Lars-Erik Torph: The only driver to die on the Monte wasn’t even driving
Very few people know of rally ace Lars-Erik Torph, who lost his life in 1989. He was on the verge of international success before his life was cut short in unique and truly bizarre circumstances.
By Andy Hallbery
Swedish rally driver Lars-Erik Torph holds two unenviable records set during his brief World Rally Championship career before losing his life in Monte Carlo in 1989. The 28-year-old, remains the only driver to die, along with co-driver Bertil-Rune Rehnfeldt on the Monte – and they weren’t even competing!
You could not make this story up…
Torph’s career was going places as the 1989 World Rally Championship began in January 1989. He already had four podium finishes to his name, and pushing Toyota team mate Bjorn Waldegaard had on a few events.
Torph on the Safari Rally
The Monte – the championship’s traditional annual opener – began without Torph and Rehnfeldt. They, instead, kept themselves busy preparing for the 1989 season with Volkswagen by taking ‘ice notes’ (marking road conditions) for compatriot Freddy Skokgah.
Unbelievably, despite its massive challenges (ravines, cliffs, speed, steep drops, crowded roads, long night stages and frantic crowds), the event had never, in some 90 years, taken the lives of competitors during the event.
The unseasonably sunny weather and dry roads, left the ‘ice note crews’ largely unemployed. They had no ice to mark!
On day two of the 1989 rally, Torph became the event’s only driver fatality.
As the rally headed towards Monte Carlo’s world famous casino, Torph and Rehnfeldt’s numbers were most definitely up. On stage five, they were watching as Lancia’s Alex Fiorio’s Lancia arrived in their sight out of control coming down an embankment at almost 100mph, hitting, and killing, the two spectating competitors instantly. The roulette ball was out of control for them.
The wreckage of Alex Fiorios Lancia
But for the grace of God that sunny January day, Torph would have gone onto greater things in the rally world.
Instead he is consigned to a fluky set of coincidences which cost him his life, and left us with the annual event, (the Lars-Erik Torph Memorial Trophy rally, which itself draws a star-studded entry of the world’s best.)
Sideways on the Safari