The programme of the 37th Rallye Monte Carlo, 1968
The Datsun Fairlady 2000 in the 1968 Rallye Monte Carlo
The Rally's first section, the concentration run, started at midnight on January 19th in eight cities throughout Europe (including Monte Carlo, where both Datsuns started). Hannu Mikkola in car No. 66 proceeded well over the 3300 km. course but Jorma Lusenius in car No. 70 was penalised a total of 51 minutes when his car developed electrical troubles and had refused to start on a number of occasions. Lusenius was never expected to make up this time. In addition, for the duration of the Rally, Lusenius was driving the back-up car. This followed a crash at St Auban in practice which led to this part of the circuit being named 'Datsun Wall'.
Following the concentration run the Rally was made up of two further circuits around Monte Carlo. Conditions were dry and were to suit the Datsuns well.
From the 200 entrants only 153 cars started the first of the two circuits. This circuit totalled 1491.5 km. and featured 17 road sections and 7 special stages. The times are given below for the special stages of the first circuit. Times for cars which retired during the first circuit are not included in any of the times below:-
1. Cella 19m 33s.
7. Mikkola 19m 58s.
14. Lusenius 20m 23s.
Col de Fayolle
1. Larrousse 30m 05s.
13. Mikkola 32m 47s.
17. Lusenius 33m 29s.
1. Larrousse 9m 46s.
12. Mikkola 10m 25s.
19. Lusenius 10m 45s.
Col de Perty
1. Elford 15m 51s
7. Mikkola 16m 21s.
18. Lusenius 17m 02s.
1. Elford 35m 14s.
17. Mikkola 37m 07s.
33. Lusenius 40m 37s.
During this stage Lusenius and navigator Vihervaara were called on to help the Trautmann crew remove a Volvo driven by privateers Virgin/Sager which had skidded and blocked the road.
1. Cella 16m 28s.
14. Mikkola 17m 05s.
21. Lusenius 17m 48s.
This was the most treacherous stage of the '68 Monte to date and Mikkola did well to keep with the pace in the rear wheel drive Datsun.
1. Elford 6m 04s.
=8. Mikkola & Andersson, O. 6m 23s.
11. Lusenius 6m 28s.
The Levens hillclimb ended the first circuit. Of the 153 cars that started the circuit, only 79 had returned to Monte Carlo, of which only 25 were as yet unpenalised, including Hannu Mikkola. The Lusenius/Vihervaara crew did not make the final cut of 60 cars largely because of his earlier problems on the concentration run but also because of further penalties imposed on the first circuit.
However, they had put in a spirited run and, taking the times for the first circuit in isolation, they finished with a very respectable total of 8792 points - 23rd fastest of all competitors.
The overall classification after the first circuit were now as follows:-
1. Larrousse (Alpine) 8040
2. Elford (Porsche 911T) 8054
3. Toivonen (Porsche 911T) 8103
4. Aaltonen (Mini-Cooper S) 8157
5. Andersson, O. (Lancia Fulvia) 8219
6. Hopkirk (Mini-Cooper S) 8336
7. Fall (Mini-Cooper S) 8340
8. Zasada (Porsche 911T) 8383
9. Mikkola (Datsun 2000) 8406
10. Vinatier (Alpine) 8468
(71. Lusenius (Datsun 2000) 47842)
(Lusenius's Total includes a 35000 penalty levied for not qualifying for the second circuit)
The second circuit comprised a mountain course of 623.5 km. and included a further 11 road sections and 6 more special stages, the times for which were as follows. On this occasion the placings include the times of those cars which retired later during this circuit. All stages were held on the night of January 25th, commencing at 7pm.
Gorges de Piaion
1. Toivonen 6m 59s.
11 Mikkola 7m28s.
1. Vinatier 19m 34s.
10. Mikkola 20m 36s.
1. Elford 17m 17s.
12. Mikkola 19m 19s.
1. Toivonen 19m 35s.
=10. Mikkola & Barbasio 21m 20s.
1. Toivonen 17m 33s.
12. Mikkola 19m 14s.
1. Elford 19m 21s.
10. Mikkola 21m 05s.
Of the 60 crews qualifying for the 2nd circuit, only 45 finished the Rally. The Hannu Mikkola/ Anssi Jarvi crew held on to 9th place overall and 3rd in Class (after the Porsches of Elford & Toivonen). Although Vinatier (Alpine) & Cella (Lancia Fulvia) had both gone ahead on points, Mikkola was able to retain his position because Frenchman Larrousse (Alpine), having lost his lead to Elford on the previous stage, lost his suspension to a wall. Larrousse was running racing tyres at the time because of the favourable conditions, when he came upon a patch of snow, ice and gravel laid down by some spectators (said also to be French) in the hope of making the rally more interesting! These actions resulted in a lengthy fist-fight between Larrousse and the spectators that only ended when the local Gendarmes arrived. In addition, Zasada (Porsche 911T) did not start the last night's circuit following news of the death of his father.
Vic Elford (Porsche 911T) went on to win the Rally with Toivonen second. This was the first rear-wheel drive Monte win since 1960.
The Rally had covered a total of over 5400 km in 7 days.
With Mikkola's car being the first front engine/rear drive car home, and following the Porsche, Alpine, Lancia & Mini dominance of this and previous seasons, the recurring question was raised of 'front- or rear-wheel drive?' The comment in Autosport at the time was that front-engined cars should be driven by the front wheels, rear-engined cars by the back wheels and that the days of the propellor shaft were numbered. This makes Mikkola's result even more outstanding.
Lusenius was officially classified as 71st which, considering the 51 minute penalty, was quite respectable. Indeed, both drivers would be representing higher profile teams very shortly, Lusenius with Alpine-Renault, & Mikkola who had been 'head-hunted' by Ford on a plane between rallies whilst driving for Nissan.
N.B. All times and statistics are taken from the official Classifications of the 37th Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo in 1968.
Link to '69 Monte
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