As I step off the train from Central Station, it seems a typical weekday night in Glasgow: Businessmen rushing home and students walking around the station. Once outside the station, Glasgow remains unchanged. I’m early; I begin the climb up the very steep Blythsworth street and witnessed something very alien. There were row upon row of rally cars, in Blythsworth square. Of course, this would seem unusual to me because this has not happened here for thirty five years.
The Monte Carlo Rallye used to set off from the square regularly since 1957, however in the 1970’s with rising entry fee prices, and fewer competitors wanting to set off from Glasgow, the Rallye left Glasgow.
Thankfully on the 27th of January 2011, it returned, with the glamour, cars, atmosphere and most importantly, the fans.
In all the first Rallye included 47 cars, from all eras up till the early 1970’s. This meant the line up included a variety of cars and nationalities of teams. The Scots were here in force, followed by the English. The French were flying their flag in their native French cars, so were the Germans, Italians, and even a few Japanese teams!
This unsurprisingly led to a huge selection of automotive gems competing. There were two Porsche 914s and early 911 Carreras, BMW 2002 and 2800 showed their rally pedigree. The Italians came along with several Lancia Fulvia HF coupes, a Fiat 131 Abarth and 138. The Japanese showed their skills in a number of rare Japanese metal, the Datsun 240z was a popular choice both for them and a French entry and a Toyota Sprinter Trueno. Plus the group turned up with student mechanics to prepare the cars. The Japanese teams really showed their enthusiasm for the sport, not only to turn up to Glasgow, but with the preparation and cars really did impress. The commentator was flummoxed by his lack of Japanese, but Toshimasa Ikeuchi’s attitude showed great appreciation for both Glasgow and us, fans.
It could not be called the Monte Carlo Rallye without at least an Alec Issigonis Mini making an appearance. In fact several turned up. One finished in red with the roof mounted spare wheels really did look like a nod to Paddy Hopkirks, and even the Riverside Appeal turned up to George Square in their final generation Rover model, complete with Minilite alloys. Alas they did not enter.
Rallying is a great sport; I love it, always have, and always will. It is not just about the racing, it’s about the experience, the emotion and the atmosphere. On the 27th I experienced all those. The Japanese brought the laughter, the Germans in their Audi 100s Coupe, Porsches and BMWs brought the nostalgia, and the Scots brought sheer determination and knowledge to the party. This was displayed by Louise Aiken Walker MBE in her Austin Healey. She was leading the cars off, that was after she put the fuel in her car. Louise pointed out that the Triumph was a vintage car, and that she hoped it would hold together. The emotion came in the form of three men in their MK2 Jaguar. Colin and Gordon Bywater and Mike Wheatley have combined age of 220. As the Jaguar’s straight six twin camshaft engine roared and spat out racing fuel as it went past, I could not help but doff my tweed cap to these men. They call themselves “The last of the summer wine” and I can only presume that it wont be only wine waiting for them at Monte it will be champagne.
There was two Alpines at the start. One was the later A310 and the original A110 made an appearance. I love the earlier A110, and I was almost too excited at the sight of one. One driver in his BMW 2002 was very eager to start and blasted down the ramp, only to be warned by a Policeman about the speed which he was travelling. Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humour?
The Monte Carlo Rallye at Blythsworth Square was a fabulous event to experience. The sounds of the V4’s in the Lancias, the air cooled flat sixes in the 911s, and the big straight six in the Jaguar. With the added smell of the freshly burnt fuel filled the air, and the great people I got to stand and chat with. The Rallye is also great for Glasgow, and I can only hope for its return, and this time for good.