Ecurie Ecosse

This year’s Monte Carlo Rallye Historique looked like it was going to be snowless but three days before the start the South of France had some of the heaviest snowfalls and so an old style Monte Carlo Rallye Historic was in store..

As mentioned in the earlier story there were seven cars running in the event this year carrying the Ecurie Ecosse banner. None of them could match some of the more professional teams that finished up front but Andrew McAlpine – who set up the whole idea of running a group of cars as Ecurie Ecosse – was the highest placed being third British finisher, albeit in 140th position overall. On this occasion Andrew was not running his usual Lotus Elite but a borrowed Lancia Fulvia HF.

For the Glasgow starters – all of our cars started from Glasgow save one – things got bad in the final section of the concentration run heading for Annecy. As Andrew explained: “ We slippped and slithered along and by the time we got to Annecy nobody in the town council had been checking the snow reports and had forgotten to clear all the roads so we all found ourselves sitting in a mammoth traffic jam.

“Needless to say we had been on to the organisers and were told just to cut and run and head for Monaco. Mind you we were told of the guys who came through Italy ending up off the road or stuck on top of mountains and being rescued by the carabiniere and put up in hotels. “

Luckily the organisers realised there were problems and extended the control closure time by a whole three hours.

There was then the section that led to Valence where all the various starting routes combined before running to Monaco. Even on this the Glasgow boys took the odd shortcut up the motorway in order to reach the control on time On this section one of the Lancia Fulvias went straight on where it should have turned right and plunged about six hundred feet over the edge.

Ralph Forbes in his Fiat 128 was having his own personal battle with Peter Barker’s Mini. At least it was more with Barker’s co-driver, Willie Cave who was famous in the 1960s as a factory BMC co-driver with some of the British rallying greats. “ I was taking it very carefully and in the end mine was one of the few cars without a mark on it”. said Ralph.

With the snow conditions pretty bad one or two of the special stages were cancelled on the competitive run from Vallence to Monte Carlo. This meant that those who had survived had a bit more time for servicing the cars before a brief Parc Ferme and then the legendary final rush from Monaco back to Monaco via the formidable Col de Turini. “ On the last night going up the Turini was horrendous it was absolutely snowbound but two stages later there was very deep snow with lots of people stuck in the banks. We were using studs on the front of the Lancia and snow tyres on the rear. As the front wheels are the driven wheels on the Fulvia that worked very well and allowed the back to slide a little bit. For the last run we put studs on the back as well as the front and it was not quite so good”.(Andrew McAlpine)

In addition to the stage times there was also regularity and Ralph Forbes managed a zero on that and was full or praise for Wesley Massam, his navigator, who was spot on with the timing.

Rick Pearson was having his first taste of the Monte Carlo Rallye driving a Porsche 911. His co-driver was Stuart Pringle, Secretary of the British Racing Drivers Club, who was also having a baptism of fire on the event. Stuart acknowledged that it was a great experience. “We were very happy to finish 170th overall but to be honest neither Rick nor I are in any hurry to repeat the experience. It was a tremendous challenge and I never realised how dangerous it was. We had problems on the regularity sections as our trip was faulty and we slid the car a couple of times into the snowbanks but we finished the event with no damage to the car. I will always remember passing two Swedes standing in the snow at the side of a stage whilst a French mechanic with a tow hook was peering over the edge beyond the battered trees to where their SAAB was stuck”!

Of the other Ecurie Ecosse entries the most unlucky was David Mustarde with his co-driver Bernard Northmore who buried his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Ti and destroyed it completely. Then the Graham brothers, Steve and Tony, had to retire their Lancia Fulvia Coupe . As Ralph Forbes recalls “ As the rally went on their car started to smoke and I thought they had a piston problem but coming down the Col de Turini it gassed up and caught fire which was a great shame because at the time they were ahead of Andrew”.

In the end Andrew McAlpine was to be the third placed of all the British crews on the event, he was the highest placed Glasgow starter and at one stage was running 112th before dropping back. Ralph Forbes, Rick Pearson and John Roberts with Oliver Tomlins in the Fiat 128 Coupe, were the other three Ecurie Ecosse cars to finish the event.

Ralph Forbes probably summed up everyone’s opinions. “ I would say it was probably the most severe rally you could have. Even to get to Monaco was a task this year…however, I finished one place ahead of Willy Cave so I was happy”.

The outright winner of the event was Jose Lareppe from Belgium in an Opel Kadett GT ahead of John-Pierre Coppola’s Renault Alpine 310.

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