Nostalgia on Elba

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The major problem facing anyone who wants to organise a rally for retired drivers in retired cars is how to unite the people and the machinery. Rarely does a professional driver keep his cars. Most are dismantled, and those which do survive usually end up in the hands of lovingly caring enthusiasts who hardly relish the thought of their precious possessions being taken out and hammered on special stages, even if it is by someone who did just that twenty years ago.

However, they managed it in Italy recently when, with the backing of Graffiti and Pirelli, the Elba Rally was revived as an event for such cars and crews, largely due to the efforts of Lancia sub-manager Arnaldo Bernacchini. Fulvias, Alpines, Fiat 124 Spiders, Porsche 911s, BMW 2002s, Mini-Coopers, Renault Gordinis, Escorts and even a Jaguar Mk II came out from their wraps for the seven-stage event.

Outright winner, in a white Alpine A110, was Tony Fassina (who won the real Elba Rally in 1979 in a white Jolly Club Fulvia). Ranged against him were pairs such as Amilcare Ballestrieri and Daniele Audetto in a Fulvia 1.6, Lele Pinto and Arnaldo Bernacchini in a Fiat 124 Spider, Alcide Paganelli and Nini Russo in another Spider, and Mauro Pragliasco and Piero Sodano in an old Group Three Fulvia.

Other names in the list, all providing an amazing spectacle for the huge crowds which turned out to watch, were Massimo Cambiaghi, Tonino Tognana, Arnaldo Cavallari, Federico Ormezzano, Leo Pittoni, Luciano Trombotto, Adartico Vudafieri, Conny Isemburg and Vittorio Brambilla.

The stages each began with a short slalom, somehow legalising the whole contest, but the cone-dodging delighted the crowds as much as the serious stuff which followed. Brambilla disgraced himself by hitting a barrier in front of the TV cameras, whilst Ballestrieri’s Fulvia succumbed to one of its very early problems — driveshaft coupling failure.

It was altogether a fine piece of nostalgia, with hardly a scratch on any of the treasured machinery. Even Brambilla’s barrier was a mobile one! GP