It feels like I should be typing this listening to Verdi. Or the big man, Luciano. The one thing I won’t be listening to is Colin Clark. After almost two weeks with the voice of rally in my ear, a little Rigoletto wouldn’t go amiss.
But what a trip this one has been.
And so much of it is down to one man. It was always on the DirtFish agenda to cover Rally di Roma, but when Andrea Adamo called with a plan for us to stay in Italy for the following week and join him at Rally di Alba, it sounded great. If a little fanciful.
For a long time I was a touch sceptical about the chances of rallying getting going again as event after event continued to tumble into the summer. But our trip to Rome and an event that became known as the Adamo Grand Prix stayed on course.
The Italian’s enthusiasm for our sport genuinely knows no bounds. Almost on a daily basis, there was another idea for DirtFish to get the best possible coverage from the last two weeks. Yes, there was an angle for Hyundai Motorsport, but that was by no means the driving force.
Adamo’s proud of northern Italy’s rich heritage in rallying and that’s how we ended up enjoying one of the most coveted collections of rally cars in the world. It’s how we ended up talking to the man who crafted Lancia’s delicious 037 as well as the devastatingly effective Group A Delta HF 4×4 and subsequent evolutions.
It’s almost impossible to select a single highlight from the last 12 days. I could go with a performance from either rally: Oliver Solberg’s surefooted speed in Rome or World Rally Car rookie Pierre-Louis Loubet’s pace on both events. Craig Breen’s another one who starred, using brand new MRF tires to show Michelin the way home on the ERC opener before bossing Rally di Alba from start to finish a week later.
Places as well as people have starred. Siena’s Piazza del Campo is one of my favorite places in the world. The architecture and the ambiance are exquisite. But my love of the one of Italy’s most famous central squares goes beyond its medieval importance or the ridiculously spectacular Palio horse race held within its confines. It’s the memory of the people and the cars that once came and sat right here.
Taking a moment over a Nannini espresso was special. Yes, the cars which rule our sport right now are faster than anything that’s gone before them, but Group B has always and will always rock my world.
But what’s so special about those cars and this place? Rallying’s first supercars toured the world for four years, so why Campo?
Simple. I remember that picture from the Torre del Mangia looking down on the cars collected in the Rally Sanremo regroup or overnight halt. I don’t know why, but the impression was huge. Going back to that place means letting my mind’s eye wander over battled-scarred Lancias; a tired-looking Hannu Mikkola or Michele Mouton arrives, blipping the throttle to break the silence with that beautifully deepset five-cylinder rumble, before switching the Audi off and stepping, with a stretch, out into another achingly beautiful Tuscan autumn sundowner.
ENJOYING RALLYING’S RETURN (FROM THE CO-DRIVER SEAT)
Thierry Neuville called on DirtFish's David Evans to be his co-driver for one stage
Memories of those cars were taken from the minds’ eye and put before our very eyes at the Gino Macaluso Foundation. We’re planning plenty of stories on the extraordinary that sits behind some very ordinary walls on the outskirts of Turin. But walking and talking with Massimo Macaluso delivered the most vivid trip through rallying’s ages.
But it also reminded me how far the powerhouse that once was Italy’s contribution to the World Rally Championship has slipped. Lancia, Fiat, Martini, Biasion, Pininfarina, they were all household names in and around Turin and Milan through the 80s and 90s.
Thankfully, Pirelli returns to the sport’s sharpest of cutting edges next season. Once more, the Milanese will provide the universal and ubiquitous tyres, not to mention the best coffee.
An Italian driver at the top of the tree would be nice to go with it.
Talking of drivers at the top of the tree, watching our world champion tame Hyundai’s i20 Coupe WRC on asphalt for the very first time was cool. As was the Teletubbies conversation with Ott a couple of nights prior. Breakfast at Adamo’s apartment was another treat, the service park’s most charismatic of chaps simply never fails to deliver. He’s as entertaining as he is engaging and as engaged as anybody I’ve ever met. Rallying really is his life.
And to close the show? How about a ride alongside Thierry Neuville? Yes. Please.
In the last 12 days, Adamo promised plenty, but delivered even more.