Homage to Catalonia
Competition and hospitality in glorious Spanish scenery
This, The sixTh running of the event after previous editions in Tunisia, Argentina, Morocco and Tuscany, saw a return to the stages of Catalonia – which were to be used by the World Rally Championship just a few days later. It was organised by Dakar legend Jean-Claude Morellet.
Whether your preferred mount was a 1953 Citroën 2CV (which 2CV collector Jean-Pierre Lenfant had balanced on its side for emergency servicing in the parking lot of the very chic hotel where the rally was staying) or a modern 911 called into action at the last minute, you could not fail to be impressed by the roads, vistas and the camaraderie of the crews. Each day saw impromptu regularity coaching among the co-pilots before the start, and genuine joy among the teams at the nightly prizegiving and film show, especially if a previously unlucky crew had managed to conjure a stage win.
With 15 regularities spread over five days and 1325km, the organisers threw in a Speed Gun challenge (a short dash into and then out of an uphill hairpin) which was dominated by two Porsches: the youngest participant, Fabrice Gervasoni, and the oldest, Jean-Claude Miloe, who is a sprightly 83.
In the final standings, each of the first four also won their category: leading outright from start to finish, Philippe and Nicole Gervasoni, in a beautiful 1957 Jaguar XK150 coupé, also won Category 1 (’50s). Yves Morizot (co-driven by myself) in a 1973 Lancia Fulvia claimed second overall and Category 3 (’70s), while Yannick Morizot (brother of Yves) and his wife Jacqueline in a 1982 Porsche 911 Targa came third and won Category 4 (’80s). The only 100% non-French crew on the rally, brothers Martin and Peter Schmitt from Switzerland, in their 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, took fourth overall and won Category 2 (’60s).
Hospitality for crews included a stunning parador and a restored monastery, Michelinstarred restaurants in the middle of nowhere, and lunch under the arches of the medieval village of Monells. The final stop saw participants park by the Olympic Port in Barcelona for lunch at the famous Cangrejo Loco, before a gala dinner and awards ceremony in the evening.
With the emphasis on the quality of the routes matched by the food and accommodation, it is no surprise that 14 of the 18 crews had already participated in at least one of the previous events. It returns for 2016 in Sardinia, 2-9 October.
Above, from top The winning Jaguar XK150; topless Daytona and Lancia Fulvia coupé make the most of Spanish sun and scenery.