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The Prince’s DB Frua and the 1979 Opel Ascona 400 Compete for Fans’ Hearts at the Historic MC Rally

There is so much more to the Historic Rally of Monte Carlo than winning the race itself. There is above all the camaraderie, and there are all the legends associated with the Rally’s history. And there are the shared experiences, fun and frivolity. 

The race, of course, has its serious side. It is a thrilling competition. And in a saga reminiscent of Belgium’s dominance in 2022, Michel Decremer and Jennifer Hugo upheld the nation’s honour once more at the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique. Guiding a formidable 1979 Opel Ascona 400, they clinched victory in spectacular fashion, marking another triumph for Belgian prowess on the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) stage.

A Poignant Start 

The Rallye Monte-Carlo’s final evening commenced with a poignant homage from the Sovereign to his father. Prince Albert II paid tribute by maneuvering a DB Frua, an immaculate replica of Prince Rainier III’s 1953 Tour de France Auto entry. After a lap around the F1 circuit, the Prince graced the podium, signaling the start for the first competitors embarking on their journey into the hinterlands of Nice.

This Royal Ride took place in the sleek sports coupé which was a replica of the one piloted by Prince Albert’s father incognito in the 1953 Tour de France automobile race. 

Rejuvenating a relic of the Coach DB Frua the artisans of the Prince of Monaco’s automobile trove of classic cars  created a fully functioning rally car. 

The Coach DB Frua, is a true rarity, with likely less than 100 ever made. Originally just a hollow shell, lacking colour and character, it now stands as a testament to the restoration prowess of the Prince’s Collection mechanics.

Unlike his father, Prince Albert II did not approach the start incognito. In 1953, car number 67 indeed started the 3rd Tour de France auto with a certain Louis Carladès as the driver.

Prince Rainier III, then 30 years old, had chosen this nickname in reference to the County of Carladès, in Auvergne, fief granted following the Treaty of Péronne (like the Duchy of Valentinois and the Marquisate of Baux), and where the hereditary Prince Rainier had visited a few years earlier, on a private trip, in 1947.

The Rally in Formal Attire!

Amidst the kaleidoscope of vintage vehicles, several stood out, accompanied by crews who left an indelible mark.

None more than David Pengilly and Mark Denham, with four and three rally participations respectively. Their 1974 Porsche 911 2.7, adorned with studded tires, made a grand entrance into the closed park.

These two affable gentlemen opted for a unique approach to rally attire—tuxedos! And they maintained this formal flair throughout the event, a quirky tradition cherished in Monte-Carlo enabling them to seamlessly transition to the gala dinner. 

Winning Ways

 Right from the outset during the initial leg, the n°25 crew seized control capturing the lead after the third regularity stage (RS) and refusing to let go. Their dominance was evident throughout the rally, culminating in a decisive performance at the Col de Turini, with Michel Decremer and Jennifer Hugo consistently securing no worse than a 55th position out of over 200 competitors. Their average of only 60 penalty points per RS underscored their formidable consistency.

The Rallye Monte-Carlo has borne witness to the Opel Ascona 400’s prowess before, notably in 1982 when Walter Röhrl secured victory for the second time. Reflecting on the heritage, Röhrl’s triumph marked one of five victories in the Principality, each with distinct manufacturers.

Returning to the present, the podium this year bore testament to the diversity of talent, with British and Italian cars joining the Opel Ascona 400 in celebration. Giorgio Schon and Francesco Giammarino’s Austin Mini Cooper S clinched second place, trailing the winners by a mere 70 points. Meanwhile, Maurizio Aiolfi and Carlo Merenda’s Lancia Beta Coupé 1800 rounded off the podium, securing third place with a 130-point margin.

With the dust settled and the results official, all competitors convened at the Sporting Monte-Carlo for the customary gala. It was a night of celebration which our tuxedoed pair David and Mark had come well prepared for and where accolades were bestowed upon the triumphant.

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