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Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 2 | Portoroz to Portoroz 304 KM

Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 2 | Portoroz to Portoroz 304 KM

Day two of the Classic Marathon began under the clear blue skies of the Istrian Peninsula, with the sun already heating the air, a fact that would not change for the rest of the day. With road books handed out everyone headed for the border, for a play date with Croatia, a one-day sojourn to the ‘land of a thousand isles’, although our journey would purely be a mainland loop around Istria, before returning through the thankfully unmanned border to Portoroz.

Once at the remote MTC to begin the day properly, the action was kicked off with a cute little test around the Motodrom Porec kart circuit, a test that was reasonably easy to navigate and posed no major problems for anyone, except for Peter Moore in the diminutive Healey Sprite, who bounced across the scenery after missing a slot halfway around the one lap dash.

Post circuit and the going became a little ponderous in the early morning traffic, a bit of a shock to the system after so little interaction with other road users the previous day, less slick Slovenia, more like cumbersome Croatia. Still, once out into the countryside, the going was good again and the first of six regularities could begin.

The scenery had really changed from the previous day, with Cyprus Trees replacing the dense mountain forests, and the smell of Pittosporum and Onion Farms hanging in the air. Often the roads were tight and lined with hedges, as we picked a route through the warren of Istrian back roads on an easterly course that would soon head south after a stop at the attractive little town of Hum for a coffee. It certainly wasn’t drum, with the beautiful buildings and courtyard gardens offering a welcome respite from the ever-advancing heat and platefuls of charcuterie abating the hunger built up during the morning’s exertions.

Two more regularities concluded the morning’s competition, with the terrain becoming flatter as the route books directed the rally back toward the sea. It wasn’t as stunning as the previous day, but then a rally is a balance, as Ying swings to Yang and back again. Speaking of balance, some was restored when at the end of regularity number four it was business as usual in the Robertson’s car. As they careered into the final timing point, after wrong slotting, the din of heated conversation bellowed from the cockpit of the tiny Triumph. “This is the last timing point of the reg” they were told, “Thank goodness for that!” was the curt reply! “Everything back to normal there then” said marshal Ian Butcher, with a glint in his eye.

Steve and Julia can take heart in the fact that they weren’t the only pairing to lose time on the tricky slot at the end of reg 4, with many missing the entrance to the tiny dirt track that took the cars through the forest, with many screeching into the timing point in a maelstrom of dust and gravel. Top marks for making an entrance have to go to Klaus Mueller (DE) + Rolf Pellini (IT) though, as they appeared around the bend with the driver’s door on the Lancia Fulvia fully open. Perhaps it was just all getting a bit too hot in there, or maybe it was an attempt at air brakes, whatever it was it provided much entertainment.

There was another unusual moment in the middle of the following regularity, when VW Golf of Dave Smith (GB) + Phil Cottam (GB) got itself all inside out, after a clerical error saw the entering of timing data into the wrong columns, and they were forced to retrace their steps the wrong way down the regularity, let’s hope they don’t repeat the performance on the next circuit based tests! Another 80’s mounted pair that were having a better day at the races, in terms of mechanical gremlins anyway, were Clare Grove (GB) + Suzanne Barker (GB) in the ‘Team Acceptable’ Nissan Sunny. Day one had seen them lose an alternator belt and limp along with all of the associated problems, including no power steering, but today they were going much better. How they fixed it is still unclear, although there are rumours that a spare garter belt might now be rotating around the engine compartment. Whatever it was it was fixed, and their biggest problem today was only having a Ministry of Sound compilation CD to listen to, that and a missing mirror. So, if anyone has either of those items, in either form, they would be gratefully received by the pair.

It was getting toward the end of the day now, but anyone hoping to take it easy in the heat would be disappointed, as regularity number six was a long one, with multiple timing points, plenty of places to go wrong and a couple of long way round triangle sections to put the moggy amongst the Avery. It was a lovely drive in the evening sun though, with a short hop back over the border to Slovenia after the competitive action was done.

As the times came in there was unsurprisingly a new leader after the Robertsons misunderstanding, with Marathon veterans Marcus Anderson (GB) + Matthew Lymn Rose (GB) top of the pops in the Jaguar E-Type, after picking up just 31 seconds on the day and tying for top time on the morning’s test with Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor, who had recovered from the first day’s errors to achieve the best overall performance on the day, and slot into second place just one second behind the Jag.

The top two have a healthy-ish lead over the chasing pack, but if anything is clear from the day one to day two switcharoo, it’s that anything can happen out on the road during a rally. Tomorrow there is a 334-kilometre day that heads deeper into Slovenia, with another full day of regularities and tests to contend with, although the competitors won’t know much about that until the road books are issued in the morning.

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