AGAINST ALL ODDS by Richard Disbrow and James Goodwyn
Fresh from the thrill of the 2008, 50th anniversary Liege-Brescia- Liege Micro Rally, Richard Disbrow & James Goodwyn were looking for a new automotive adventure and the Monte Carlo Rally seemed an ideal goal. A little research showed that the Monte was a possibility even in a 1961 FIAT 600.
Preparation commenced in earnest when the entry was accepted in late November 2010. Stiffer front springs were fitted, along with lowered rears, new shocks, rally equipment, second hand studded snow tyres and a full engine re-build, up-rating the power to a massive 32.5bhp. To make things more exciting, the newly installed camshaft destroyed the cam followers just 10 days before the start. Richard takes up the story....
“…everyone pulled out all the stops and special thanks must go out to the guys at Middle Barton Garage (MBG) for delivering all the required parts from across Europe. I stripped down the engine whilst waiting for the deliveries, sorted all the damage, re-built the motor and fitted it in the car, which was on the rolling road with 2 days to spare.
Alas, driving to the start from Dorset, the dynamo died, which could have terminated the show. Thursday 9.00am and the last re-built generator in the UK was located at MBG, couriered to the co-driver’s house and fitted Thursday noon, thereby saving the day.
Now bound for Dover the dynamo pulley came loose (twice), the passenger window winder wire snapped and the speedo cable broke. Nothing terminal, but it left us without any way of measuring speed or distance. Having the door glass taped shut sadly prevented co-driver James waving to the assembled crowds. Never mind, it just meant more fun with the Italian air horns!
We made it to the start in Reims late on Thursday, despite losing about a litre of water every half a tank of fuel, which continued throughout the trip.
A simple headlamp bulb almost put us out of the rally at scrutineering, but it decided to come back to life when the correct spare could not be found!
The first regularity test showed us that we could not even reach the average speed when flat out up the climbs. Descending was fine, pushing the tiny drum brakes to their limit time after time, proving that it had been a good move to fit the up-rated suspension. After the first 17hrs from Reims, making the Monaco start seemed like a massive milestone. Day 2 proved that the car could deal with the snow as well as anyone, better than some that fell off the ‘black stuff’ anyway.
By Day 3 we realised that each day would be an absolute blinding dash from start to finish with no time to slow down for the regularities, repairs or cafes….”
All the passage and time controls were achieved, one with just 60 seconds to spare. Halfway through the rally a 20 minute respite gave Richard a chance to take up the brakes which had never worked so hard in their lives. No service crew for these guys.
All but one of the last night regularities were completed, missing out just the last one in order to reach the finish in one piece, collect the medals and drive back to Dorset, making a round trip of about 5000kms.
Top marks for such a tiny car!