90 Years Ago: Hungarian Success at the Monte Carlo Rally

The 1929 Monte Carlo Rally Viktor Szmick together with his co-driver, Emanuel Czajkowski and Ferenc Pesti , their mechanic finished at second place with a Hungarian-made Weiss Manfred small car.

Szmick (2nd from left) talks to officials after the finish

The story of how Manfréd Weiss Iron and Steel Factory, a huge industrial conglomerate which was turned from a supplier of the military during the First World to a producer of household items has been briefly described in our article on the Korbuly family.

Chillin’ before the start
(Source: Korbuly family/Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transportation)

Szmick decided to participate at the Monte Carlo Rally, when he saw the cars crossing Hungary in 1928. He was working at the Weiss Manfred company and was a friend of Károly Korbuly, technical director of the factory. With support from the factory Szmick and his team embarked on the trip on 14 January, 1929. They arrived to Bucharest, where the official start took place.
On 19 January at 6 AM the Weiss Manfréd touring car started its journey. There was not a fixed route, but the organisers set up checking points where the participants collected necessary stamps. Szmick and his crew studied the maps vigorously. They pre-defined an average speed, which needed to be kept if they wanted to be in the heat of the action.

Stuck in the snow

The roads in Romania were covered in snow. Upon the Făgăraş Mountains Szmick caught up with a Buick and a Citroen, which started much earlier. Everybody is stuck in the snow and had to ask for outside help.

By the time the cars reach Budapest, Szmick is leading the pack of those who started from Bucharest.

This is most probably the start in Bucharest as the car at the left is the Citroen of Alexandru Berslecu. The WM car is at the right (Souce: Szmick family)

In Hungaty their average speed reached 55 km/h. In Austria it has decreased to 45 km/h mainly due to the blowing snow. Their route took them through Vienna, St Polten, Wels and eventually Munich. Their advances were hindered by fog.

In Germany the snow was replaced by ice. Snow chains were fitted. Somewhere around Stuttgart they passed Count Schaumburg-Lippe’s big Horch “which was equipped with the most modern snow chains and thus became very slow. Everywhere we saw trucks which slid down from the road” recalled Szmick later.

Lyon greeted them with heavy rains. “After Lyon the fog thickened… We appreciated the trees alongside the road which were painted white”.

On 23 January at 7 AM the team reached the seashore. In Cannes they took a quick break for a haircut. By this team the small WM was at first place!!!

But tragedy struck: on the last leg, Szmick made a driving error (others claim navigation error) and the car became damaged. This costed them their lead and eventually they became second – not bad for a car, which had the second smallest engine in the field.

The happy team in Monte Carlo. Szmick emigrated to Brazil in 1944, Czaykowszki went to Austria after the War. The fate of Ferenc Pesti is unknown

If you can read Hungarian,

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