Monte Carlo Rally: A Motorsport Icon of the 1970s
The 70s, a decade characterized by funky music and LSD, featured a prominent event that shone like a crown jewel among all rallies - the Monte Carlo rally. Participating in this rally was as prestigious as competing in today's World Rally Championship, and the teams that achieved top positions in this single event etched their names into the annals of motorsport history. We will discuss one such team that managed this remarkable feat three times consecutively.
Alpine A110: The Unstoppable Force at the Monte Carlo Rally
What prompted me to write about this topic? The Monte Carlo rally is an essential subject when discussing the Alpine brand - sleek coupes with engines and mechanical components sourced from Renault. Essentially, it was a high-speed rear-engine Renault with a top speed exceeding 200 km/h. This Renault captured every trophy in its path. In today's context, this seems unlikely for a stereotypical Renault, but it was a bitter (for rivals) and sweet (for Alpine enthusiasts) reality in the early 70s. From 1969 to 1973, Alpine A110 cars, equipped with Renault 16 125 hp engines, consistently finished in the top three at the Monte Carlo rally. In 1971 and 1973, the entire Alpine team triumphed, with all three A110s winning gold, silver, and bronze medals at the era's most prestigious race. That same year, Brigitte Bardot retired from acting, but France celebrated its new curvaceous star - the Alpine A110. Success on the rally circuits spurred sales of the street-legal Alpine A110 version. However, two events transpired - the oil crisis and the introduction of a purpose-built rally competitor, the Lancia Stratos. Both factors proved to be insurmountable challenges for the A110, akin to Voldemort's impact on most wizards.
Alpine's Rally Misstep: The Decision to Stick with A110 Over A310
Alpine desperately needed to find a way out from this situation. And they tried their best to do it. But it does not mean that they reached any reward for it. Successor of A110 – named A310 had already been launched since 1971. But management of the Alpine team decided to stick with A110 in rallying tracks instead of launching A310‘s there. Following events showed that they had probably made a key mistake with it, which led to that Alpine had to resign from participation in Monte Carlo. Although, Alpine A310 had a local success at French rally championship in 1977 (Guy Frequelin won first place at championship of France in 1977, driving A310) but this could not be compared with the achievements made at Monte Carlo just a few years ago. Alpine forever lost it‘s name and trophies to the younger and more powerful rival – which itself with no doubt was (and still is) a legend in a history of motorsports – Lancia Stratos.
The Alpine A310: A Worthy Successor to the A110 Legacy
Despite the fact that it has not been able to cope with the Stratos on rally tracks, the A310 wasn't a bad car at all. Powered with the 125 hp Gordini engine, derived from Renault, which got it‘s fuel from the two Webber twin-barrel carburetors, it was able leave all German – made cars far behind at the race from stoplight. With the rear-mounted (as previously in A110) engine characteristics it could be compared with Porsche 911. In addition to that, A310 body had much more modern (for the 70‘s) design than an overweight VW Beetle from Stuttgart. By the way, A310 could be also compared (in a some way) with the goddess of lightweight sport cars – Chevrolet Corvette. Both of them had bodies made from fiberglass - judging by the engine characteristics and by it‘s body structure it seems, that A310 was a result of a drunk one night stand between 911 and Corvette. Letting alone the fact, that A310 wasn't as competitive as A110 at rally tracks, A310 was a decent successor of A110 and was produced until the 1984, when Alpine replaced a little outdated model by a coupe, which was as 80‘s as synth pop music – A610.
Alpine's Return to Motorsports: The Shift from Rally to Le Mans
To be precise, Alpine tried to bring their name back to the international motorsport at the late 70‘s. But at this case, it wasn't rally. Alpine decided to take a chance at the hardest track race event in the world – 24 Heures du Mans. And fans of the Alpine name once again had a chance to remember good old days of the early 70‘s, when Alpine name was the synonymy of winning. Purposely for the Le Man‘s, Renault built sport prototype racing car – Renault Alpine A442, driven by the Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jassaud. They even managed to do 369 laps and win the gold trophy. But...It wasn't the same feeling as it had been previously to win Monte Carlo three times in a row – the most prestigious rally during the great part of 20th century.
Looking back from nowadays, one can find a hell a lot of the reasons, why Alpine failed to proceed it‘s victories at the rally tracks during the mid ant late 70‘s. But...what‘s the point of it. Victories of the Alpine A110 have already became a legend. So, instead of analyzing, you should better lean back, turn on the video from the 1971 Monte Carlo rally and please yourself with the part of a history, which may never repeat itself again.