The intense emotion experienced at that point where a sense of wonder at the magnificence of the natural world meets fear is what, in the ancient world, was called the “sublime”. The sublime is an element of the most wonderful moments in automotive and car racing history — moments that are now increasingly rare, as the convenience and perfection of the modern world make everything feel less authentic. A failure to pursue the sublime has stripped many classic car events of their special charm: after all, nowadays, as a rule, everything is well planned and perfectly organized.
Any time, any route. Finding yourself alone in a vast landscape is a special and unique emotion.
Yet there are some exceptions: rally raids, for example, offering no certainties, give us back the prospect of real adventures. And let’s be clear, we don’t mean adventures at the wheels of the comfortable, well-braked, super-efficient, air-conditioned cars we are used to today. We mean adventures experienced in raw and simple classic cars, which are vulnerable, certainly, but ready to take on anything.
The Dakar Classic in a two-wheel-drive Peugeot 504 Pick-Up? Yes, even that is possible, as an Italian team showed at the inaugural 2021 event.
To be more specific, if you are looking for the ultimate sublime experience, there is the Peking-Paris, to start with, or the Dakar Classic, this year being held for the first time. The event, organized by the exuberant David Castera, stems from his determination to keep alive the memory of a magnificent competition, initially created for the African desert and now itinerant. In all, 23 crews completed the course in Saudi Arabia, one in the splendid Porsche 911 3.0 SC, in Rothmans livery, that won the 1984 Dakar. Here, we are almost in the realm of professional driving, and the same applies to the Peking-Paris, which Giorgio Schon entered in a Ferrari 308 GTS. Schon’s account of his exhausting adventure was published in the “The Key 2020”.
In raids, there is also room for pre-war models. And they don't have to be called Invicta!
Despite the uncertainties linked to the ongoing pandemic, there are plenty of exciting dates on the calendar, even for those who, simply because they happen to be in the area, might decide to go along and watch. The Flying Scotsman vintage rally will be taking place for the twelfth time this coming April, offering an itinerary, in England and Scotland, made even more challenging by the need to drive on the left. This event is feasible even for amateur enthusiasts (providing they are good).
The magnificence of the natural world helps to make the great raids epic events.
Temple Rally, taking place in May, is a tougher event: 12 days long, with a route that starts in Greece and ends in Rome. Moving on, July 1st will see the start of the Silk Way Rally: 10 days and 10 stages, taking in Russia, Mongolia and China: 5000 km of thrilling adventure!
This is a growing world, and this autumn will bring a choice between Peru and Morocco, in other words, between the Lima to Cape Horn and the Sahara Rally, both challenging events promising sublime experiences but demanding great skill.
37 years on, this time with a female crew, the Porsche 911 3.0 SC that won the 1984 Dakar.
Ultimately, today, the best way to enjoy your beloved classic car is to have adventures in it. It is worth noting that there are numerous less high-profile events that are excellent for those wanting to “cut their teeth”. Among the many organizers, we here mention two particularly famous ones, both great at what they do: Hero Events, which organizes the Peking-Paris, as well as very useful training days (https://heroevents.eu/), and Cyril Neveu (http://cyrilneveupromotion.com/), multiple times winner of the Dakar Rally in the motorcycle category, and now an expert at finding great new routes.
The uncertainty of the current times means we cannot take it for granted that all the above events will go ahead, but with things the way they are, it does us good to hope!
A completely trouble-free trip for this Ferrari 308 GTS at the Peking-Paris. The story of the race is published in “The Key 2020”.
During a raid you can expect to run into trouble of some kind, not least because, as in this case, the water level isn’t always indicated.
You don’t need expensive cars, but they certainly need to be robust and well equipped for the most demanding raids.
The icon of these events is still Prince Scipione Borghese’s Itala 35/45, which won the 1907 Pe-king-Paris.
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER