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Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 3 | Portoroz to Terme Olimia 334 KM

Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 3 | Portoroz to Terme Olimia 334 KM

Today was one of those proper Marathon days, the kind where come the end of the day you know you’re in a rally, where you reach the final time control with sweat cascading down your brow and hands engrained with the dirt of a day on the road. The cars too, look and smell like they’ve been in a fistfight with the scenery, caked in dust and grime, stinking of the fluids used to keep them in motion, the heat haze jettisoning off of warm bonnets and out of vents. Yes, this was a proper day.

Another six regularities are now under the belt, as well as another Kart Circuit test, that kicked off a day of 334km that took us to the halfway point of the event. It feels like it has gone quickly and that we have hardly been here at all, which is none too surprising considering the pace of life. A Marathon, not a sprint, but at times throughout the past few days sprint has perhaps been more apt, not that the drivers are complaining mind you, as excitement levels are often intrinsically linked to the needle on the speedometer.

Another day where the first competitive element was a speed test, this time on the Koper Kart circuit, a spaghetti mess of a track that was somewhat roughshod in appearance. Its somewhat dystopian appearance may have encouraged one or two drivers to take a liberal approach to track limits, but then it’s hard to define the limit when the lines between asphalt and undergrowth are as blurred as they are at Koper. It made for some entertaining kerb hopping, and a special mention must go to 14. Philip Armstrong (IE) + Peter Rushforth (GB), bouncing and bumping the canary yellow Volvo PV544 from apex to apex, with little care for the car underneath them.

They weren’t the only ones enjoying themselves of course, and the fun would continue throughout the rest of the morning, particularly on the second regularity of the day which was a long riotous ride through the dense forest on the slopes of the Snežnik massif, on a dirt road that threw plumes of dust into the atmosphere beneath the canopy, coating everything and everyone who passed through it. Great shafts of light pierced through the trees and illuminated the airborne particles, in a light show that followed each passing car. For anyone that followed too closely in the wheel tracks of another competitor, the visibility was reduced to almost nothing, adding an extra dimension of difficulty to a drive that was already complicated by the general lack of adhesion on the road below. This was no place you wanted to end up in the scenery either, as the forest is home to some 400 bears, as well as Lynx and Wolves, although I’m not sure anybody informed the photographers of this? Actually, has anyone seen the photographers this evening?!

With the dirt road conquered it was back to asphalt, but the woods had claimed a victim, in the form of a big cat, although thankfully it had not fallen foul of one of the regions Lynx. The Jaguar that had led the field away in the lead had become stuck behind one of the logging trucks that pace the forest tracks, and in doing so Marcus Anderson (GB) + Matthew Lymn Rose (GB) had lost nearly a minute to the pursuant pack, a fact lamented by Matthew when interviewed in front of the cameras at lunch. Their problems would continue in the afternoon as well, becoming stuck behind another truck on regularity number four and losing more time. When your lucks out it really is out.

Irrespective of the time lost though, they, and everyone else, must surely have been enjoying the drive. The route today was offering up incredible road after incredible road, that, aside from the odd logging truck, seemed to be mostly free from traffic. Whether tarmac or dirt, the ride was a fun one and as the day wore on the contours moved closer and closer together, providing some immensely steep climbs, that would surely be testing the mechanical integrity of the cars. This proved to be the case for no 27. Klaus Schaffrath (DE) + Andrew Duerden (GB), who had been in the running for the podium positions. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Super though had gearbox problems and had lost fifth and reverse gear somewhere in the bowels of the box, so they had best hope for no wrong slots for the remainder of the event, or rectifying the situation may require a lot of exertion on Andrew’s part!

Whilst some front runners were having a hard time, others were making good time, including the Woof’s, up to fourth overall, putting their fuelling issues from day one behind them. The Wignall’s were making ground too, albeit in separate cars, with Jayne just edging Paul on the day for family bragging rights. Dick and Harry Baines and Richard and James Bowser were also getting to grips with the Marathon, each posting respectable times on the day.

At the sharp end though there was of course a new leader, with top spot now in the hands of defending champion Paul Crosby, although he and Ali Proctor couldn’t lay claim to the best time of the day, with that honour going to 44. Paul Bloxidge (GB) + Ian Canavan (GB), although their Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2 is too youthful to qualify for overall results. Second is in the hands of the E-Type, despite their traffic troubles, but hard-charging Mark Godfrey (GB) + Sue Godfrey (GB) are only six seconds behind in their MG B, a car that is often seen making the most wonderful shapes.

Halfway then and a new leader sits atop the time sheets, with the healthiest gap of the competition so far, a sumptuous 49-second cushion between Porsche and Jag. It is far from over though, and Cros and Ali go from hunter to hunted as we look forward to day four of the Classic Marathon.

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