Around 10 000 spectators will throng Paisley’s Abbey Close tomorrow evening (Wed) for the UK Start of the 105th Monte Carlo Classic Rally.
The world famous international event is being hosted by Renfrewshire Council as part of the build-up to the town’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.
Drivers of 70 classic vehicles, from a 1920s world record breaker to a 1950s London taxi, will be flagged over the start ramp at Paisley Abbey before beginning their colourful adventure.
The 2800km odyssey to the Riviera, via the Alps, is expected to take around a week, with crews meeting drivers from European start cities of Barcelona, Oslo, Reims and Bad Homburg.
Nearly 60 000 spectators have attended the endurance classic since the UK Start returned to Scotland in 2011.
A further addition to this year’s programme will be entrants from John o’Groats honouring the 90th anniversary of Scot Victor Bruce’s winning campaign, which started in the Caithness village back in 1926.
The ‘Monte’ was established by Prince Albert of Monaco in 1911. Despite having its origins in the golden age of adventure, its popularity has survived the decades.
“The Monte has always had a special sparkle,” says retired teacher, Gordon McAllan (68) from Strathaven, who will navigate a 1931 Riley with driver and owner, John Lomas.
“I used to sit next to a crackly Phillips valve radio in the 1950s, listening to reports of where the cars were in France. I was a Glasgow tenement boy growing up in a no-car family but the Monte had special meaning. It still does.”
(images by Jeff Holmes)
Ranald White (59) from Bearsden, who was also in attendance at Tuesday’s official photo-shoot, will drive the only Rover 2000 in the rally.
He is hoping for less drama than last year when a problem affecting both ends of his journey almost stymied his aspirations within sight of the finish line.
“The car developed a problem before I even got on the start ramp in Paisley but we managed to get it going. Then, when we were on the final stage in France, the car gave up again.
“It was the last major time control but, fortunately, we managed to get it onto the ramp, 45 seconds before being disqualified. We were certainly cutting it fine so we are hoping things are less eventful this year.”
(pictures by Tracey Clements of Paisley.org.uk)
International entrants include Belgian driver Jean-Marie Herman, who is setting his meter running at Paisley and hopes his 1950s taxi makes it to Monaco.
Jean-Marie and his crew are recreating the story of the BBC Sportsview team, who entered the rally in 1961 in a London black cab.
A specially-branded Paisley 2021 Sunbeam car, piloted by local driver Jim Megatt, will guide the competitors on their journey, with drivers also competing in heritage run support events.
Councillor Mark Macmillan, leader of Renfrewshire Council and chair of the Paisley 2021 Partnership Board, said: “We are delighted to welcome the only UK start leg of the Monte Carlo Classic Rally back to Paisley for the third year in a row.
“In previous years there’s always been a great family day out as crowds gather to watch the cars set off for France against the unique backdrop of Paisley Abbey, and I am sure this year will be no different.
“Being the host of such a glamorous and international event is really helping to put Paisley on the map ahead of the town’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.”
Entertainment starts in Paisley town centre at 4pm and is hosted by Clyde 1 DJs on the main stage. Activities include street performers, food vendors, and children’s entertainment including a giant Scalextric set and Sega rally simulator in Paisley Town Hall.