Oh dear, one year?

Well hello there. If you thought our blog was dead for good, I can’t blame you. In my last post I told everyone to “check back in a few weeks” – I think I missed that deadline by a couple days or three.

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I could just blame documentation again, but I won’t.

In any event, since none of our millions of fans noticed that we had been silent for quite a long while, we concluded that the world possibly doesn’t revolve around us (although evidence is still inconclusive).

Some say, better late than never, and we shall stick to that for now. so we still owe you a summary of the 2016 Rallye Monte Carlo. This was brought up by the fact that we will actually be leaving for the 2017 edition in just a few days! In any event, let’s talk about last year first.

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This rallye, while being for electric cars, is the real deal. It is FIA approved, organized by the emerited Automobile Club de Monaco and offers real challenges in the form of a regularity contest – with a subsequent ranking.

We subscribed rather late, it was a spur of the moment thing. We didn’t really know what we got ourselves into but as usual, we’d just let it flow and see what happens.

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Our first task the morning of the first day was to cover our car with stickers, followed by the inspection of said sticker coverage. Incidentally, they also checked that our car was road legal and equipped according to rallye regulations.

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Inspection

The cars were assembled in the Cour d’Honneur of the Chateau de Fontainebleau, a wonderful venue; even the weather was perfect!

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The field was rather mixed, pretty much every common EV was present. We ourselves had chosen to participate in a Nissan Leaf, even though we would have the possibility to use David’s Tesla. But where’s the challenge in that?

Most noticeably, aside from a few Kangoo F-Cells, Renault was present with an official team entering four Renault Zoé’s. Also unusual was the fact that three Toyota Mirai were present, a pure hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

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The first car to go over the starting line was a Toyota Mirai.

Now if you wonder how many hydrogen fuel stations there are in France, the number is zero (or close). If, in conclusion, you wonder how they would manage to drive a thousand miles across France in a hydrogen car, well the solution is easy:

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The automobile version of BYOB.

One of the sponsors being Air Liquide, their sponsorship consisted of providing participants with hydrogen gas along all along the Rallye. So you could say the hydrogen cars brought along their filling station wherever they went. Quite convenient, isn’t it?

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The first leg of the rallye took us across France from north to south. A lot of time was allocated for that distance, which led to the fact that this wasn’t really a challenge for teams with more experience (I’m not gonna say any names).

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First car on site. Guess who?

After a night spent in Alès (under torrential rain, unfortunately) we prepared for the first stage – two laps on the track in Alès. Now if you google the Alès track you find lots of beautiful pictures showing a perfectly good racetrack.

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However, as we were soon to find out, we did not compete on the regular track but on the hilltrack seen on the lower right part of the picture above. This might sound like a downer at first but the steep ups and downs and tight corners made this much more of a challenge than a “regular” track would have. In any event we completed our two laps and drove off to find the starting point of the next stage.

As it was the case for the first bit of driving, charging stops were involved, but nothing out of the ordinary. Somehow we managed to always find our chargers to be free, despite our fear that there would be much intereference with other rallye participants.

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This itinerary would take us from Alès (A) to Monaco (H), whereas the bits in between describe the regularity stages we had to attend (B-C, D-E and F-G).

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Unfortunately, we were both very busy during those stages – for understandable reasons – so there aren’t many picures around to show. But just imagine narrow roads with tight corners, in the dark, trying to dodge hogs and hares while trying to maintain a certain average speed at all times. All three stages were around 20 km long, with ups and downs, crossroads and traffic. If you don’t think this is a challenge, well let me assure you it is.

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We crashed into our hotel beds (not literally) around 2 am and slept like babies. The upcoming day began in a relaxed fashion since there was time for breakfast and a leisurely drive along the coast. We did enjoy our day, since the weather had taken a turn for the better again, and arrived in Monaco in the middle of the afternoon.

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We explored Monaco for the rest of the day, pretending that we weren’t nervous. Because the most difficult stage was still ahead of us: The legendary Col de Turini was up for the final stage!

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130 km of small backwater roads in the french alps, to be covered in three hours with three regularity stages in between! We knew this was to be a big night and we were really looking forward to it. We were going to drive across the Turini at night during a Rallye Monte Carlo, it hardly gets better than this for an average nobody like myself.

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The departure took place in front of the Automobile Club clubhouse, smack in the middle of Monte Carlo. There were lots of people around, and we were handed some finger food and an alcohol free drink. Then, we went off.

Then, problems started. I could not find the proper itinerary based on the roadbook – mind you, it was handed to me on the starting line. we went back past the clubhouse twice to re-initialize our trip counter and find our way to no avail. Why is this important? Because if you deviate from the defined route, you were to be penalized with 1800 points, which we didn’t want but ended up to be anyway (spoiler alert).

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After a while I found back into the itinerary description and we found the regularity stages without any problems – if it wasn’ for the fact that I got really sick… I shouldn’t have hat that drink back at the starting line! ugh.

Despite all that, we managed to get through the night without any major accidents, both vehicular and personal, and arrived back in Monaco around 2:30 am, being handed another 1800 points because we were more than half an hour late with respect to our predefined return time. This was due to the fact that we had driven back and forth across Monte Carlo to find the right way. We completely misjudged the time required to cover the rest of the stage.

In any event, thanks to instant ranking and the internet, we quickly found out we were ranked as 22nd, which wasn’t much of a surprise given the penalties we had collected. A small consolation was the fact that almost everyone considered the roadbook confusing and all but a handful of cars were penalized that last day, and 22nd out of 36 isn’t half bad for first timers.

The event closed on Sunday with a Gala Lunch at the clubhouse – where our rank was confirmed on the official announcement board.

When the rankings were announced, we applauded the first three teams – until we were called on stage. Much to our suprise, we ended up receiving a trophy because we had beaten everyone else on the track event.

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All winners of the 2016 e-Rallye Monte Carlo; we’re the underdressed ones.

This was a quite satisfactory, if completely unexpected, ending to a great adventure. Not bad given that I had performed the timing on my cellphone.

It took us about three seconds on the way home to decide we’d go again “next year”, which – if you beared with me until now – you know is “next week”.

So I will close this entry by promising that it will not take another year until we report back from the 2017 edition. Honest!

Image sources: Calendar – world4.info; Rallye Poster – Automobile Club de Monaco; Keep Calm poster – some meme generator; Fontainebleau, refueling, car shots – Jo Lillini; track pic – Club du Pôle Mécanique;  all other pics – Wattwurm!

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