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They seldom publish the ages of the competing drivers, but over the years Monte Carlo Rally has sprung some surprises. Certainly one of the oldest drivers this year must be Dutchman Henk Vossen, who set off in a Fiesta R5 at the age of 72, but he is far younger than many before him. 1992 was the final time the very spritely Norwegian driver, Leif Vold Johansen, tackled the event, on his 80th birthday. He had competed there well over 20 times, in recent years always in a VW Golf. My favourite of all must be a Frenchman, Georges Houel. In the 1950s Georges was a very active racing motorcyclist, then European racing sports car driver.
He won the Lyon Charbonnieres rally in his Mercedes 300SL and let Sir Stirling Moss drive this car, with him as co-driver, on the Tour de France, in which they together finished second.
I first met Georges when Francis Reste, then l’Equipe’s chief rally reporter, took me to his restaurant in Paris (“Le Volant”) where he greeted this English journalist as if I was family. We then we met up in Abidjan when he brought a Lancia Delta HF 4WD to the Bandama Rally.
The last time was in Monte Carlo in 1999 when he took part as the co-driver for the legendary Jean Vinatier in a Group N Subaru Vivio, at the age of 86.
He was invited to the pre-event presentation where he insisted he posed with me. I was so surprised that I missed the best part of it all. The organisers had given him competition number 86!
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