Several months ago I acquired a book called “Rallies and Races” by William Leonard which is the story of the early career Maurice Gatsonides, who was perhaps the first professional rally driver. I found it interesting that when I posted that I got this book, John Buffum, the multi-time US Rally Champion, sent a message to me saying that when John competed in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1969, he got “Gatso’s” autograph. I replied to John that Gatso should have got John’s autograph!
This book was a very good read. It covered Maurice Gatsonides’ career from 1936 to 1950. He continued to rally, very successfully, for many years after this period. The book is divided into chapters based on rallies in chronological order. Some of the events covered are as follows:
- Monte Carlo Rally
- Liege-Rome-Liege Rally
- Alpine Rally
- Some other rallies, races, and hill climbs
Winter Road Maintenance Was Questionable In The 1930s
In the 1930s and 1940s the Monte Carlo Rally had numerous starting points throughout Europe with all of the routes leading to Monte Carlo. The Monte Carlo Rally was truly a winter rally in those days. The roads and the speeds were challenging given the conditions of the road, the capabilities of the tires, the available horsepower of the cars, and the almost universal use of rear-wheel drive cars.
Gatso Driving A Hillman Minx in a Test at Monte Carlo in 1937
Once the rally teams got to Monte Carlo, the final rankings took into account the times in special tests that were held in the Monte Carlo area. Throughout the rallies of this period Maurice Gatsonides was a top contender.
A Studebaker and A Ford in the Monte Carlo Rally
In reading this book I was surprised to find out that many American cars took part in the European rallies in the 1930s. It seems that many European rallists wanted the power of the flathead V8 engine that Ford had introduced in 1932.
Gatso Driving a Ford in the Kautenbach Hill Climb
I think that any person interested in rallying would appreciate the stories from Maurice Gatsonides about his rallies in the 1930s to 1950. I understand that there is a later book about Maurice Gatsonides, which I will begin looking for.
The only dark part of Maurice Gatsonides career was that he invented a photo radar system that is still used in Europe. Fortunately, in the times that I’ve competed in a rally in Germany, the rallymaster has noted the location these photo radar units in the route book.
“Rallies and Races” was great book and with the story being told on a rally-to-rally basis, it was easy to pick the book up, read a few pages about a specific event, put the book down, and pick the book up a few days later without having to remember a complicated plot.