Adventure & Mystery on the Monte Carlo Rally

During the 1983 Monte Carlo Rally, John and Hywel Thomas crashed their Renault 5 Turbo at night while speeding across the flying finish of an alpine stage. The car then left the road and dropped down a bank, destroying the suspension and some lower panel work. After the accident, a helpful but over-enthusiastic French spectator kindly offered to drive John back down the mountain but after a few frantic corners, the hapless driver rolled his Renault 5 road car spectacularly, completely destroying it but fortunately injuring only his no-claims bonus!

John's close friend Alun Morgan, who was driving a Rover SD1 Chase Car, was miles from the crash scene and when they did not arrive at the agreed service rendezvous - pre cell phone days and their two-way radios had proved ineffective in the mountains - he set off briskly and drove through the preceding three stages until he found them. It was daylight by this time, the roads were open as most marshals had left.

Alun then effected temporary repairs to the damaged rally car so it could be driven off the mountain stage to the nearest village and stored with a helpful garage owner. John and Hywel then got into the chase car, which was fitted with studded tyres, but later on the dry motorway, a front tyre blew at speed and the Rover careered wildly over the carriageway until Alun managed to bring it to a safe halt. John had escaped from three major incidents within a few hours physically unscathed!

On the last night of the rally, John and his disappointed team walked up the Col du Turini stage with its low walls, big drops, drunk spectators and few safe spectator points to watch the final 100 cars pass through. The following day Hywel Thomas and John flew back to the UK as Hywel had injured his back in the accident. John's brother Denzil, Alun and Bob Jones went to the rally's black-tie prize giving ceremony before driving the SD1 home later that weekend.

On Friday, the damaged Renault Turbo was collected by the service van and trailer but to this day, they simply do not know how they ever found that small, obscure country garage again. Bob Fowden, Derrick Davies and Steve Lloyd then drove non-stop to Hereford and dropped the car at John's Wormbridge garage and from there to Swansea. Between the south of France and Swansea they had stopped only for fuel, ferry and at Maidstone to buy 2 new trailer tyres. They athletically changed drivers whilst on the move with just two of the three passengers driving and the third watching the map and keeping the drivers awake. They were physically wrecked and slept for days!

Mysteriously, after the accident there was a spent bullet found amongst the damaged parts stripped from the wrecked rally car and John had always wondered if someone had shot-out his tyre, causing them to crash. This has still never been explained thirty-seven years later, but the bullet was genuine, and it always made a good story - perhaps even a worthy plot for a new Agatha Christie type who-done-it?

4th May, 2020