After 2000 km’s, 6 days, 36 regularities and 5 tests the Classic Marathon 2021 has come full circle and finished back where it started, in Las Caldas. It feels like an age ago that the starters flag was dropped on that first morning, but the event has also gone by in the blink of an eye. To the victors, the spoils, to all who competed, the elation of completing an international event again. Before the finishing gantry came into sight for the competitors though, there was still some sorting out to do, and plenty of miles to cover.
Unfortunately, the first bit of sorting was out of anyone’s hands, and the dreaded virus that has controlled so much of our lives in the past year, intervened in our sport, much in the same way as it has in other sport recently. The rally has fastidiously followed the procedures and protocols placed upon us by our own governing bodies, and the authorities in the localities that we have visited, and as such all of our competitors and personnel on the event had taken a PCR test within the time frame needed for return travel to home countries. Four tests returned positive results and those affected, as well as those sharing vehicles with them, were immediately asked to remove themselves from the rally, and isolate whilst a second test was prepared for them. All are currently in isolation and awaiting results of the second test.
Back in the thick of it and for everyone else the day began with a tricky regularity that contained 7 timing points, if this was the sting in the tail then it was being deployed early, and further up the road several cars tabbed along the transit section out of position, with some continuing to lose their way along the long, linear climb up and down the mountains that took crews to the second regularity of the day. Anyone looking out of the window could have been forgiven for thinking we were travelling through Switzerland, so lush was the vegetation, and Marc Kinglsey-Curry and Rob Simmonds, competing in their Swiss registered Alfa must have wished that they were there, as they encountered more than their fair share of traffic issues on the second reg. If it wasn’t a tractor, it was an oncoming van, or a slow-moving car. The frustration was clear as arms waved out of the window in mock defeat. Neither of them should get too exasperated though, as despite languishing at the bottom of the time sheets, their efforts this week have been spectacular and despite the rallying gods not adorning them with much luck they have pressed on regardless.
Theirs is a story familiar with many not stealing the limelight this week, but in truth, much like most of those who compete in the Isle of Man TT, success is measured on their own achievements, rather than with first place trophies and for many, just getting to the end of this rally is a tremendous success. Especially so for those whom this is their very first rally, such as Simon Blaxland and Simon Nelson, who, by their own admission, didn’t have a clue what they were doing or what they had let themselves in for at the start of the week. It would have been easy to bow out and give up, but they, along with our other first timers, have stuck at it and will have plenty of stories to share with friends when they arrive home.
By lunchtime not many of our party had made it through the morning without dropping more than a minute, but the star performers were the Godfreys, who dropped just 20 seconds and had leap frogged Crosby and Pullan into first place. Further down the order there was an excellent morning performance from Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickens, joining the few in the sub minute club in the big Mercedes with a total penalty of 49 seconds.
The maps had taken the cars along part of the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrims walking route that passes through the area and even the most hard-nosed atheists might have considered whether there really was a God or not as we traversed some of the most spectacular mountain passes seen on the trip. Up here we were able to touch the clouds and see the Spanish Imperial Eagles soaring on thermals far below us, it was an ethereal experience and perhaps, with our proximity to the heavens, those chasing hard for the win were tempted to pray for a helping hand during the afternoon.
Just two regularities were all that was left for any position gains, just two opportunities for the long-time leaders of the rally in the E-Type to pull off a miracle win, or for Crosby and Pullan to regain the lead, or, indeed, for the rallies new leaders to make a mistake and let glory slip away.
As it was it would be a mistake from the Godfreys that would settle it, they had been exemplary all morning, continuing the previous days good form, but somewhere, early on the post lunch regularity it all went wrong, and they posted 20 seconds at the first timing point. The Porsche of Crosby was ruthless in its consistency during the afternoon, and ultimately, he and Andy Pullan would come out on top, but only by 10 seconds. Considering the distance covered, and the lead maintained by the Jaguar E-Type for most of the week (who finished third), it was a tiny margin, and but for a single error would have been a different story. “I feel exhausted” said Mark Godfrey at the finish, “we’ve had a great week, but missed out just at the end, but we are very pleased to be on the podium and are delighted with the whole event.”
To the victors go the spoils though, although Paul Crosby was in a reflective mood at the end of it, “It’s been a real roller coaster week, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve broken down and this morning Sue Godfrey was on fire, popping in zeroes for fun, but then this afternoon it all turned around and we are delighted.”
Of course, despite the elation of everyone at the finish, and the enjoyment of all throughout, there is a sombre tone to this edition of the Classic Marathon, with the loss of our own Marathon Man Bob Rutherford in the build up to the event. Bob is on all of our minds, and whilst covid restrictions prevented a group tribute to the man who was everyone’s friend, I’m sure all will raise a glass to a real gentleman this evening. The final word at the finish went to winner Paul Crosby, who simply said, “This one is for Bob.”