Oris Rally Clásico

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The statistics will relate that the 2014 Oris Rally Clásico was won by local hero Nadal Galiana in his tightly prepared Ford Escort, the Mallorcan beating the more powerful Porsche 911 RS of German Michael Eschmann in a duel that lasted until the penultimate stage.

Mallorcans also won the more sedate ‘regularity’ category, the Castaners (father and son) taking the top step of the podium in their Porsche 911 Targa after a rally-long battle with another 911.

For me, however, the winner was the beguiling Balearic island itself. And this is all part of the plan, because the rally is sponsored not only by Oris but by the swanky coastal town of Puerto Portals. From here the event covers more than 400 kilometres of challenging roads and 14 special stages, through spectacular scenery from Andratx in the south to the beautiful Cap Formentor in the mountainous north.

In its 10th anniversary year, the rally attracted a record entry of 100 cars, ranging from fully-prepped AC Cobra, Porsche 911 and Lancia Stratos to ancient MGA, Seat 124 and a 1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, belonging to organiser Antonio Dezcallar.

I shared this with fellow scribe Simon de Burton for two days and a night on the road. Well, he flung it around while I tried to decipher the hieroglyphics and arrows of the roadbook. Between us we somehow completed the task, finishing not quite at the bottom of the timesheets.

This eclectic mix of classic cars is one of the great attractions and this year’s field was spiced up nicely by the appearance of genuine rally star Jean Ragnotti in an ex-works Renault 5 Turbo complete with service crew. The Frenchman spent a lot of time signing autographs, having his picture taken and hurling the little Renault around hairpins. He slid into some solid scenery on day one, sadly, but re-appeared the next morning, his crew having replaced the crunched bits courtesy of a local dealer. “Amazing, good as new, no?” Jean said. “Maybe I go not so fast today…”

Had there been a prize for best-presented car it would surely have gone to local residents Ali and Sally Ashworth, who brought their immaculate blue and white Metro 6R4. The chunky Metro looked and sounded as good as ever it did in its heyday and was a stirring sight on the mountain passes. The Ashworths clearly had a lot of fun and that, after all, is part of the attraction.

The true beauty and magic of Mallorca is to be found in the north, where the ravages of modern tourism have so far failed to disturb the peace. On the first day we successfully negotiated a helter-skelter of a road down to the bay of Sa Calobra, a 12-kilometre Tarmac snake described as “one of the most dangerous roads in the world”. Returning uphill, our Karmann Ghia’s powertrain (sic) struggled a little for breath through near-vertical hairpins, beyond which are sheer drops to the Mediterranean.

The Oris Rally Clásico combines some serious competition with equally serious meals in some beautiful places. For enthusiasts, it is an opportunity to exercise some great cars between stone walls and rock faces.

The winners were given some handsome wristwatches, while Simon and I were simply happy to finish and return the little VW to its proud, trusting owner. Rob Widdows

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