Monte Carlo Rally 1968
Before I left, Kenneth Coyte, UPITN Vice-President called me into his office in ITN House. He said ”You have been using the “per diem” system for expenses (on location). This has got to stop”. I said, “It wasn’t my idea, it was introduced by UPI years ago, but it does seem to have worked well up to now”. (We had been using the system under the instruction of the former boss Dick Clark) Coyte said “In future, I want to see receipts for hotels and meals”.
By the Per Diem system, designed by UPI to save work in the accounts office, we were allowed $26 per day to cover both hotel and food (In the case of Monaco and Nairobi). In both Monaco and Nairobi, it was barely enough. At the end of each day, there was little or nothing to spare from the $26.
In France, the hotels were very cheap, but the food expensive, whereas in Kenya the hotel were very expensive, for that time, but the food cheap. The two balanced each other out.
Once again, I carried the Ectachrome rawstock to Monaco. This time, I was able to get a flight directly to Nice. Our shipping department had prepared a Carnet de Passage en Douane. This was a document that allowed one to carry goods from one country to another and then bring it back. The only trouble was that one had to bring back exactly the amount one had taken out. However, as we were shipping the film back, unaccompanied, I returned to England with no film at all.
This time, I had the chance to use Vittorio Della Valle from Rome. He had been a long time staff cameraman with Fox Movietonews and had worked as a cameraman with the Italian army during the war. He excelled in shooting the Rome and Milan fashions with exquisite lighting which produce brilliant pictures. His father was the cameraman who went with the Italian balloon expedition to the North Pole which ended in tragedy in the late 1920s.
Having issued a report on the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally, I had succeeded in getting a realistic budget. This time, we had $25,000 in the budget, so I had the luxury of using Paul Badin and Julian Botras from Paris, Vittorio Della Valle from Rome and Jacques Hubinet, with his soundman Monsieur Corsi, from Marseilles.
We stayed at the same hotel, the little Forum in Beausoleil. Nissan had taken over a garage outside Monte Carlo where they were preparing the cars and storing the tyres.
I went over there to see what we needed. I was shown the tyres, there were 600 of them. They were intended for three cars.
For the first time, we were joined by Ken (Keikishi) Watanabe, our man in Tokyo, and the man who had secured the commissions from Nissan. He would be our interpreter.
Eventually, the Nissan cars arrived and we soon noticed that the white disc on the roof had already been painted as part of the cars’ livery. There would be no heated discussion concerning the white disc as in the previous year.
I got a call at the hotel from Simon Ainger, who ran the newsroom in in London. He told me a story of woe, an event that had befallen the ITN crew. Well, it was hardly a crew, it was a cameraman named Alan Wilson. He had been travelling to the south of France with John Cotter of ITN. Cotter was the son of Jack Cotter who had been News Editor at Movietonews when I first arrived there in 1945.
John Cotter, who was Deputy Editor and in charge of Outside Broadcasts, had made a name for himself within ITN for producing their Monte Carlo Rally coverage. He was “Hail fellow well met” in Monte Carlo. He had a name for producing quality coverage of the Rally, but I wonder how he was going to do that this year with one silent freelance cameraman.
Cotter was well in with British Motor Company, the makers of the mini, and he managed to acquire the use of a brand-new Mini Cooper S, done out in Rally livery of red and white, for him and the cameraman to travel to Monaco from London.
It appears that they stayed the night in Orleans at a small hotel. The cameraman, Alan Wilson, unloaded his gear and took it to his room. The car was left in the car park of the hotel. The next morning, when they came down to go on with their journey, the car was gone.
Wilson was put on a train to Monaco, via Marseilles, while Cotter spent the day with the local Gendarmerie in an effort to recover the car. The police were surprised that anyone would consider stealing the car seeing that, as they had been told by Cotter, it was only one of two ever made and its description was so distinctive. The police asked him for the registration number of the car. He said he did not know since he only got the car the day before. Even when they contacted BMC in the U.K., they did not know the number since they had put five cars, all minis, on the road at the same time and the registration was handled by the distributor. (You could not make this up)
Some time later, Simon Ainger gave me the rest of the story. Cotter knew that it would have caused a real problem for BMC. He went up to Paris to the HQ of BMC in France. He met the manager and told him the story. The manager said “is it like a Mini in red with white flash on the roof and white doors ?” “Yes”, said Cotter. “Oh, well” said the manager, “I saw that in the woods yesterday when I was out horse riding”. They immediately drove to the spot to find the abandoned car.
