Sandro Munari wins the 43th Rally of Montecarlo.
His STRATOS has the number 14, a number that to the "Dragon" brings a lot of well.
It had the 14 when, ten years before, he started, actually with the Montecarlo, his happy partnership with Lancia; and he had the 14 when seven years later he stunned the whole world beating, at the Montecarlo, the Alpines with his old FULVIA HF 1600; he has the 14 now that at the top of the Montecarlo race he remains from the first special stage to the last one.
Thing, this, never succeeded to any other driver in the Rally history.
You will say, and it has been said, that to win with a STRATOS, that is a car much more powerful of the adversaries, is easy. We don't agree.
Certainly it is very simple to depart with a six cylinders car with 240 Bhp, knowing that they could be even more, to oppose to the 200 of the Four cylinders of the other cars. But it is also true that an insidious rally as the Montecarlo is always full of unknown things and it is very easy to waste the whole competition.
Then, the 1975 Montecarlo was a true folly for cars and crews. Firs of all, for Munari-Mannucci and for the other 95 crews, to go from Monaco to Monaco the race was of 6500 Kms. A very long way!
Wonderful the LANCIA STRATOS that, as a Swiss clock, without never losing a hit, will hold up to the unbelievable effort arriving to the finish line with the engine in nearly perfect conditions. And, above all, grandiose Sandro Munari, precise and meticulous driver, able, in a terrible competition as the Montecarlo is, to drive his jewel to the closed park without not even a scratch on the chassis improving in this way the Italian triumph.
But the things, for the LANCIA crews started really badly.
First of all for Amilcare Ballestrieri, in couple with the friend Pietro Sodano, stopped in the countries of Cuneo with the engine of his Beta Coupe struck dumb after strange metallic noises coming from under the chest. A capricious connecting rod prevents the "Balestra" to arrive to his mechanics and the Montecarlo stays orphan of one of its sure protagonists.
The march of approach to Monaco, 4000 useless and expensive kilometers, continues without standstill. Cuneo, Voghera, La Spezia, Roma, Benevento. L'aquila, Arezzo, San Marino, Cortina, Brescia, Pinerolo, Gap!
With a medium speed of fifty km/h!
To Gap all the drivers arrive with the "broken bones" and sleep dead. A rest of ten hours and then ready for the real rally. Now the rally is serious, everything what was done before was a joke (and a bad joke, we think).
The "game" starts. Four very insidious special stages on a dirty and snowy surface. Munari, in the first one, wins beating the young Finn Markku ALEN, retained unbeatable on the snow, KULLANG, driver of the OPEL that for the occasion uses the suggestions of Walter ROEHRL, and Jean-Claude ANDRUET French driver, also on board of a Stratos and already winner in Montecarlo two years before with the Alpine Renault.
Raffaele PINTO, on the contrary seems to follow hardly the adversaries. For him, after all, the Stratos is a new car to drive and, under those extreme conditions, it is not certain easy to shine.
The LANCIA staff, led by Cesare FIORIO, Daniele AUDETTO and Mike PARKES, gloats over the thought to bring three cars to the finish line, without to think that the Montecarlo is a fascinating race because it is rich of unforeseen event.
On the second special stage, the Jabron-Chateauvieux, for the LANCIA arrives the disaster. It rains and the asphalt stained with verglas needs a lot of "experience" and "work". Andruet arrives too fast in a left curve and, facing the following right curve, slips on the ice beating the face of his STRATOS against a rock. End of his race!
After a few time Munari arrives and only for a miracle he manage to stay in the street. Then it is the time of Lele Pinto and, for him, the same fate of Andruet. Two STRATOS KO in a special stage and in the same point are a ugly hit for the men of the HF. Now the faces are dark. It is necessary cold blood in these moments. Munari doesn't despair; on the contrary he repeats that many times he had to face similar situations and he try to make less dramatic what happened.
Parkes, in the mean time, tries to lift the moral of the team exposing his personal theory: the winner is always only one man and it is not important who he is, the main point is that is a STRATOS to win.
They leave again and the rally trespasses in Italy. The "Dragon" once more dominates, winning on the special stages of Perinaldo-Vignai and Molini di Triora-Bivio Baggio, you already faced in the Rally of Sanremo, both of them before of another champion, the rival of the FIAT-ABARTH: Fulvio Bachelli.
In this way end the second leg, very hard and faced indeed under difficult conditions. Munari and Mannucci are the first ones to enter the plaza of the Casino of Montecarlo and the first ones to leave again the day after for the last and decisive night of the Rally: the one of the mythic Col de Turini.
The race starts with a classical stage of the "Monte": the notorious BURZET that has as a protagonist the Alpine Renault, remained up to that moment in shade. Jean-Pierre Nicolas goes to the assault of the three Fiat 131 ABARTH that precede him. Bacchelli, Alen and Mikkola are surpassed but the transalpine driver, perhaps too much sure and impetuous, in the attempt to catch also the Stratos (surely unattainable), goes out in a very insidious curve and in few instants goodbye glory dreams!
Munari remains impassive and only check the situation, aware however that the race, still long, could reserve him not pleasant surprises. And here we are at the last night, the nicght of the Col de Turini, a stage of great charm that alone has more worth than the whole rally. The "Dragon" has very clear ideas: try to limit the damages on the gravel of Col Segra, ten infernal Kms, to give then the maximum, but with great concentration, in the final asphalt line. It rains and it is cold but it is not important for the Italian fans camped out on the hill, ready to applaud the passage of the "Dragon". Munari doesn't make a only mistake, he drive serenely, listening to the engine of his STRATOS, so reassuring in his deaf rhombus. He faces the curves with great mastery, leaving behind him many applauses and cries of encouragement. A vitamin for the body and the mind, able to give you the energy to get the victory.
Three times he will transit in front of the Italian supporters and three times he will be first at the end of the special stage. The Col de Turini once more has uttered his verdict, deciding the names of the winners of the Montecarlo: Sandro Munari and Mario Mannucci. Behind the great couple, a trio of 131 ABARTH composed by Mikkola, second before of Alen and Bacchelli. It is the triumph of the Italian industry able to excel in a so difficult as prestigious competition.
The following morning there is the sun. Munari and Mannucci uncork the Champagne surrounded by the men of the HF. All of them are all very tired, but the joy prevents them to take sleep. All around him it breathes indeed air of party for the fantastic triumph. And in the bedlam of enthusiasm, of applauses, of festive cries and of tears of joy a thing strikes more than the others: the red white and green tricolor painted on the STRATOS ALITALIA. An Italian victory.
Pictures by www.stratosmania.com
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