The townspeople of Waltham Abbey are gearing up for the flying visit of classic cars in the Monte Carlo Historique Rally. Entering the event for the third time, Epping Forest District couple Gaye and Neil Sjoberg are among the Monte Carlo Historique entries from Glasgow heading to the first overnight stop in Waltham Abbey before crossing the Channel on their way to the South of France.
Over 50 classic cars are expected to leave Glasgow on Thursday 27 January, arriving in Waltham Abbey in the small hours of Friday.
As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rally, Neil and friends brought four past Monte Carlo vehicles to the Abbey to meet District Councillor Anne Grigg, the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council and Waltham Abbey Mayor Councillor Ricki Gadsby. Neil`s 1967 Triumph Vitesse and 1969 Triumph Spitfire were accompanied by David Stimpson’s 1954 Jowett Jupiter (2nd in 1956) and Allan McNab’s 1927 Bugatti (Bugatti won in 1956).
Councillor Grigg joined Councillor Gadsby in wishing Neil well. Neil is crossing his fingers that wife and co-driver Gaye will be recovered from flu before the start of the Rally.
Having previously competed but failed in the gruelling but ultra-glamorous event in their Spitfire, Neil changed to the more powerful and spacious Vitesse last year to complete the rally 276th out of 520. The Historique Rally follows the week after the true Monte Carlo on the same course but with pre 1980 cars. The former being a racing test of the most modern in engineering innovation, the latter being an exercise in navigation, vehicle reliability and driving in difficult conditions.
Competitors and their support teams have just over 19 hours to make the first leg of the trip from Glasgow to Calais. Waltham Abbey Town Council is laying out the red carpet for the competitors as they enter Epping Forest District in the small hours of the morning.
Epping Forest District Council and Waltham Abbey Town Council are working together to support the event. District Council Chairman, Anne Grigg explained. “Neil is a well known local resident who runs The Epping Golf Course. This year is the one hundredth anniversary of the very first Monte Carlo Rally which also set off from Glasgow and hosted the start in 1973. When the organisers were looking for a suitable overnight stop, Neil immediately thought of the District. After a chat with the District Council he got straight on the phone to the Clerk of Waltham Abbey and back to the event organisers in Scotland.”
Councillor Ricki Gadsby continued: “We thought it was a great idea. Even though the cars will be coming to us in the middle of the night, it is a terrific opportunity for the town to show itself off. People love classic cars and the Monte Carlo carries its own romance. The Town Hall will be opened specially for the competitors as they get a few hours sleep before the next stage. Everyone is doing this for the love of the event with volunteers across the town coming to help.”
Adding colour to the warmup in Waltham Abbey last Tuesday, Neil introduced Dave Stimpson with his 1952 Jowett Jupiter and Allan McNab with his 1927 Bugatti. Also adding some Gallic Flair was local resident Michel Trouard-Riolle, currently of Upshire but originally from the Anjou region of France. Andy Farrow drove the Spitfire as stand-in for Gaye Sjoberg. While the Jowett and Bugatti will not be competing in this year’s rally, both these lovingly restored classics hold the Monte Carlo pedigree. Town and District Councillor Syd Stavrou was very happy to pose in the gorgeous red Jowett outside the Abbey church.
Cars are expected to start arriving in Waltham Abbey from about 1am on the morning of Friday 28 January. However, the process for Neil and Gaye starts days earlier. First to go will be the car, safely loaded on a transporter for the long haul up to Glasgow. Neil and Gaye fly up from Stansted but need to be in plenty of time for ‘scrutinising’.
“Everything on the car needs to be genuine, original and in good working order.” says Neil. “The scrutineers go over the car with a fine tooth comb. Safety is a prime consideration and old cars like these will be put through great stress before we reach Monte Carlo. Everything has to be right before we set off.
“The last time the Monte Carlo set off from Glasgow was nearly 40 years ago.” says Neil. “It will be a big event up there with a special reception for all the competitors the night before. The last time it set off from Glasgow only one car made it through deep Pennine snow. Hopefully we will have more luck.
“We have nineteen and a half hours to get to Calais. Half an hour late and you are out! Then it will be another 32 hours to reach the South of France.” Once you factor in traffic, repairs, food and rest stops for a bit of sleep it becomes a real marathon especially when you remember the cars are at least thirty years old.”