There it was, sans wheels, sans lights, sans anything valuable. John Cotter never made it to Monaco.
Back to the phone call from Simon Ainger. He told me that cameraman Alan Wilson, a veteran of the Army Film and Photographic Unit, now freelance, would arrive in Monaco without money and would I keep him until money arrived for him. Of course, I said I would.
On arrival, Wilson seemed to be a lost soul. He had never done the Monte before and he knew nothing about it. He had been offered no background information by ITN.
I had made it a habit, which I would always continue to do, of reading up as much as I could on any place and any event that I was going to. I thought that everyone else did the same.
For the week that we were there, we kept him in hotel, meals and travel. He went everywhere in whatever transport we were using. By default, he got superior coverage to what he would have done, since all of our trips were planned well beforehand and we went to the most interesting places rather than those that were easier to get to. We shipped his material back to London with ours.
He had meals with us. The last money I handed over to him was his fare to Calais. Apparently he did retain a ticket for the ferry and rail to London from Calais. No funds ever arrived in Monaco to replace what I had paid out. Well, it wasn’t my money.
During the week, as always, we shipped our film back to London every night. There, the newsroom were able to see the colour rushes, which had been processed by an outside lab and then have a black and white print made of sections to enable to them to add to the coverage of Pierre Deus. A lot of our stuff was handed over to ITN.
Of course, we never got any credit for lifting the news coverage to a previously unthinkable heights. The news department would never have afforded the helicopter for one thing. They would not have travelled as far as we did to get the better shots and they would not have had access to four extra cameramen’s material.
On those occasions when we found ourselves working in Monte Carlo itself around lunch time, we had a regular watering hole. It was called the “Roxy” which was at 4, Boulevard des Moulins. This was about 150 yards north of the Casino.
There we would assemble for a drink and some lunch. We were always tended by the same waiter named Andrew. At our first lunch after our arrival, the whole crew were there, so I took the opportunity to tell them of Coyte’s edict concerning expenses.
They were aghast at this, not because it would deprive them of money, because it did not, but because it would mean more paperwork. Protests and complaints went on for several minutes while Andrew stood patiently at the head of the table with pen and pad in hand waiting for our orders. Of course, he heard the whole conversation. After a while he went away; returning to the head of the table he then proceeded to deal out, to each of us, a Roxy Restaurant pad of blank invoices.
Della Valle, the most experienced in the creation of expenses, was as pleased as punch. I did not make use of the pad I was given, vowing to myself that if ever I left UPITN, my final gesture would be to throw the same pad on the desk of Kenneth Coyte. Of course I did not do that, but I still have the pad as a souvenir.
The Nissan cars, they were called Datsuns then, arrived at their garage in Monte Carlo and we went to film them. We had told London that we were going to film the Datsuns early this morning and that we would also film the Renault Alpines. This was to provide a balance so that we could not be accused of favouring the Japanese.
The London desk wanted to put out a story of cars being readied for the Rally.
Having filmed the Datsuns, the Rally number plates being fixed on and their door numbers etcetera, we went off to find the Renaults.
The French told us that they were on their way from their base and would arrive later. We waited and we waited and, finally, when it was time for our rushes to be shipped off to London via Nice airport, we gave up. The story went out the following day across the world showing only the Datsuns. What an advertising coup !
As was our habit, we rode out in Hubinet’s car looking for some useful camera positions within striking distance of Monte Carlo. Hubinet had covered several Rallies before. This took us well into the mountains and we found some ideal locations. Sometimes it was important to find a position that allowed the crew to withdraw onto roads other than those used by the Rally, and, if possible, to re-appear along the rally route in time to catch the same cars that had been filmed at the first location. This would involve a mad dash across country, but less dangerous than trying to overtake a rally car.
In 1967, the South African drivers mocked our camera car drivers saying that they would never keep up with them, however, Hubinet took a wonderful shot from his Mercedes overtaking five rally cars on a long straight road. He was also provided with a set of spiked tyres for the inevitable drive on ice.
Hubinet’s Mercedes had, once again, been fitted out for the rally, with spot lights on the front, a camera platform behind the windscreen and additional suspension.
