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Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 1

Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 1

This morning the starters flag waved off the 30th edition of the Classic Marathon, in the gorgeous lakeside town of Bled in Slovenia. Not much fuss has been made about this years Marathon being the 30th, perhaps because the event has been around for so long now those involved would just presume it was perhaps much older. But don’t make the assumption that this rally is happy to sit back and become part of the furniture, oh no, this is part of people’s biennial calendars, a must do and this pearl edition began with a day that was, well, an absolute pearler.

The town of Bled were certainly happy to host the event, with the deputy mayor flagging the machines off in the early morning sun, with the stunning Lake Bled sparkling in the background. There was even a compere relaying facts about the cars and crews for anyone that wanted to listen, and he had clearly done his homework as he began by introducing car no 1, Paul Crosby, to the line. “Paul has won the last two Marathons” he said, “but not with this navigator, he won those with Andy Pullan, who is now part of the organisation.” This early bit of unexpected pressure on Paul’s new maps man, Ali Proctor, was brushed off I’m sure, although perhaps the comments were still ringing in Ali’s head as the pair wrong-slotted on the first reg of the day, losing more than a minute in the process. Never mind Ali, get them out of the way early, it’s not like Cros is competitive or anything…

Mr Proctor can take heart in that he wasn’t the only one to suffer navigational blunders today, there were plenty of them, but it was easily done on the Slovenian mountain roads. They were tricksy beasts, and all it took was a driver to get sucked into the natural flow of the roads to get pulled off course. You couldn’t blame them though, after all, drivers just want to drive, and the strips of tarmac that wound ribbons through the thick forests and lush fields of the morning were the kinds of roads that visit us in our dreams.

Time must work differently in Slovenia, as the morning seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. Before we knew it lunchtime had come around and the morning had disappeared into a blur of snowcapped peaks, verdant vistas and dusty roads through forests and seemingly only cyclists on the road, although the evidence seemed to suggest that they were also enjoying the caravan of classic cars that had interrupted their usual quiet Sunday pedal. One cyclist in particular turned on his heels and did his best to follow the cars, filming as he went and waving as the machines passed with a large grin on his face. His partner though seemed perplexed, perhaps not happy that after putting in the effort to cycle up the mountain they were now descending again to repeat the feat, just to video a few cars.

Post lunch, and an extremely good lunch at that, there was the first of the events tests for the drivers to get stuck into. These were a pair running up a closed roads hill climb as well, what better way to get the high-speed action of the event started than that? One driver who certainly had a smile on his face and swagger behind the wheel was Thomas Herold, throwing his gorgeous blue Beetle at the hill with complete abandon. “Luckily Marion is fine with me driving how I want to drive” he said, barely getting the words out through the smile that spread across his face. He was joint second on the test, with Marcus Anderson joint fastest in his Jaguar E-Type, along with Richard Siddle in a Porsche 911.

More regularities followed in the afternoon, as the sun beat down upon the roads, no doubt with temperatures rising to uncomfortable levels in some of the cars. This was certainly true for car 8. Nigel Woof (GB) + Sally Woof (GB), the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint suffering fuelling issues in the heat, with the pair needing a tow to get them into the evenings’ final control on time. They made it with a minute to spare, after a tow from 28. Robert Smith (GB) + Richard Stanier (GB), the Alfa suffering the ignominy of being towed by a Volvo, a marque with which it shares a stable back home at Camp Woof, there might be a message in there somewhere.

Still, they made it in, and that’s all that matters as far as the scores are concerned. All arrows point to the same place after all and that place this evening is Portoroz, a gorgeous town on the Adriatic Sea and leading at the end of the first day? Well, that would be the Robertsons, in the plucky little Triumph TR3, the engine note of which is usually preceded on the road by the noise of Julia shouting at Steve, keeping him on the straight and narrow. Today though they were remarkably quiet, things inside the cockpit were calm. Perhaps it was the open top keeping them cooler than everyone else, perhaps they just really like Slovenia, whatever it is they’ve a lead of 9 seconds over 27. Klaus Schaffrath (DE) + Andrew Duerden (GB), in second place in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, with the boys in the E-Type a further 18 seconds back in third place.

It is early days though, and there is plenty of rallying still to be done. Tomorrow, we head into Croatia for a bit of a day trip, before returning to Portoroz. Who knows who might be leading the field then.

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