The Paris-Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition of 1894 was one of the very first motorsport events, and gave rise to many more inter-city races over low-grade public roads. In 1911, the inaugural Monte Carlo Rally took early motorsport events to a whole new level as competitors started at points all over Europe, racing south to Monte Carlo. The world’s first proper rally would demonstrate automotive development, manufacturer reliability and the resilience of its participants.
Fast-forward just over a century, and Tuthill Porsche is on the verge of its first ever Monte Carlo Rally. Racing in this first part of the five-round 2015 R-GT Cup, it faces competition from two worthy adversaries, both highly talented and equally as passionate about motorsport.
Romain Dumas: 2015 Monte Carlo Rally
Romain Dumas is a former Le Mans winner, and winner of the 24 Hours of Spa and 24 Hours of Nurburgring. A regular rally competitor in 911s, Romain is a Porsche works driver and pilots a 4-litre Porsche R-GT rally car for Monte Carlo. No change has been made to the 4-litre engine specification to bring it closer to the 3.8-litre cars.
Marc Duez is a Belgian driver, highly regarded in European rallying. A former WRC driver in BMW M3, Toyota Celica GT4 and no end of Porsche 911s, Duez has claimed a number of top ten Monte Carlo finishes and is sure to be on form.
In the Tuthill Porsche camp is François Delecour: heart-sleeved legend of rally fans everywhere. A four-time winner in WRC, François has a “win it or bin it” reputation, which may not be entirely accurate but, whatever the story, he is adored. Tuthill has one word for Delecour: angry.
“François is an angry man,” said Richard Tuthill when interviewed at last week’s Autosport Show. He means it as a compliment. “Sleeves rolled up, let’s get to business, angry, angry man and a total legend.” With François to keep Tuthill Porsche firing along, Monte Carlo can’t come quick enough. Alongside François is Dominique Savignoni, with whom Delecour has won the last three Romanian rally championships.
Romania is a 50% sponsor of the Tuthill Porsche R-GT attack in 2015, with Richard Tuthill currently footing the bill for the other half. I don’t know many people who would be as brave with their money: Tuthill does not have an endless supply of cash and is well into this project already. Some might have left the car parked up for Monte Carlo and spent some money on classic Porsches instead, but that is not the Tuthill way. These are adventurous spirits, looking for the next thing in epicness and taking Porsche to the forefront of whatever that is.
In a fairytale world, François would have a small issue on the first day of the rally – maybe an off-piste in snow – find himself well down on Duez and Dumas and climb back up through the ranks before taking the win by four seconds on the final day. But there are no fairy tales in the WRC.
The politics of getting a quick GT car onto a rally stage alongside manufacturers who have invested millions of marketing Euros into making their hatchbacks look good are insane. Tuthill has a long way to go before its gravel spec R-GT is approved for stage use: an approval that has little to do with engineering. Anyone thinking the speed of the cars is down to the teams needs to wake up a bit: WRC status quo is not up for discussion.
Rallye Monte Carlo kicks off on January 19th and runs to the 25th. Some stages are up towards Grenoble, well north of Monaco, with weather ranging from -15 degrees with heavy snow to 9 degrees C and some sunshine. François Delecour will need all his wits about him if he wants to kiss a princess at the finish.
As for the gravel spec R-GT car, Chris Harris tested the car on gravel in Wales at the end of 2014. Chris is no rally driver, but he’s a capable racer who knows 911s and has driven every brand of hypercar for his popular videos. “This is the most exciting car I have driven all year,” he said. Watch this: