Thirty-seventh Monte Carlo Rally, January 25, 1968. It’s January 1968, and 230 teams from all around Europe have set off for the Monte Carlo Rally. As usual, the first dropouts occur on the way to the principality. The field is further thinned out on the Côte d’Azur. In the end, sixty teams start the most grueling and infamous race in the rally calendar: the final night of the rally in the frosty Maritime Alps.
The first car to roll down the starting ramp in front of the Monte Carlo Casino is the Renault Alpine of leader Gérard Larrousse, followed by Porsche factory driver Vic Elford and his codriver David Stone in the Porsche 911 T. Larrousse has a fourteen-second lead on Elford. The stage calls for the two leading teams, followed by the hard-charging pack, to ascend the brutal Col de Turini three times. Rising to an elevation of 1,607 meters, it’s a tall order—a mix of snow, bonfires, fans, and rally cars pushed to their limits, bouncing around in the ice channels like pinballs.
Elford’s teammate Pauli Toivonen wins the first special stage. Larrousse comes second and extends his lead on Elford. How is the Englishman in the orange-red 911 supposed to win now? In this business, thirty-one seconds is an eternity. A hopeless cause? Not for the man from London. The next stage takes them over the Col de la Couillole. Elford fights with everything he and his car can muster. “Quick Vic,” as he’s known to his countrymen, rises to the occasion—and puts fifty-one seconds between him and the outclassed Larrousse. The clocks stop at 17:27.00.
But the race is not over. Not yet. There are still two runs at the Turini ahead, and Larrousse is a fighter too. He starts first and puts it all on the line. The roles have changed—the hunted becomes the hunter. The Frenchman needs to claw back twenty seconds. But Elford puts in a strong drive as well. Ultimately, the decision is not in the hands of either driver. At two hundred meters from the summit, the fans put an end to the duel. They’ve shoveled snow onto the road. Larrousse hits the slippery patch and briefly loses control of the Alpine, slamming into a wall. Fin.
Elford wins. It’s the biggest win to date for Porsche and the still-young 911. Toivonen caps the triumph with a second-place finish. For Elford, it’s the start of a magnificent season: ten days later at Daytona, in the factory Porsche 907 long tail, he takes his first victory in the World Sportscar Championship, and in early summer 1968 he wins the Targa Florio in the 907 short tail.
Text first published in the Porsche customer magazine Christophorus, No. 382