McCluggage was involved in the start of Competition Press (now AutoWeek) for which she is now a columnist. She also writes a syndicated newspaper column "Drive, She Said" and is International travel editor for American Woman Road and Travel. She is an honorary judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance.
She has authored a number of books: "The Centered Skier"; "Are You a Woman Driver?"; "By Brooks Too Broad for Leaping"; and co-authored "American Racing: Road Racing in the '50s and '60s" with Tom Burnside. Among her awards are the Ken W. Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism; Dean Bachelor Lifetime Achievement Award. Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Media Association and the Spirit of Ford Award. She is also the first journalist to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, in Dearborn, Mich.
Rally HistoryIn the early days of the automobile, reliability was as much a concern as it is today. Because cars were so new, most people weren't sure whether to trust claims by makers of these newfangled machines-that the vehicles would start, run, and not fall apart after a couple of miles. Long-distance drives, particularly over difficult terrain, became the benchmark for measuring a vehicle's reliability-and the origins of rally racing as we know it today.
Once carmakers started driving from town to town, then from major city to major city, to prove their inventions' trustworthiness, drivers' competitive spirits emerged and time trials evolved from mere test drives. Legendary turn-of-the-century time trials included a Peking-to-Paris sprint in 1907, and eventually these trials developed into multiple-stage rally races. The first, the Monte Carlo, was held in 1911.
During this time, the International Austrian Alpine Trials (Alpenfahrt) ran annually from 1910-14, establishing itself as the greatest reliability trial. Covering 530 miles through Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, the first of these events took four days to complete over treacherous Alpine passes and through a high-speed test along a straightaway. Only eight vehicles ever crossed the finish line in this grueling race.
The Alpine course grew to cover 1,200 miles of picturesque European scenery over 12 stages. Automotive legends such as the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (winner in 1913) were made at the Alpine, and the race is seen by many as the forebear of modern rally racing. Although the Alpine race was dropped as a competitive event by the World Rally Championship (the organization that oversees rally racing globally) in 1973, the sport has grown to include hundreds of events across all continents.
Whereas rally cars of yore were stock cars with skilled drivers, a decent mechanic and a lot of luck, today's vehicles are purpose-built for the events, with four-wheel drive and a team averaging 65 people to drive, navigate, repair and provide support for the vehicle. The sport has spawned several vehicle types throughout its history, including the infamous Group B, which was blamed for numerous fatal crashes in the 1980s. By 1987, Group A, a different type, became the standard until 1997, when a new generation of vehicles took over in the WRC.
The races themselves also have different regulations. Each event must allow three days of reconnaissance, during which navigators and engineers can research the course: one day for technical checks and three days for competition stages (usually numbering between 15 and 25). Cars must be based on showroom models and must seat four, be available to the general public and sold in volumes of at least 25,000 per year.
However, modifications make rally cars truly distinct-to the tune of a million or more dollars. Engines are 2.0 liters and turbocharged, matched to a six-speed manual transmission and producing 300 bhp. Four-wheel drive is required, and a rollcage is just one of the extra safety measures taken to protect occupants in high-speed crashes.
The Alpine/Coupes des Alpes RallyThe Coupe des Alpes Rally, also called the Alpine Rally, was considered one of the most picturesque rally races in the world. Winding some 2,300 miles through the French and Italian Alps, from Marseilles to Chamonix, the three-day-long event included long hours of challenging mountain driving, teeth-grinding downhill stages, comparable to at least a dozen high-speed laps of the Monza road circuit. From high-altitude hairpins to harrowing maneuvers around flocks of mountain sheep, the race was known for its unpredictable terrain and adventurous drivers.
The Alpine Rally began as the International Austrian Alpine Trials (Alpenfahrt), which ran from 1910-14, covering alpine passes through Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Back then, only eight out of 26 vehicles made it from start to finish.