*Jaguar E-Type of Marcus Anderson and Matthew Lymn Rose second
*Philip Armstrong and Peter Rushforth’s Volvo charges up leaderboard to grab third
*Favourite and longtime leaders Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor falter
The last day was tense. After five days of over 2000 kms of hard rallying and just 255 left, the dead certs had already fallen by the wayside in the pursuit of glory. There was no processional finish here as those in the hunt needed to be both prudent and bold.
It was clear that on this last leg, with no less than seven regularities to contend with, nothing was going to be easy on the 30thClassic Marathon through a mountainous mix of tarmac and gravel across beautiful Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, and back to Bled, in Slovenia. From intense heat to violent storms, the Classic Marathon had it all, including hailstones the size of golf balls.
With the demise of favourites and long-time leaders Paul Crosby and Ali Procter (Porsche 911) with a broken transmission, Mark and Sue Godfrey (MGB) who had pushed hard all event, held their nerve to win from the attacking E-Type of Marcus Anderson and Matthew Lymn Rose which was trying to make up time after previous errors, but couldn’t get closer than 30 seconds by the finish.
Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan were the unofficial leaders in their VW Golf GTi but their car didn’t qualify for the overall results due to its age, but still took a well-deserved class win.
On the last leg, there were four regularities in quick succession before the lunch break on tricky gravel roads, in between the thickly forested hills of Slovenia. It was hot, incredibly hot, with the mercury hitting 34 degrees in places and no doubt the cockpits, already filled with the tension of the final day, were an inferno of heat and emotion.
At lunchtime, as weary crews rolled in, coated in sweat and grime, the timekeepers went to work and the results did indeed correlate with the crew’s assessment that it had been a tough morning, but importantly in their quest for the win, Mark + Sue Godfrey (UK) had had a less difficult morning than Marcus Anderson and Matthew Lymn Rose, (UK) improving their lead to nearly a minute. One place further back and third had changed hands again, with car 21, the Alfa Romeo of Jayne Wignall (UK) + Kevin Savage (UK) continuing their late charge, and usurping Jayne’s husband Paul and navigator Annabel Jones (UK) in the other 50’s Giulietta Sprint battle for the final podium place. The best of the morning were Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan, (UK) picking up 42 seconds of penalties, the former HERO Champions well out in front, even if Paul’s Golf wasn’t eligible for the overall prize.
Up above and the sky was beginning to darken and the distant peaks around the final destination started to disappear as a weather front rolled in. The storm was colossal, and with the most difficult regularity of the event thrown at the crews straight after the lunch break, this was a momentous challenge. The marshals would certainly be feeling it, standing steadfast in the rain and hail, with thunder and great forks of lighting splitting the atmosphere overhead.
In the end, the weather would wreak havoc with the final two regularities, cars were succumbing to the conditions with mishaps suffered by the Mercedes of Agnete Segalstad (NO) + Ole Rasmus Robak (NO), in the 500SL and car 23. Richard Bowser (UK) + James Bowser (UK) in the Austin Healey Mk3, the latter losing the opportunity for a class victory. As the lightning crashed into the trees and on the peaks, there were reports of ice on the road, with rivers running down the asphalt and impossible visibility. The weather Gods had the last laugh after offering up such incredible sunshine for most of the week.
The mishaps would cause the biggest results shakeup in the battle for the final podium spot, with a surprise late appearance for car 14. Philip Armstrong (IE) + Peter Rushforth (GB) in the Volvo PV544 after all those around them dropped more time, a result that was bolstered by an excellent morning showing for the pair when they were the best in the field.
In the end, overall victory would belong to the Godfreys, despite losing lots of time in the final competition sections, they would end the event 30 seconds clear of Marcus Anderson and Matthew Lymn Rose, who secured second place. Mark and Sue deserved all of the plaudits and then some after beating the competition in their MG B, especially as this is their third Classic Marathon win, a hattrick that has been a long time coming, with it being some years since their last overall victory. They were second in 2021, so close then, but to lay your hands on one winner’s trophy in this tough event is difficult enough, but to win three is quite incredible.
Marcus and Matthew had to console themselves with the fact that they had at least gone one place better than their two third places in 2018 and 2021. Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor were left to rue the broken transmission that would deny Paul his own hattrick of Classic Marathon wins.
Worthy of mention were the fourth-place finishers Klaus Mueller (D) and Rolf Pellini (IT) in the Lancia Fulvia Coupe who got stronger each day, despite the odd setback, straining through the vicious weather on the final day to claw their way up to just thirty seconds away from the podium. Likewise, Dick and Harry Baines (GB) in their Mini and Nigel and Sally Woof (GB) in their Alfa Romeo, overcame adversity to finish inside the top ten.
Previous illustrious winners would have looked on at this 30th edition of such a timeless event, now definitely one of the definitive modern classics, and heartily approved. This year’s rally will no doubt be remembered as a real Classic Marathon in its own right.
To the victors go the honours, but to everyone else, whether there were trophies or not, they survived an epic in the mountains despite the rain Gods!