It’s September 2002. Again. Sugarbabes are going round and round and, over the morning’s first espresso, I’m watching Freddy Loix inch a beautiful Hyundai Accent WRC through the Italian traffic, bound for shakedown.
Hang on, we’ve moved. Now Andrea Aghini’s on his way out of town chasing back-to-back home wins, warming the brakes on his Lancia Delta HF Integrale. It’s 1993.
Fast forward a couple of decades. And this time it really is Andreas Mikkelsen. And it really is his Škoda Fabia S2000 from Italy’s IRC round in 2011.
Welcome to Varzi. Varzi is the new Sanremo. And Logiman Mythical Cars Rally is rallying’s newest and most efficient form of time travel. It hasn’t started yet, but the world has already fallen in love with it.
Mikkelsen and his co-driver Torstein Eriksen are two runs in at shakedown. Time for a coffee.
“Isn’t this cool…” said Eriksen. “We come from Portugal where everything was a little bit crazy [with pressure] and now we’re here. Everybody is relaxed and enjoying themselves. For the first year of this event, it’s really impressive.”
It really is.
Four months ago, the day after Monte Carlo Rally, Team DirtFish arrived in Varzi with event advisor Andrea Adamo to talk about what could be achieved with Logiman Mythical Cars Rally.
Colin Clark and I listened to Adamo and his team’s fanciful ideas about taking the town over and building this event from the ground up in a matter of weeks. Yes, this corner of Lombardy has history in the sport, but it’s been a while since Quattro Regioni Rally was at the forefront of world rallying. This was some undertaking.
The sporting side has yet to play out, but in terms of atmosphere and appreciation, Logiman Mythical Cars Rally has nailed it. Box ticked. Job done. You walk through the service park, which has indeed, taken over the town and there’s a constant backdrop of music from the right time.
And, for once, the right time’s not the Eighties.
If you’re looking to start a new rally, to stir the emotions, route one inevitably leads to four years through the middle of that decade. To Group B. Andrea Adamo’s never been one for convention. Like the rest of us, he’s a man who adores Group B, but he’s also seen the potential of what followed.
Admittedly, as the forest-flying supercars departed, they cast a significant shadow over what followed. The early years of Group A weren’t the best; Lancia dominated, Mazda did its best and Ford searched a way to slot a front diff around a tremendously purposeful Cosworth engine.
A few years into the 1990s and rallying was well and truly sorted. Lancia had sadly, by and large, departed and Japan had landed. Subaru, Toyota, Mitsubishi all made epic Group A cars. Ford did the right thing and returned the Escort to the forefront of its approach and all was well in our world.
Adamo seized on those halcyon days. And made them better. He built a rally taking the best of the best across the last 20 years.
That’s how folk outside are gazing at everything from a Citroën Saxo kit car – the machine that helped create the legend that is Sébastien Loeb – all the way through to the sister C3 WRC nine times used to win in Catalunya, 2018.
And, while they look, they’re hearing Red Hot Chilli Peppers with a flat-four backing track.
And the roads aren’t bad, either.
Tonight’s Oramala opener is played out with the sun setting against an 11th Century castle. It’s beautiful.
Saturday’s the big day. Or bigger day. Seven stages and 40 miles (65 kilometres) isn’t overly taxing. It doesn’t need to be. This is about enjoyment not endurance. But don’t imagine there’s no challenge here.
Exiting the first recce run through Monte Penice, Alister McRae and his co-driver Stuart Loudon are parked up.
Big Al’s looking a touch bemused.
Not for long. He smiled: “Have you seen that?
“‘Come to Varzi,’ Andrea said. ‘Come to Varzi, enjoy some relaxing roads…’ What! There’s plenty going on in there.”
For Loudon, the smiling hasn’t stopped since the first phone call asking if he was free to join McRae in the Best Impreza, Subaru continuation car.
“I was seven when Colin won the world championship,” said Loudon. “To be in this car is a dream for me. Alister and I just did a couple of runs at shakedown and the pair of us haven’t stopped smiling. What an amazing event.”
And we haven’t even started yet.
The Logiman Mythical Cars Rally gets underway from Varzi at 1930 on Friday. The event includes a further six stages through Saturday finishing with a celebration which promises to go on well past sundown.