The start of the rally was routine. I stayed with Della Valle outside the Casino from where the cars would move off. While we were waiting, we heard the sound of a large military band approaching. They were coming up the hill from the harbour and we waiting in anticipation. What actually arrived was a surprise and a little absurd. A group of six men dressed in bandsmen’s uniform of royal blue with gold buttons and trimmings were walking along in line ahead. Each carried a pole on the top of which was a loudspeaker. They were all connected by wire with the leading man who also carried the tape recorder which was responsible for the great sound. I had never seen anything like it.
The Datsuns were a team of two cars at the start, both of them made it to the second stage. Car 66 was driven by Hannu Mikkola, while car 70 was driven by Jorma Lusenius.
On the start of the second stage of the rally, Monaco-Chambery-Monaco, we left Badin to film the start, he would not be required to film from the helicopter until the next morning when the cars were returning to Monaco, while Della Valle and I went in to Menton where the cars, coming from Monte Carlo, would turn to their left and drive up into the mountains and the north.
While in Menton, Della Valle and I found an ideal restaurant where our whole crew would assemble in the evenings for memorable dinners. Click on the link for the story of A Meeting in Menton.
The following day, we had a free afternoon and Jacques Hubinet and Paul Badin mentioned that a former Movietonews cameraman had recently died and that his widow was living in Grasse, some miles west of Nice.
It was a fine afternoon, so they decided that we should all to go to visit her. She was a delightful person living alone in her small house which looked down on the hills which descended towards the coast. On these hills would be grown the herbs and flowers of the French perfume industry. One could only wonder at the sweet smell of perfume that would rise from the fields all around her.
We had tea and biscuits and Paul and Jacques chatted a lot about her husband. It was a memorable afternoon.
The rally passed off without any major problems concerning the Datsuns.
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 third in their Class after the Porsches of Elford & Toivonen.
Every Monte Carlo Rally had its interesting story, 1968 was no exception. Mikkola was able to retain his position because Frenchman Larrousse (Alpine), having lost his lead to Vic Elford on the previous stage, the second, lost his suspension when he drove into a wall. Larrousse was running on racing tyres at the time because the conditions were favourable for them; when he came upon a patch of snow, ice and gravel which had been laid down by some spectators, said to be fellow Frenchmen, in the hope of making the rally more interesting.
This event resulted in a lengthy fist-fight between Larrousse and the gravel spreading spectators that only ended when the local Gendarmes arrived to break it up.
Vic Elford, with David Stone driving a Porsche 911T went on to win the Rally with Pauli Toivonen and co-driver Martti Tiukkanen, second, driving a Porsche 911S. It was the first rear-wheel drive Monte win since 1960.
Once again, the resulting film, completed in Tokyo was praised by our clients.
When I returned to the office, Coyte found time to make some disparaging remark about us all having a good time on the rally. Yes, we did and it was in our time of which there was precious little.
I would not pretend that we did not enjoy the work, but work it was. We would be getting up in the dark at five or six in the morning and sometimes not going to bed before two the following morning. On occasion having only an hour or two’s sleep. The final night of the rally, we were all up at the Col de Turini where the cars went round in a lengthy circuit passing the Col several times. There, in a section of roadway that was about three hundred yards long, all the television and films crews spread out and lit the road with flares that were provided by each company. No one company could have done it without spending a lot of money.
The sides of the road were up to six feet high with piled snow and the road surface was solid ice. We left there at about three in the morning to get some sleep before getting up to film the finish of the rally down at the harbour.
On the Saturday morning, Della Valle, the Hubinet crew and I went up to the Palace for the prize giving and Concorde d’Elegance. This all took place in front of Prince Rainier, Princess Grace and their children. After that, Deus took me to the florist along the coast to get my Carnations. This exercise, started in 1967 would become an annual event.
He drove me along the coast towards the Italian border. In a quiet lane, he pulled into a market garden. Here, there were thousands of carnations. What was different from those that I had grown at home was that the stems were over two feet long. The gardener cut a huge bunch and handed them over to me. They were magnificent. Later that day, I was walking across the arrival lounge at Heathrow carrying this great bunch of flowers and heads were turning all around me as people showed surprise at the display. There was even more attention on the Underground train.
The flowers were appreciated and displayed for almost two weeks at home, bringing a beautiful memento from the Mediterranean.
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