Monte Carlo Rally 1911

In 1911 the first edition took place of this oldest and most prestigious rally. It is interesting to reconsider its genesis. The car, fruit of the inventions of brilliant inventors, was at its beginnings and considered as an invention without real future, a plaything for young, rich and idle daredevils but dangerous for both humans and animals, which very much crowded the street in those ages. In spite of that, thanks to the efforts of some marks - in France notably De Dion Button, Panhard, Levassor, and Peugeot - and through first competitions, the car captured people's imagination and created a new industry. Continuous improvements on the "cars without horses", ended up alluring those that were fortunate enough to buy into the magic of owning such a car. A luxury article, only for the happy few, while others watched in awe.

Monaco typically might be one of those places where one would find these new cars. Even then it was a place where the rich would winter, escaping the cold and enjoy the mild climate of the French riviera. However, although enough tourists would visit the Riviera, the place to be was Nice and not Monaco. With activities as the Carnival and the Paris-Nice race Nice attracted more and more rich people during the winter season, much to the frustation of hoteliers in Monaco. Something had to be done to give the Monaco tourist branche a new impulse. The success of the Paris-Nice race gave the Monegasques the idea to create an automobile concours d'elegance, a splendid idea to attract the rich and famous as these were the only ones that could afford such a vehicle. And to compete head-on with the activities in Nice the date of January is appointed. The contest will be covered by newsbroadcasts the world over, the newspapers will write of the enchanting setting of the famous rock, of the sound beautiful sun, and the tourists will again find Monaco and all it has to offer.

With great advocacy of the energetic Anthony, the twenty year old son of the then president of the "Sport Vélocipédique et Automobile de Monaco", and Master Gabriel Vialon, who adopted the concept of a concentration run from Italian cycle races, the go-ahead is given and the first Rally of Monaco is organised.

In order to differentiate its contest from similar events, the organisation decides to create a road test, each competitor starting from a significant European city and driving to Monaco by means of its vehicle of transport. The test only included cars in the so-called tourism class, comparable to today's production class, as opposed to the competition class, genuine racing cars specifically created for the occasion, that competed in other great tests such as Paris-Berlin and the Targa Florio.

The Rally of Monaco was thus contested by standard road-going vehicles seldom accustomed to long ways out of the cities. Each competitor was to carry a plate stating "Rally of Monaco", which enabled the organisers to create maximum publicity for the principality in the cities of departure across Europe. The same plate that all competitors in any rally still carry today!
But that's about all it had in common with the rallies of today. It should already be realized that the simple fact of crossing Europe and its back-countries was in oneself an incredible exploit, the roads were more often than not unpaved, gravel tracks, ruts prevailed, and the DDE (French road maintenance firm) did not yet exist. Add to this the harsh Alpine-winter conditions and the fact the cars were small, uncomfortable, deprived of all luxury and even straightforwardly dangerous compared to our current cars. Truly the stuff of which legends are created.

Deciding the winner also did not proceed at all like today: first of all, no time scratch! Let us not forget that the rally was also a contest of elegance and comfort. On the first editions there was no common competition course. The rally consisted only of the concentration run. The average speed per hour on the course was limited to 25 km/h. The overall classification incorporated all sorts of factors (see below), established and judged by a jury in what today seems quite cumbersome. Victorious was he who at the end of the rally had accumulated most points.

Points Attribution :

  • 1 point per km/h with a ceiling of 25 km/h
  • 1 point for each 100 km covered
  • 2 points per passenger transported, including the mechanic, excluding the driver
  • 0 to 10 points for the degree of comfort of the transported people, the luggage being an element of appreciation !
  • 0 to 10 points for the elegance of car
  • 0 to 10 points depending on the state of the frame on arrival
  • 0 to 10 points depending on the aesthetic appreciation of the body

Itinaries :

  • Genève: 670 km, 2 cars
  • Paris : 1020 km, 9 cars
  • Boulogne-sur-mer : 1272 km, 1 car
  • Vienne : 1319 km, 2 cars
  • Bruxelles : 1310 km, 4 cars
  • Berlin : 1700 km, 2 cars

Final classification :

For the first edition in 1911, 23 cars entered, that was less than what the organizer hoped for. Only 20 actually started the rally, of which 18 would finish, which is the best start/finish ratio in the entire history of the rally.

Overall final classification:

  1. Rougier (Turcat-Mery 25HP) Paris
  2. Aspiazu (Gobron 40 HP) Paris
  3. Beutler (Martini 28/35 HP) Berlin
  4. Denoncin (Gobron 20 HP) Paris
  5. Testa (Motobloc 16 HP) Paris

There were also individual classifications for speed, covered distance, state of the car, comfort, etc.

Considering the complexity and the subjectivity of the classification, the deliberations of the jury were very difficult and declared with one day of delay. Rougier was finally proclaimed victorious, which caused the ire of the imminent captain Von Esmach, who on the basis of starting from Berlin was the first to arrive at Monaco (departures of the various cities being accounted for according to the distance to cover) with the best average of 22,655 km/h. This incident caused great commotion and the organisers feared the rally would die an early death.

However, the rally continued in 1912 with 88 commited (65 leaving). There will be no edition in 1913 and 1914. After the 1st world war (1914 - 1918), the rally returns only in 1924 as the Monte Carlo Rally, initiating a permanent evolution until it becomes the rally we know today.

Text written by Philippe CALLAIS (2002) and published with its pleasant authorization.
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Sources :
* Jean-François Jacob, "Monte-Carlo, 60 ans de rallyes", éditions Robert Laffont, 1973
* Maurice Louche, "Le rallye de Monte-Carlo au XXe siècle", éditions Maurice Louche, 2001
* Marc-Antoine Collin, "Hotchkiss et le rallye de Monte-Carlo", Automobilia n°22, février 1998