bill Jiggins & Steve Gipson - Alvis Silver Eagle
On the Circuit de Bresse Test

As ever on this event it was not only the top crews who put in good performances. Bill Jiggins and Steve Gipson in their 1931 Alvis Silver Eagle achieved first place on the morning regularity while Chris and Ross Paveley entertained all and sundry with their spirited handling of the Chrysler 70 Sportsman's Coupe on the Circuit de Bresse tests.

Crews who competed on the 1996 Winter Challenge approached the afternoon Col de Biche regularity with trepidation now contained in folklore. That year heavy snow decimated the entry. Today however Mont Blanc was clearly visible and all crews enjoyed a fast run over this classic section.

The Winter Challenge always contains a sting in the tail, today it was the final regularity over Col de Sapenay where the second timing point, positioned after a confusing village fork caught out more than one expert crew.

Daimler V8 250

Paul Merryweather & Mick Briggs - Daimler V8 250
On the Circuit de Bresse Test

At close of play Alfa Romeo fill the first four places but surely Paul Merryweather with Mick Briggs navigating deserved ‘team of the day award’. Last night the engine of the Daimler V8 250 automatic refused to start until, in the early hours, a faulty ignition system was diagnosed and after a strong fight back today they lie in eight place.

Perhaps tomorrow will be remembered as the toughest ever day, when the daylight section is followed by a night run using a route only disclosed at departure. What ever, by Thursday one and all will be glad to look on their first glimpse of the Mediterranean.

For full results please see the Results Pages

Leg One – Start to Beaune

Winter Challenge Start

Tim Riley & George Melville - Lancia Aprilia
At the Chester Start

The long awaited return of the International Winter Challenge saw 72 crews assembled at the joint starts of Chester and Noordwijk on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November. Many competitors were familiar to the event from the early days but they were joined by several new competitors who have read and seen film of the old events and were keen to see it for real. Promises of advance route information and a map based route brought out some others and the entry list is a real who’s who of classic rallying.

Scrutineering in Chester was at the premises of Classic Rally Association sponsors CES and they did us proud with a barbecue serving breakfast to competitors whilst they awaited their turn for scrutineering. Workshop facilities were provided next door at the premises of Graham Walker, also out on the event in a Lotus Elan.

CES are represented on the event by Howard Warren in his faithful Porsche 911. This car is the UK Motorshow Car and following this event is to be taken off the road and restored in time for the golden jubilee celebration in 2013. This doesn’t mean we have seen the last of Howard as another 911 has already been built and is currently under test – it even acted as course car on the UIK leg of the Challenge.

Following the morning scrutineering session a good number of competitors and also local classic car enthusiasts parked their cars in Chester City Centre where they formed a backdrop to fashion shows and bands all with a classic theme to mark the first Chester Classic Weekend. Shoppers wandered amongst the cars and chatted  there was much interest in the cars by the shoppers.

At the welcome dinner entrants dined in company with special guest Paddy Hopkirk who had also loaned his ex works Cooper S for the demonstration on Saturday afternoon.

Paddy also came along to the start to mingle with the crowd and wish the crews well,  another famous face in the crowds was former Grand Prix Diver John Watson, perhaps we’ll see him out on a future event!

The start was under the famous Eastgate clock and the streets were lined as the cars left the historic city centre. We started off with Car 1, the Alvis of Bill Ainscough and Vincent Fairclough being given a blessing by the Dean of Chester Cathedral. The Dean also presented Bill with a scroll which he is to deliver to the Archbishop in Monte-Carlo.

Crews followed a cross country route via Passage Controls at Stone and Newton Burgoland to a lunch halt at Market Harborough where the local council had kindly arranged for parking bays to be closed off for the event and the assembled cars were admired by both passers by and enthusiasts who had been attracted to see the re running of this iconic event.

There had been a taste of what was to come with a practice regularity section and even at this early point in the event a pattern was starting to emerge with several crews failing to find all the controls,

After Market Harborough it was a main road run down to Lenham in Kent and the atmospheric Roadhouse Café, rumoured to have been a stop off on the Monte Carlo rallies of the 1950s and 60s.

After a brief stop for refreshments it was onwards to the ferry terminal and across to France to meet up with the starters from the Dutch start in Noordwijk. This had not only attracted starters from mainland Europe but also some from England. They were welcomed by the Mayor of Noordwijk prior to a dinner at the Hotel Oranje.

