Monte Carlo Rally 1953

1953 is the year of the participation record of the Monte Carlo Rally with 440 committed and 404 actual starters. The number of the participants is explained partly because the 1952 edition was particularly testing which had raised the spirits. It should be noted that the number of competitors is limited by a maximum number established by nationality. Fortunately, because there were nearly 1000 requests! Of these 404, 356 would make it to the finish.

Conditions on the 1953 editions were particularly lenient conditions on the whole of the concentration route from the following cities:

  • Lisbonne: 112 cars
  • Glasgow: 103
  • Stockholm: 42
  • Oslo: 15
  • Palerne:11
  • Monte Carlo: 84
  • Munich: 37

Despite the large numbers of participants the 1953 edition will not be remembered as one of the best editions of the rally. The rally was unfortunately marked by several rather serious accidents including a fatal one. As often, the accidents are more numerous when the weather conditions are lenient, as the pilots lower their vigilance. The route did little to sort out the bad from the good, and thus 253 crews arrived at Monaco without any penalty, ex-aequo!

Then, how to establish a classification with 253 ex-aequo? Quite simply by deciding between them with two additional tests with the course of concentration: a test of acceleration/braking, and another navigational test at modest average speed.

The Acceleration/braking is carried out on 250m. The pilot accelerates towards a reference point, at that reference point he hits the brakes (not before) and must stop his vehicle as fast as possible. The best 100 could pass to the following test.

The navigational test consists in carrying out a course of several kilometers at a modest average velocity fixed beforehand by the jury. This test took place in the Col de Braus, at a length of 74km and 350m and had to be ran at the average speed of 47 km/h.

Gatsonides (Ford Zephyr) proves most capable and wins the 1953 edition of the Monte Carlo Rally.

Final Classification :

  1. Gatsonidès-Worledge (Ford Zephyr) Monte-Carlo: 2 pts
  2. Appleyard et Mme (Jaguar MkVII) Glasgow: 3 pts
  3. Marion-Charmasson (Citroën 15/6) Monte-Carlo: 3 pts
  4. Grosgogeat-Biagini (Panhard Dyna) Lisbonne: 4 pts
  5. Vard-Jolley (Jaguar MkV) Monte-Carlo: 5 pts

The 1953 edition only provides us with few things worth remembering, if not for these interesting anecdotes:

  • The Porsches were heavily scrutinised by the officials: indeed, several of these cars did not pass the technical checks due to a height of case. Problem: according to the card of the manufacturer, the height of those were to be 88cm, and they were measured at... 91 cm. The organizers tolerated only one small centimetre of variation, the Porsches were thus excluded from the rally for 2 unfortunate centimetres. This occurrence caused great commotion, and once more, the organisation was taunted and scorned by the press.

  • Faced with the meddlesome attitude of the officials, the future winner Gatsonidès will acknowledge later to have had fun (!) to change his engine on route, and thus escaping from the officials' perspicacity. The race stewards apparently have seen nothing.

  • To effectively overcome the slippery conditions, the Maurel-Juillard crew invented a system which on command could pour fine sand - which they had stored in tanks - on the ground in front of the driving wheels via two large pipes, thus creating extra traction.

This edition - contrary to the preceding one, which had been run under extreme conditions - was far from exciting. The interest was limited, and the rally was severely criticized by the specialized press. It is true that it depended too much on the winter climatic conditions and in this case lack there off. Also to decide a winner after 3300km of concentration run by tests worthy of a lottery was not particularly appreciated. It should be noted that Anthony Noghès, who had taken part in the organization of the rally since the inaugeral 1911 edition and at the head of the organization since 1924, had been just replaced by Jacques Taffes. Faced with the criticisms, the latter, taking the criticisms to heart, modifies the point-scoring system of the rally to make it more selective and to prevent that too great a number of crews arrive at Monaco without penalty. That brings us to the 1954 edition and the first victory of Lancia on the Monte Carlo Rally. Another legend was born, but that is another story.

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