The Classic Marathon Rally 2015 was held 14-20 June in Italy, starting in the southern province of Puglia and ending north in Brescia. Staged by the Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation (HERO), the 26th running of the Classic Marathon saw 68 teams participate in the qualifying round of both the HERO Cup for drivers and the Golden Roamer Trophy.
Vehicles ranged in age from a 1934 Lagonda M45 T8 Tourer crewed by Marquis Giulio Romanazzi-Carducci and Giuseppe Ceci to a 1990 Porsche (964) 911 Convertible piloted by Marco Carnaroli and Camillo Costa. A large crowd of onlookers and well-wishers gathered just outside the harbour in Otranto, Puglia to wave crews away on what would turn out to be a closely fought and epic battle that would ultimately be decided on the final day.
The first leg of Classic Marathon Rally 2015 was a prologue to enable an initial seeding to take place. This included a test at the world-famous La Conca Kart circuit and a relatively straightforward regularity section that headed crews back to Lecce for the overnight halt and welcome dinner in the town. The following morning was the real start of the event with a leg that started in Lecce and used the narrow winding lanes in and around Puglia to head northwest and end in Matera, home of the Sassi, the birthplace of Italy. Charles Colton and Ryan Pickering’s 1965 Porsche 911 was embroiled in a tussle with fellow Porsche pairing Howard and Matthew Warren. Only three seconds separated them, with the Warrens taking the upper hand at this point. In third were John Abel and Ali Procter pushing their stunning sounding 1965 Sunbeam Tiger hard through the hills but were being pursued by Andrew and Sarah Mallagh in their Porsche 914/6.
Day three saw crews leave Matera and head to the Mediterranean side of Italy. With an overnight in Salerno, competitors were given a teasing glimpse of the Amalfi Coast from their halt. This was a pivotal day, one that would shape the rest of the event as the 2015 Classic Marathon made its way into the more mountainous countryside. Mark and Sue Godfrey were climbing steadily through the ranks in their 1965 MG B, with a goal of being the first crew ever to win three Marathons. Just in front of them were relative newcomers Marcus Anderson and Matthew Lymn Rose in a 1964 Jaguar E-Type Series One having the run of their lives.
Salerno traffic was tricky to circumnavigate as crews departed for day four of the Classic Marathon 2015. The distances covered were now increasing and starting to pile the pressure on crews as the route became even more mountainous. Heading into a National Park the weather changed rapidly and the baking sun gave way to a downpour of monsoon-like proportions, leaving many competitors with open top vehicles seeking shelter under trees from this somewhat freakish weather.
Colton and Pickering’s Porsche 911 was now starting to edge out a slender lead from the Warrens, a battle that would last until the final regularity section of the event. This was also a day of attrition. The 1935 Bentley Derby Special Sports of Claus Coester and Tjorven Christine Schroeder exited the event, as the tricky nature of the weather and slippery Italian road surfaces forced them to retire. John Abel and Ali Procter also withdrew from the event, a snapped stub axle in their Sunbeam Tiger leaving the pair stranded at the wayside with thoughts of what could have been. They were always in contention and could have easily taken the win.
The Classic Marathon has a history of endurance. As the week went on the length of each section increased, the run-in from day five included three legs – two at almost 500km each to pile the pressure on the crews. Setting off from Silvi Marini on the Adriatic Coast and heading north through Marche before an overnight in San Marino, most crews kept up the pace. Even though now beginning to tire, the thought of reaching Maranello — home of Ferrari — on day six spurred them on.
The final twist came on day seven where a short loop to the northwest of Lake Garda would see the 26th Classic Marathon decided. The final regularity (which included no less than eight timing points) was a resounding success for the 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera of Bloxidge and Pullan, losing only 23 seconds to Colton and Pickering’s 36 seconds. The pressure finally cracked the Warrens after an error saw them drop 65 seconds to drop them down the leader board and hand the overall victory to the very similar car of Colton and Pickering.
The 27th Classic Marathon will return in 2017, hopefully in Greece where the Marathon will visit Marathon.
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