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Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 5 | Schladming to Ljubljana 359 KM

Classic Marathon 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 5 | Schladming to Ljubljana 359 KM

Day five of the 2023 Classic Marathon, the penultimate day of action, make or maybe break, either way, the pressure is on. You could be Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor, top of the tree with a cool bank of seconds to absorb any small errors, or you might be those further down the overall order but fighting for class honours, or you might just be nursing a sick machine, hoping and praying your car makes the finish.

It’s close now, so close, but, also, so far away. Take nothing for granted lest ye be crushed by the hand of fate, keep it steady, hit your marks and don’t do anything daft. The finish may be just two days away, but that’s still 33% of the route to complete and plenty of opportunity for the broth to turn sour, this is far from over.

Just encase anyone’s eyes were on the climax of this rally, the route planners had ensured that focus would be swiftly diverted to the present with a fast-paced start to the morning. A closed road test on the Stoderzinken Panoramastraße, a fabulous hill-climb that would test everyone’s ability to pedal their car, followed by an equally challenging regularity to transport the crews to the summit of the climb. It was quick, and with the cars going off at thirty-second intervals the fear of being caught from behind may well have outweighed the fear of the consequences of running out of talent. Roads like this would be peppered throughout the day, just brilliant driving roads for mile after mile, but these would pass into insignificance with the events that would become the main talking points of leg five.

Once at the top everyone was rewarded with an incredible view into the valley below where a full cloud inversion was putting on quite the show. Fastest on the test was the boys in the Jag, trying to eat away at that lead, trying to claw back time on Crosby and Proctor at the top. Any inroads made here though would be in vain, as a missed speed change on the third regularity of the day would cost them dear, perhaps ending any hope of a fightback.

They weren’t the only ones to miss the speed change and battles were happening up and down the field, as the sorting out for class honours began in earnest. In the battle of the Alfas at the top of Class 1, Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage leapfrogged Nigel Woof and Sally Woof, after the Woofs had tractor trouble, but with just six seconds that is a fight sure to go to the wire.

In Class 2 14. Philip Armstrong (IE) + Peter Rushforth (GB) are fairly well settled in first, but second and third, 27. Klaus Schaffrath (DE) + Andrew Duerden (GB), Alfa Romeo Giulia Super – 1969 and 16. Dick Baines (GB) + Harry Baines (GB), Austin Mini Cooper S – 1965 are tied on time after the Baines managed a great day on the road, finishing in the top five on the day in the mighty mini.

Then there are those that, after coming so far, just want to finish the thing, or continue to improve upon each day. Entrants like David Roberts and Bob Duck, chipping away and improving each day, celebrating every regularity success, however small. People like our Australian pair, Phil and Lyndy Blunden, who would be the first to admit they’ve not had it easy this week, but they are still here, still cracking on and they should be applauded for that.

But it isn’t done, and anything can happen. There was almost complete disaster at the final test of the day for 22. Chris Kemp (GB) + Sid Sadique (GB), when their Lotus Cortina caught fire post-finish. Thankfully, with swift actions from fellow competitors Martin Lamb + Robin Crees, as well as the mechanics, the damage was limited, and a major catastrophe averted. It could have been so much worse.

There was another significant event at the final test of the day, which took place at the AMZS Center varne vožnje Vransko. A driver training centre, complete with skid pan, that the test would run through, and this is where things ground to a halt for our leaders, Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor. On the transition from wet to dry the wheels gripped and the drive shaft surrendered, leaving the up until now untouchable Porsche marooned and possibly out completely. Their challenge for win number three was certainly over, and the pair stood glumly with the car as the rest of the competitors completed the test around them.

It was a sad sight, nobody wants to win like this, but it has promoted 44. Paul Bloxidge (GB) + Ian Canavan (GB), Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk2 to the top of the field as the absolute best, and leaves 19. Mark Godfrey (GB) + Sue Godfrey (GB) as the first of the eligible cars in top spot overall, after the mishaps suffered by 15. Marcus Anderson (GB) + Matthew Lymn Rose (GB) during the day. The E-Type is 31 seconds adrift, and the boys may be left wondering what could have been when the event finishes tomorrow. But if there is anything to be learned from today it’s that anything can and may just happen. This isn’t over.

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