Boarding an aeroplane on 24 May for the first Rally the Globe recce outside Great Britain since September last year felt very strange indeed.
Jim Smith and I had been through the full range of getting a negative COVID PCR test, uploading it to the airline website, arranging the post-trip quarantine tests (normally they are on days two and eight but luckily there is the option to pay extra and get released on day five, essential for those of us going to the Yorkshire Cloverleaf), filling in the locator forms, ensuring we had enough masks etc. etc.
Being over cautious as ever I was at the airport at 04:45 for a 07:15 flight and was through all the checks and security by 05:00!
Arriving in Italy was equally simple providing one had all the paperwork at hand and could convince the immigration officer that it was definitely a work trip. Within the hour Jim and I were at the venue for one, or two, of the finest test venues of the event. We were effectively given the run of the amazing venue and have planned a surprise or two for the lucky competitors.
After a good night’s sleep we headed to Lake Como but unlike those on the event we reluctantly continued past The Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Regularities were explored, coffee halts checked and lunch menus scrutinized. Despite it being the end of May many roads were still closed by snow, but by the end of the day plans for Day 3 of the rally were falling into place.
Next morning the Dolomites amazed as ever, and we got some inspiration for the 2022 Vintage event in that region. A very special, family run, lunch halt was discovered before the run to Cortina.
Having recced the Dolomite region extensively last year we then head to Verona where the fabulous Due Torri Hotel is ready to welcome us. Parking is as much of a challenge as it was in Trujillo during Carrera Iberia but, as ever, we will find a solution.
After three days in the mountains it was a change to be on the plains of central Italy. The Modena region has been home to all the great (and not so great) Italian marques and we have a couple of treats in store. Then across the Appenines via the famous Futa Pass, where a fine lunch is in store, and down to Rimini and its Grand Hotel overlooking the Adriatic.
From the coast we headed towards Tuscany and a mediaeval village that has been miraculously transformed into a five-star hotel. Along the way we found some great regularities among picturesque scenery and historic towns and villages.
Day nine of the rally sees us in the Chianti region and its glorious views. The lunch halt hotel has its own network of roads and we have been promised their use for a variety of tests and regularities, all on smooth asphalt. We descended to the Mediterranean and the beautiful resort of Santa Margherita Ligure, where we discovered a pair of well-known historic rally competitors, and their beautiful Ferrari, had checked in just in front of us. We must have chosen the right place!
For the final day of the rally we found some absolutely tremendous driving roads; the challenge was putting them all together. After much scratching of heads, a plan was devised and the event will be competitive right to the end. The Royal Hotel in Sanremo will be a fitting place to both start and finish Carrera Italia and we particularly look forward to the gala prize-giving dinner and welcoming our new President.
For Jim and me, however, there were still two days of work. The roads behind Sanremo are some of the greatest classics in the history of rallying. However, the severe storms and floods of October 2020 have left their mark and we frequently had to backtrack due to washaways and road closures. We did, nevertheless, find a great route and surprising venues for coffee and lunch. The afternoon saw us in the wonderful wine region of Barolo and we currently plan to end the day with a little tasting! Our overnight halt was used by Ferrari in 2020 for the European press launch of the Roma so again we feel we have chosen well….
Day two of the rally, and the final day of our recce, sees us crossing the plain between Turin and Milan before heading to the Italian lakes. Hills are in short supply as are regularities. However, this is more than made up for by the number of great test venues available to us. This will be a day to be remembered, particularly by the drivers. Our route took us right past Malpensa airport which is where we started and after 3,100 kilometres of recce we reluctantly said “Arrivederci” to Italy.
It had been a whirlwind tour but been great to get back on the road. The rally promises to be a cracker. Don’t miss it!