"The best event yet" was the unanimous verdict from competitors and organisers alike as they celebrated the finish of Rally Round's sun-drenched Paris-Prague Rally (June 11-17).
Covering slightly more than 2,000km in six days and passing through some of the most spectacular regions of France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, Paris-Prague was the latest in Rally Round's annual series of summer events inspired by the pioneering city-to-city races of the early 20th century, and it attracted crews from 10 nations in a a remarkable variety of machinery, ranging from a 1917 American LaFrance Roadster to a 1975 Ford Escort RS2000.
Casual observers of the rally's leisurely lunch and refreshment halts might have assumed that it was little more than a sightseeing tour, notwithstanding the inclusion of inspirational motorsport venues such as the 172-corner Freiburg-Schauinsland hillclimb and the old Masaryk Grand Prix course near Brno, yet the competition was exciting and intense, with up to five regularity sections per day and several timed tests at closed venues.
In the pre-war vintage category, a dominant performance by Martin and Olivia Hunt 9pictured above) in their 1937 Frazer Nash-BMW 328 secured the Charles Jarrott Trophy by a margin of more than six minutes over Mark Robinson and Simon Parfitt in their 1936 Derby Bentley. The result would have been much closer had Rudi and Helga Friedrichs not retired from second place on the penultimate day; in spite of a deranged driveshaft on their 1932 Alvis Speed 20 they posted the second best time overall on the day's final regularity on the Masaryk course, but overnight repairs revealed a terminally damaged differential and they joined the seven crews who did not finish.
Misfortune also played a part in the outcome of the post-war classic competition. At the rally start from the magnificent Chateau de Chantilly, hot favourites Barry and Roma Weir mis-adjusted their watch by a single minute and so incurred 386 seconds of penalties on day one, a handicap the ever-cheerful pair were subsequently unable to overcome despite consistently setting winning times in their 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTV. David Liddell and Mark l'Anson immediately seized the advantage, taking the classic category lead in their well-prepared 1962 Triumph TR4 and holding it all the way to the finish in spite of a late challenge from the 1970 MGB V8 Costello of Richard Dresner and Colin Mackenzie, who were just three seconds adrift on the eve of the final day. The Triumph crew held their nerve, and secured overall victory by a margin of 53 seconds.
At a sumptuous dinner and prizegiving in Prague, Liddell and l'Anson were gracious in victory, acknowledging the stirring performance of the unfortunate Weirs and praising every aspect of the event, not least the thrilling route devised by Clerk of the Course Fred Bent and Rally Round Route Designer Kim Bannister. The greatest acclaim was nevertheless reserved for septuagenarian 1917 LaFrance Roadster crew John and Catherine Harrison, who drove every kilometre of the way in admirable style and received the Spirit of the Rally Award to a standing ovation from competitors and organisers alike.
2017 Paris-Prague Rally - Award Winners
Vintage Category – 1st Overall – The Charles Jarrott Trophy
Martin & Olivia Hunt – 1937 Frazer Nash-BMW 328
Class 1 – Vintage up to 2500cc
1st: Peter Tierney & Carol Tierney – 1939 Lea Francis Hyper S
Class 2 – Vintage over 2500cc
1st: Mark Robinson & Simon Parfitt – 1936 Bentley Derby 4.25
2nd: Martin Tacon & Alexandra Tacon – 1933 Aston Matrtin Le Mans
3rd: Paul Darrouzet & Sonia Hill – 1927 Packard Tourer
Classic Category – 1st Overall
David Liddell & Mark l’Anson – 1962 TRiumph TR4
Class 3 – Classic up to 2000cc
1st: Richard Dresner & Colin Mackenzie – 1970 MGB V8 Costello
2nd: James O’Mahony & Frank Hussey – 1964 Volvo 122 S
3rd: Andrew Wenman & Tom Goddard – 1975 Ford Escort RS2000
Class 4 – Classic over 2000cc
1st: John Walsh & Nicola Walsh – 1968 Triumph TR5
2nd: Barry Weir & Roma Weir – 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTV
3rd: Adrian Turner & Dennis Greenslade – 1974 Jaguar E-Type V12
‘The Young Ones (the cars)’
David Liddell & Mark l’Anson – 1962 Triumph TR4
Adrian Turner & Dannis Greenslade – 1974 Jaguar E-Type V12
James O’Mahony & Frank Hussey – 1964 Volvo 122 S
Best Period Dress
Victoria Freer (1957 Triumph TR3) & Nicola Walsh (1968 Triumph TR5)
Spirit of the Rally Award
John Harrison & Catherine Harrison – 1917 American LaFrance Roadster