E-type driver and event organiser Mauro Bompani was a popular winner of the Modena Cento Ore, a delightful four-day mix of stages and races in central Italy
Over four glorious days, 76 cars tackled this 17-stage event, starting and finishing in Modena.
Competitors were kept busy on the first day, tackling no fewer than five stages before finishing at Montecatini. This was one of the most delightful stops, a picturesque town overlooked by the smaller Montecatini Alto. The organisers provided an elegant reception in an ancient spa and castle, followed by a superb dinner.
The rally was shaping up by day two and was being led by Michael Eschmann/Hans Werner Woll in a 2.8 Porsche 911 RSR. Up at the sharp end with them were organiser Mauro Bompani’s E-type Jaguar, the Pier-Angelo Masselli/Carlo Sighicelli 1965 911, John Sheldon’s Lotus Elan, the E-type of Manfredo Rossi di Montelera and Pierre Alain Mayeux and Rino Righi/Mauro Iacolutti’s Ford Escort.
Misfortune befell Ben Cussons/Howard Redhouse on Castelrigone. Redhouse sustained knee injuries when their C-type crashed. Keenly competitive, they had been using to good effect the pace notes provided until a faulty headphone caused Ben to miss a sharp right.
Magione was the event’s first circuit and was looking decidedly past its prime, peeling paint disguising its former glory. But its layout demonstrated great character, with fast double apexes, a decent straight and some interesting complexes.
The race introduced some new players at the front, including José Albuquerque’s Ford GT40 which was first, the Bill Wykeham/Mike Sexton Morgan Plus 8 (fourth) and Wolfgang Friedrichs’s Aston Martin Project 214 (fifth). Eschmann only managed eighth. It was also to be the end of Sheldon’s challenge for victory, because of a diff failure on the Elan. The Dirk Waaijenberg/André Schoonenwoolf Mustang showed remarkable rallying skills on the resulting oil slick.
Day three: the fabulous drive across Umbria and into Tuscany was breathtaking. But the rigours of the event were taking their toll. The Alex Edipidis/John Palmos E-type hit a tree and David and Deborah Franklin’s Shelby Mustang broke a front hub.
Mugello was the scene of the second and last race of the event. David Clark steam-rollered Friedrichs’s Aston through the pack and took the chequered flag one second ahead of the Masselli/Sighicelli 911 which still ended the day in second place overall. Unfortunately, the Albuquerque GT40 was showing signs of the driveshaft failure which would put it out by the next day. Checking into Riolo Terme, the last night stop, another superb dinner awaited competitors.
The final day’s route went west, just past Imola – where another race would have been welcome. On this leg Masselli retired his Porsche, but a needle match was taking place between the Fitzsimons team cars: the Wykeham/Sexton Morgan and the 2.7 RS of David Fitzsimons/Neil Tollich. The Porsche crew were dramatic on the stages, making full use of the provided pace notes. But this alone was not enough to give them the lead they required over the Morgan, which was slightly quicker on the racetracks. At the last stage, the Fiorano test track, there was a mere second between them. Last year here the New Zealand Porsche crew took the blind right-hander under the bridge flat – resulting in a trip across the neatly coiffured infield. This year they took five seconds out of the Morgan to secure third place. The latter, however, still won the Period G honours.
His diff troubles cured, John Sheldon won this test in the little Elan, with Bompani taking it easy, letting the battling Period G, H and I cars do their worst at the front. He still had plenty in hand to take second on overall time to Eschmann and be declared the official event winner (which only those in older cars, up to Period F, could be). He contemplated passing over his win to the next eligible team, being the organiser and all. But then he thought, ‘stuff that!’ and proudly accepted the trophy. It was a popular win.