It is hard to capture many things from our youth, although a great deal of us try. It is surely why the midlife crisis was invented, as an explanation for our desperation to cling onto the freedom we only experience but once in our lives. Youth is wasted upon the young, or so the saying goes, and in many ways is true. But, for a privileged group of us, today the excitement and fervour of youth was very much recaptured as the final preparations got underway for the 2021 HERO-ERA Classic Marathon, the event they said could never, would never and should never run. Well, this afternoon those of us lucky enough, or perhaps determined enough, to make the start put cars through scrutineering and began to look forward to the off-tomorrow morning at 9am very much indeed.
A first day of the school holidays feeling was very much evident throughout the camp, as cars arrived fresh from the ferry and the increased border checks, all safe in the knowledge that health checks had been completed and processes had been followed to the nth degree. Some crews retired to rooms for a siesta, whilst others enjoyed tapas and the odd shandy in the best of Spanish traditions in the square opposite rally HQ. The locals seemed pleased to see us, with much interest in the wide and varied entry of cars, with the pre-war Fords, Bentleys and Cadillac’s naturally garnering most of the attention. Indeed, the no 3 car of Christian Mueller + Roger Vogel, a wonderful Cadillac Series 314 V8 Racer, was captivating the competitors as well. It felt like a special moment, as whilst our sport has been stopped in its tracks by Covid, the community of the small town of Las Caldas, reliant on tourisms and visitors to the settlements Spa, must also be cautiously pleased to see visitors back and seemed to have had their imaginations captured by the automotive metal on display.
“It’s fantastic!” said HERO-ERA Managing Director Patrick Burke, echoing the sentiments of every single entrant and member of the rally organising team, who have all said what a joy it is to be travelling again and, as Patrick put it, “back out on the road doing what we do best.” Alluding further to the team effort involved in getting the rally to this stage, Patrick went on to say, “It is an event where the whole team pulled together and put in an incredible number of hours and work to keep it together and get us to where we are today.” Whilst the sorting out amongst the crews will happen over the coming days, for those behind the scenes this is the culmination of 18 months of sheer determination.
The setbacks and struggles have not just affected the organisers of course, with the politicians in various countries changing legislation right up to the eve of the event, it has been no small effort on the crew’s part to get out here to the hills above Oviedo. 29 will take the start tomorrow, setting off on a 6-day adventure that will cover 2000 miles. The first day will see 335 kilometres covered before the final halt in Ponferrada, as the compass takes us south and inland. Four regularities and two tests await, and the crews will find themselves climbing up to heady peaks, as well as dropping down through the lonely farms and villages that occupy the valley floors before reaching the days terminus.
There are many within the field that could challenge for the overall win and an eclectic mix of machinery that spans the full age range of cars that are eligible for these events. The competition will, as ever, become more intense as the rally clocks up the miles, for now though all of us will dine out on the good feeling in the camp, that will no doubt keep everyone involved elevated, even without the influence of the high altitude passes that will keep us company for much of this wonderful event.