Mercedes-Benz 220SEb

Nicky Porter & Colin Francis - Mercedes-Benz 220SEb
At the Tram Museum

Noordwijk starters had a couple of passage controls in bars and a test at the Tram museum car park before the meal halt at Calecances on the Belgium / France border.

Shortly after this the two routes met up and started with a regularity section, it all looked quite straightforward  on the map but perhaps not quite so easy when you tried to drive it, particularly in the foggy conditions that were prevalent throughout the night.

A series of passage controls and another regularity took crews across northern France to a breakfast halt on the outskirts of  Tonnerre, a generous time schedule allowed some time to be made up and much needed shut eye!

After another Time Control there were two more regularity sections across to Beaune, by now the fog had been lifted to be replaced by a lovely sunny autumnal day.

Well, that’s a bit of background on the route so far but what about the competitors!

The tales of woe had started before the event had begun with several car changes in the days leading up to the event, Gerry Brown and Robert Ellis swapped from a Zodiac to an MGB, Paul Merryweather and Mick Briggs from a VW Type 3 Fastback to a Daimler V8 and Marcel and Alfons Geurts from a Mercedes-Benz 300 SE to a 280SL. Perhaps the most unfortunate crews so far are David Bull and Angela Riley, they had a blown head gasket on the way to the ferry, they delayed their crossing but were unable to fix the car and returned with a “modern” determined to sample the atmosphere that they remembered so well from past years.

Once the event started things didn’t get much better for some with the first retirement being Charles Graves and Richard Cooke, their clutch was giving problems so rather than risk crossing the channel they set off back home. Joe Reynolds  and Frank Hussey did cross but soon decided that the car was not going to behave as expected and turned back for the UK.

Competitors were in good spirits on arrival at Beaune and the bar was buzzing with tales of who had gone wrong and which was the correct way with several lengthy wrong slots being discussed.

Joint Leaders at the end of Day 1 are the Dutch crew of Jan Ebus and Jan Berkhof in a Porsche 356 and the Irish Anglo  crew of Eamonn Byrne and Iain Tullie in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, both crews having a total of 10 seconds penalty. Just seven seconds further back is another Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint , this one crewed by Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton.

In the post 62 class the lead is held by former winners Marcel and Alfons Geurts in their Mercedes 280SL on 13 seconds with Howard Warren and Guy Woodcock  in the Porsche 911 nine seconds further back.

Full results can be found on the results pages.

The Regulations cover picture

Spectator Guide

For those interested in seeing the participants on the 18th Winter Challenge we have compiled a download guide to some of the principal checkpoints on the route >> Read more ...

The International Winter Challenge

When the Monte-Carlo Challenge was first conceived twenty one years ago, little did we realise that we were creating an event that would leave such a lasting impression on those fortunate to be part of it. Designed to be more than just another event for old cars, the Challenge rightly paid homage to the most famous rally in the world, and the founding fathers of the A.C. de Monaco who started it all in 1911.

The original Monte-Carlo Challenge was very special. It recalled with care the atmosphere of the most authentic winter epic, 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, and the most famous finishing ramp in rallying history.

In recent years, we have had many requests to run another Winter Challenge, as it subsequently became known, but have resisted, knowing full well that sometimes one can’t turn back the clock. However, with 2011 marking the centenary of the Rallye Monte Carlo, it seemed an appropriate time to resurrect this, the most authentic of all re-creations.

Alfa Giulietta drawing

The International Winter Challenge will again be organised with the emphasis on historical authenticity, not just because car modifications are limited to correct period specification, but also in the way we run the actual event for you. Everything will be a step back in time to the Golden Era of Rallying. And of course, the icing on the cake is that the mountain roads of France still provide the most challenging and enjoyable motoring anywhere in the world.

So it’s welcome back to duffle coats, silk scarves, flying jackets, thermos flasks, snow chains, tow ropes, fog lights and a shovel on the roof - if you are lucky enough to have a roof! It’s welcome back to climbing ice covered passes on skinny tyres in frozen cars with little heating and windscreen washers that don’t work too well. It’s welcome back to driving all night through empty, snow bound landscapes lit only by the light of a full moon and the feeble spotlights of 50 year old cars. It’s welcome back to trusting your navigator as they struggle, with tired eyes and frozen fingers, to follow the demanding route on their maps, and a sigh of relief when you finally find a lonely marshal keeping vigil by the roadside.

But most of all, it is welcome back to competitors past and present who dare to join us on the most authentic winter adventure of them all - The Winter Challenge.