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Ah, the smell of sight of gorgeous green grass in the morning, lying on a gorgeous mountainside. Nothing can beat such scenery against a brilliant blue sky, nothing of course but a zooming rally car booming its way at 60 mph on top of it. The raw energy and power of the sport has been bringing spectators form afar ever since the beginning of automotive history. Taking place on private and modified roads,, competitor’s race form point to point with a co-driver, leading them along the way to break time records. This article will stretch deep into its past and pick out the most important and interesting events, taking the reader on a journey into an area full of speed and adventure.
The tale begins in France in 1894 with the Parisian Horseless Carriage competition, starting the point-to-point format that is still in operation today, bringing with it much interest and competition. It was not until the Paris- Bordeaux rally in 1895 that greater distance and speed was added to the competition, stretching over 1,000 km and averaging a whopping 48 hours to complete. That vary same race nearly a decade later was won in half the time and at triple the speed, showing how quickly vehicles were developing at the fin-de-siècle. But with such speed cam danger, causing some parts of the sport to be banned and moved to closed circuits.
Other nations became quickly enthralled by the sport. Italy showed great interested in the sport during the latter 19th century, and with motor racing near Lake Maggiore, as well as the Targa Florio on Sicily, it became quite popular around the European continent. Britain was too influenced by such developments with the Automobile Club of Great Britain staging many events, with 43 as well as 123 mile races. Germany also produced long 1000 km tracks with many hills, following other competitions on the continent. It was so popular that even Prince Henry of Austria had the opportunity to take part in it.
In 1911 things change rapidly, where the term “rally” was first coined in the luxurious Monte Carlo Rally that lives in legend today. Organized by and for the wealthy, it was more of a show of glitz and glamour rather than competition.
During the First World War nearly everything had stopped, but than the Monte Carlo in 1924 brought with it the necessary impetuous to push rallying into Alpine events that became more and more popular, such as Austria’s Alpenfahrt. The French too produced theirs, called the Rallye des Alpes Francaises in the 1930’s that carried through this dangerous off road events.
As the Second World War loomed, so too did various dictators interest, like Benito Mussolini, who believed that this sport represented the vitality of the area. When war finally broke out another lull emerged, but with it came the 1950’s, which is considered by many to be the sports golden age. An enormous array of tournaments all over Europe emerged, maintain however a gentlemanly culture that soon changed as speed and difficulty increased. 1956 saw the Tour de Corse, a 24 hour non-stop race on mountaintops, and the period also saw the addition of Sweden and Finland into the organized rally events. Since than the long distances and popularity spread abroad to America as well as most of the world. But with an already established rule book as well as system in place, little has changed in modern times.
The cars themselves however have gone through an enormous amount of change, from small Ford V8’s in Monte Carlo, to modern day monstrous, car companies began to introduce special models for the sport. The British Motor Corporation’s Mini Cooper is perhaps the best known of these small cars. Ford of Britain created the Cortina and French companies like Renault specialized in making fast cars. The 1980’s saw the dawn of Audi in the sport with the fast Quattro dominating most competitions.
The sport itself has been divided up into two forms- stage and road rallies. While the former is the more professional of the two, they are both designed around speed. Road rallies are usually held on highways which are regularly used by the public, but are more likely amateur in nature.
The sport has gone through an enormous amount history before reaching the stage, it appears that there is still a great deal more to do. Rooted in the start of the automotive industry, its popularity will continue to grow. A fascinating evolution, and certainly quite dangerous, let us hope that it will continue to entertain us for many years to come.