On this day in history : 21st January 1966 – The Monte Carlo Rally ends in uproar over the disqualification of the British cars due to the way their headlamps dip….
The first four cars to cross the finishing line were all British; Timo Makinen (from Finland) in a Mini Cooper took first place…. Roger Clark came second in a Ford Lotus Cortina, followed by Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk both driving Mini Coopers….
All four were ruled out of the prizes; as was Rosemary Smith in her Hillman Imp – disqualified from 6th place after winning the ‘Coupe des Dames’ – the Ladies’ Class…. In total ten British cars were disqualified….
The controversy centred around alleged infringements over the way the British cars’ headlamps dipped…. Non-dipping single filament quartz iodine bulbs had been used instead of the standard double filament dipping glass bulbs as fitted to cars leaving the production line….
The race organisers had recently brought in a rule saying that all cars had to be exactly as they were when first built – i.e. no modifications…. The confusion came when the organisers said the 1966 rally would run under the old rules and only announced the switch after entries for the race had been accepted….
Incidentally, the official winner – Paul Toivonen of Finland (but living in Paris) – had similar lamps on his Citroen ID to those used on the British cars…. Only he was not disqualified because some of the Citroens that came off the production line were fitted with them as standard….
The British team objected – arguing that these bulbs had been used in previous rallies – but their protests were rejected…. Prince Rainier of Monaco, who always attended the prize-giving ceremony, left early to show his disgust at the decision…. The British team boycotted the traditional official farewell dinner – and the headline in ‘Motor Sport’ proclaimed “The Monte Carlo Fiasco”….
On the 13th of October 1966 a tribunal upheld the disqualifications as the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile ruled that the bulbs fitted to the British cars were not standard….