Monty Carlo Rally – Part one.
From the inception of the motorcar there has always been a fascination with vehicle performance, as manufacturers competed to win business over competitors through technical development and or driver and passenger comfort. How fast? How economical? (Attributes which do not necessarily go together!) How reliable? How easy or exciting to drive? All factors which by post WWII years were of increasing interest as society prospered and car ownership became within the reach of a broader public. From early days, time trials and rallies had had always been popular with favoured participants and onlookers alike.
The Monty Carlo Rally owes its inception to Prince Albert I, Head of State of Monaco. This farsighted ruler coupled the growing fascination of the motor car with the need to promote his country to wealthy tourists and so struck on the idea of establishing a challenging, potentially worst weather scenario, winter rally. On January the 21st 1911, the inaugural event saw twenty three intrepid entrants set off from eleven different parts of Europe all heading for Monty Carlo. Fifteen completed the event and a tradition was born.
The 4th Rally Automobile de Monty- Carlo 1925 would see a connection with Armstrong Siddeley. It was the only British manufactured car in the entry of 42 taking part. Happily it did feature in the 32 cars which completed the event. Listings show an American manufactured Oakland and a Buick (second time participated) were the only other non- European makes entered. It appears that an Armstrong Siddeley was the first British manufactured car to take part in the Monty Carlo Rally.
By the time an Armstrong Siddeley again took part in the Rally it had attracted car makers and entrants from a much wider area. For the 10th Rally Automobile de Monte- Carlo 1931 the entries numbered 108 and started from 24 different locations. Twenty six participants chose to start from the UK, twenty one of these from John o’ Groats, two from Glasgow and three from London. Joining those starting at John o’ Groats the Armstrong Siddeley entry was a 1931, 20hp Sports Saloon (nick named Silver Sphinx), registration VC 696, and driven by the famous racing driver and sports editor Sammy Davis. Not only was the car listed among the 62 finishing entries but it was awarded a prize in the Concourse d’Elegance.
At the finish in Monte Carlo with Sammy Davis on the left in beret and team members Whitlock and Stafford.
The trophy is now the property of the Heritage Trust and is currently featured in the Armstrong Siddeley exhibition in the Gatehouse at Kenilworth Castle.