Challenges measured in hundredths of a second, classic cars of enchanting beauty, the evocative smell of leather seats mixed with the throaty roar from the engines.
These are rallying events reserved for classic cars, where respecting the times required to complete a section between one stage and the next is essential. Participants are given a route to follow, which includes a series of time checkpoints and regularity sections. The aim is to go from point A to point B, from point C to point D, and so on in a given time calculated to tenths of a second. The distance between the points is a few tens of meters and the time starts when contestants’ cars pass over pressure switches. The teams need to bear in mind that for timed checkpoints, times are measured with an accuracy of one second, while for the regularity sections times are measured to an accuracy of one hundredth of a second!
As already mentioned, to navigate checkpoints and regularity sections, contestants are given a route to follow which is detailed in what’s called a Roadbook (aka a “Radar”). This provides information including distances, pictograms, drawings and symbols that the driver uses to stay on the prescribed route. The assistance of the navigator in achieving this is a key element to success. Participating vehicles must have kept the original manufacturing specification. Events take place on public roads, so cars must be properly registered, subjected to annual overhaul, and fully insured. Teams are generally composed of a driver and navigator, and close teamwork is essential. The driver forms a close relationship with, and places great trust in the navigator, and it’s this close bond that makes the route so exciting. The meticulous work of the navigators begins when they receive the Roadbook, from which they must extract all useful information about the route, timings, potential obstacles and other details essential for the drivers.
The unique aspect of these competitions is the time factor: bearing in mind that routes must be completed at a maximum speed of 40 km/h (in accordance with Automotoclub Storico Italiano (ASI) regulations), the difficulty lies in timing to perfection the exact moment when the car’s front wheels cross the pressure switches, which is a line marking the end of the test stage. Contestants are informed of the precise speed they must achieve as they cross the line, and penalties are incurred for failing to stop the stopwatch at the precise second the line is crossed.
How do you prepare a car for the race?
Preferably, the focus should be on the systems that receive most stress, namely the brakes, transmission, tyres and clutch. Contestants are often followed by their mechanics throughout the rally, who carry stock of essential spares and equipment for fixing damage and breakdowns: a new battery, a timing belt, a dynamo, wheel spokes (which can come loose), head gaskets, distributor, spare electrical parts, and above all, engine oil! In fact, they always carry an ample supply of oil. There are specific types of oils and lubricants for classic cars. These ensure first-rate performance whilst respecting the authenticity of a car’s history.
At the end of the rally, the rally jury checks the results achieved by contestants. Once results have been checked, a competition winner is announced, and they are awarded their well-earned prize. After the rally, cars are given a thorough check, essentially using the same inspection list as that used prior to the event. The only special care these classic cars require is a scrupulous annual inspection and overhaul to ensure they remain in tip-top condition for as long as possible.
On the subject of regularity rallies, imagine the pristine air of the Dolomites on a weekend in late June. Imagine the roar from the engines of a succession of beautiful classic cars, following each other up mountain switchbacks, competing for stages timed to an accuracy of a hundredth of a second ... what you're imagining is the sights, sounds and smells of the twenty-seventh edition of “La Leggenda di Bassano — Trofeo Giannino Marzotto” regularity rally.
The event was held over the weekend 24 and 26 June, and contestants set off from Bassano del Grappa over a course that wended its way through the snow-topped peaks in adventure in stages totalling almost 500 km. Rally organization was impeccably supervised by the CVAE (Circolo Veneto Automoto d’Epoca), which worked tirelessly to provide first-rate services to teams from all over the world. If you think this event is just a relaxing drive aboard a mechanical masterpiece, then think again! It’s hard-fought rally that’s timed right down to the last 1/100th of a second!
In fact, the Leggenda di Bassano rally is a regularity classic car rally where competing cars must be built before the end of the 1960s, and are vehicles of great historical and cultural value. Some 80 classic cars compete for the title followed by 10 VIP cars, which must also officially be classed as classic cars. Each vehicle is steeped in history, but more importantly they’re all driven by classic car enthusiasts from around the globe.
The competition started off with the sporting and technical checks, and once again these were conducted at Villa Ca’ Cornaro (Romano D’ezzelino — Vicenza) on 23 June. The following day, the 24th, the event got underway and teams were issued with their roadbooks. Bassano Del Grappa is 135 km from San Martino di Castrozza, and the rally was officially started by Miki Biason, two-time world rally champion, on board a Dallara, official sponsor of the Leggenda rally. Among the classic cars taking part were a large contingent of OSCA, there to celebrate the car company’s 75th anniversary. The first team set off at 12:45 in a FIAT Itala 51S from 1921. A unique “carriage” with a 300 horsepower monobloc engine. The rest of the teams followed thereafter, along a winding route through the mountains.
Saturday was the most intense day, which saw the teams tackling 230 km of stages and time challenges, before reaching San Martino di Castrozza in the evening. The intrepid drivers were treated to a sumptuous dinner at the Hotel Savoia, followed by an enjoyable evening of dancing as they awaited the following morning’s event. After a well-deserved rest, the grand finale returned the teams to Bassano del Grappa, where they were met by crowds of spectators and the lucky winners received their awards. First place was awarded to the Rossi-Antonelli team in a Singer Nine Sport, with the Mazzola-De Angelis pairing in second place in a Fiat Stanguellini Ala D’Oro, and finally third place went to the Piantelli-Montaldi team in a Bentley Speed.
Every year the rally’s popularity is growing, with participants coming from 20 different countries. This confirms that we’re on the right track to making the event a really major international fixture
said Stefano Chiminelli, CVAE President and organiser of the Leggenda di Bassano rally. Here’s looking forward to seeing these wonderful classic cars again at next year’s event.