Otherwise, there was not much to choose among starting from Frankfurt or Lisbon or Monte Carlo itself. The distances of the different itineraries varied very little, from the 3,013 miles from Frankfurt to the 2,760 miles from Minsk. As always, all drivers had to take the "common route," a winding, 875-mile journey from Reims to Monte Carlo via the Jura Mountains, 3,000- to 5,000-foot Alpine passes and the tortuous Maritime Alps. Sprinkled through the mountainous route were the five speed stages that were meant to separate the sheep from the goats.
Alas for the Scandinavians, who prayed for snow. There was none. Disgusted drivers had to settle for a wee bit of fog and sparse patches of ice. The Carlssons, who had started 70 minutes apart, were both so far in advance that they had time in Germany for a family chat. At Reims, drivers sipped champagne in an improvised barbershop where many were shaved. "This isn't a rally," sighed Chrysler's Harvey, "it's a joyride."
While the experts continued to watch the Fords, Chryslers and Carlssons waltz around western Europe, nobody was paying any attention to the little Irishman on the Caviar Road from Minsk in his "little red biscuit tin on wheels." Hopkirk slept every night from midnight to 8 in the morning while Liddon droned on at 85 or 90 miles an hour. Their worst obstacle was Paddy's Irish passport. At the Polish and Czechoslovak frontiers, customs guards inspected curiously, delaying progress considerably.
"Oh, that miserable Irish passport," groaned Liddon. "English pig," retorted Paddy. "Irish bum," replied Henry.
The longest delay came at the Czech border, where officials poked sticks into every corner of the car. "I half expected them to ask me," said Paddy, "if I had anyone to declare. The main thing is they didn't touch that caviar we brought from Russia. We figured on selling it for more profit than we could make winning first prize [$2,400]."
Meanwhile the two Soviet Moscovitch 403s and the three Volga M 21 ms were having trouble. They had taken the rally rule book literally and concluded that service cars in front of and behind them were illegal. So they loaded hundreds of pounds of tires and spare parts in each of the five cars. By way of contrast, Erik Carlsson said to his navigator: "Get rid of those loose coins in your pocket or change them into bills. No extra weight in this SAAB, please."
The Soviet drivers were also having map trouble. They had ordered a set of five maps from a French automobile club well before the rally, but somehow only one set ever arrived. That obliged the five cars to stick pretty much together. In Li�ge, Belgium, they rushed into the automobile club and finally acquired four extra maps of the Reims-Monte Carlo road.
Rally officials were dismayed when they counted noses at Reims. No fewer than 274 out of 299 starters had reached the city of champagne, most of them un-penalized. If any old Sunday driver could complete the great Monte Carlo rally, they reasoned, who would ever take the race seriously again?
"Then all of a sudden the joyride somehow turned into a nightmare," recalled Harvey. "We knocked ourselves out trying to stay on time. We would roar into a gas station, help ourselves to a tankful, toss a couple of what we hoped were big enough French bills at the bewildered attendant and speed off."
What had happened to turn the rally into a rat race? A far tighter time schedule, the speed stages, the accumulated fatigue of 72 hours of nonstop driving, nightfall and scary Alpine roads.