Scotland will once again be a starting point for next year’s classic Monte Carlo Rally – but for the first time the cars will be flagged off from the Renfrewshire town of Paisley.
Civic leaders say it’s a major coup, taking it away from the traditional starting point of Glasgow, where last year more than 15,000 spectators saw the cars leave from Glasgow Green.
The year before, the start moved to Clydebank after organisers failed to reach agreement with Glasgow Council for a repeat of the successful revival in 2011 of the traditional start outside the former Royal Scottish Automobile Club in Blythswood Square. That had been one of the rally’s starting points in the 1950s and 60s but had lost out until the event’s organisers, the Automobile Club of Monaco, re-established it.
There had been negotiations to keep Glasgow as one of the starting points – alongside Barcelona, Stockholm, Oslo and Reims – but it proved impossible to resolve parking, congestion and crowd issues which would be posed by the event starting on a Thursday evening rather than last year’s Saturday afternoon.
Officials from Renfrewshire Council have put together a package of week-long events – including involving children at local schools – to coincide with the rally start on the evening of Thursday, 23 January in Paisley town centre.
Glasgow City marketing bureau said: “We were in discussions regarding hosting the event, but on this occasion they have decided to take it to Paisley. We are sure that the event will be a great success, and we wish them all the best. We hope to welcome the Monte Carlo Rally back to Glasgow in the future.”
The Paisley agreement is only for 2014, but Renfrewshire will be keen to capitalise on the profile – and the increased number of visitors – which the event will bring to Paisley. It’s estimated to have generated about £4 million for the West of Scotland economy over the last three years.
Renfrewshire Council leader Mark Macmillan said: “Being chosen to host an occasion of this calibre is a major thumbs-up for the area, and the latest boost to Paisley and Renfrewshire’s fast-growing reputation as a venue for top-class events. I’m sure the sight of these magnificent vehicles will be a spectacle not to be missed.”
Douglas Anderson, competitor and spokesman for the Rally Start Committee, said: “Paisley will be an excellent location as a start venue. It has a stunning visual backdrop, with the historic Abbey and Town Hall. It also has quick access to the first stages of the route for the cars of all eras that will take part.”
Up to 100 classic cars dating back to the 1920s will complete a range of routes in Scotland and as far as Dover, but only about a dozen will attempt the 1,670-mile adventure to Monte Carlo, via the Channel Tunnel and over the snow-covered French Alps.
The entry list includes crews from Scotland and around Europe. Among them are Scots-born Zak Matten, a Mediterranean mega-yacht captain who’ll be in a 1958 Riley; Rick Pearson, a Zurich-based world land-speed record hopeful in a Porsche, and two French crews.
Residents were given a preview in the town yesterday with a close-up view of a 1926 Bentley and a Hillman Imp, which was built locally at the former Linwood factory. Also there were Rosemary Smith, Irish rally driver of the 1960s, who will be starting the race, and Paul Coulter, who wrote the play Linwood No More about the Imp factory, and who will be taking part in the rally.