Clas­sic tiddlers from 200-700cc bat­tled Alpine passes, cir­cuits and nav­i­ga­tional tests on the Di­a­mond Ju­bilee Liège-bres­cia-liège Rally


Meet the hardy bunch who ral­lied 2000 miles across Europe… in bub­ble cars!

An in­domitable spirit, great ca­ma­raderie and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to never give up car­ried crews through this unique his­toric rally, held from 11-22 July this year. Nurs­ing frag­ile, un­der­pow­ered microcars for 2000 miles over nu­mer­ous steep moun­tain passes is a spe­cial chal­lenge for driver and nav­i­ga­tor alike: you drive flat-out most of the time, without break­ing speed lim­its, and nav­i­ga­tion must be spot-on.

Mick Bell had won Spirit of the Rally with wife Sara in the 2008 event in their BMW Isetta 300, driv­ing all night to catch up af­ter re­plac­ing a main bear­ing in Ljubl­jana. This time a last-minute fam­ily emer­gency forced Sara to stay at home, re­placed by 15-year-old nephew Chris. They had a fan­tas­tic rally, tack­ling all of the tough­est passes, per­form­ing well on the cir­cuit tests and, be­cause theirs was the small­estengined car to find ev­ery pas­sage con­trol, Chris earned the Best Nav­i­ga­tor Os­car at the prize­giv­ing din­ner back in Liège.

Two ral­lies in one, Liège-bres­cia-liège 2018 was con­tested by 19 sub-500cc cars in the Au­then­tic Cat­e­gory (of a type that could have com­peted in the orig­i­nal 1958 event), and 19 more in the Spirit Cat­e­gory (of a type built be­fore 1968 and sub-700cc). Au­to­bianchi Bianchina Tras­forma­bile and Panoram­ica, Berke­ley SE328, SE492 and B95, BMW Isetta and 700, CAP Scoiat­tolo, Cit­roën 2CV, Fiat 500 and Gamine, FMR Tg500, Heinkel 200, NSU Prinz 3 and Sport Prinz, Steyr-puch 500 and 650, Tra­bant P601, UMAP 2CV, Vespa 400 and Zun­dapp Janus – the list of en­tries was a cat­a­logue of rare and tiny ma­chines – en­tered from the UK, Ire­land, France, Ger­many, Bel­gium, The Nether­lands, Aus­tria and the USA. All had to plot the route on maps pro­vided, then nav­i­gate the event us­ing only those maps.

‘This be­ing a true en­durance rally, there was a penalty if the RAC worked on your car, so they sim­ply pro­vided tools while com­peti­tors fixed their own ma­chines’

Great par­al­lels with 1958 in­cluded the en­try of no fewer than six Berke­leys – and the fact that the first test, on the bril­liant Liedol­sheim kart cir­cuit in Ger­many, was won by a Berke­ley SE492, crewed by Ian and Me­lanie Danaford, who hit the tar­get time bang-on by pure luck, lead­ing the rally into the Alps. This time, how­ever, the two FMR (Messer­schmitt) Tigers were both just one se­cond be­hind, and would soon take an unas­sail­able lead as they ticked off ev­ery pas­sage con­trol and showed amaz­ing time­keep­ing on the two re­main­ing tests, in­clud­ing a three-lap con­sis­tency chal­lenge at the im­pres­sive Au­to­dromo di Fran­ci­a­corta near Bres­cia. Rally leg­end Willy Cave wasn’t far be­hind, nav­i­gat­ing a Cit­roën 2CV, at the age of 91.

The RAC res­cue van was cheer­ily crewed by Si­mon Court­ney and Mike Collins, help­ing com­peti­tors along the way by chang­ing the clutch on a Berke­ley and a flex­i­ble brake hose on the NSU Sport Prinz. This be­ing a true en­durance rally, how­ever, there was a penalty if oth­ers worked on your car – so on quite a few oc­ca­sions the RAC sim­ply pro­vided safety and tools while com­peti­tors fixed their own ma­chines.

Bat­tling away doggedly and cheer­fully at the back of the field was the fa­ther-and-son team of Xavier and David Kings­land. Xavier had just re­built his Berke­ley SE328 and gamely brought it along, de­spite no shake­down time, ex­pect­ing to drop out of the rally af­ter day one. With con­stant fet­tling, how­ever, the car not only made it, but also steadily im­proved. Xavier said: “The spirit in which all of the com­peti­tors un­der­took the event and the fab­u­lous ter­rain that the route cov­ered, not to men­tion the climbs and hair­pin turns, will re­main most won­der­ful mem­o­ries for us both for years to come.”

The 2019 Liège-bres­cia-liège Rally will be for Tri­umph TRS. The next Mi­cro Marathon hits the Pyre­nees in 2020. See www.clas­s­i­cral­ly­press.co.uk

Passo Por­doi in the Dolomites is a se­ri­ous, tor­tu­ous climb up to 2239m, here tack­led by John Ron­deau and Steve Gip­son in Noddy-style Fiat Gamine and, right, by An­drew Ish­er­wood and Hi­lary Far­bowski in their Berke­ley SE492 – the only car to re­ally chal­lenge the Tigers’ dom­i­nance

Above: Au­then­tic Cat­e­gory win­ners Mark and Jane Smith (FMR Tg500) had in­curred just 3 secs of penal­ties af­ter 10 days. Right: Ladies’ Team vic­tors Patty Sch­warze and Dorothy Dans­berger are fol­lowed through the lanes of south­ern Ger­many by an­other Us-crewed 2CV, plus Aus­trian-en­tered Prinz and Steyr-puchs

Left: su­per-rare UMAP of Jaap van den Broek and Roel Di­jk­stra from The Nether­lands en­joy­ing a gravel pass through the Slove­nian for­est – this may be the ac­tual car that fin­ished 12th on the 1958 rally. Above: Mar­tin O’dono­van welds a drive­shaft to keep his Au­to­bianchi (shipped over from the US) in the rally

Above: or­gan­iser Mal­colm Mckay flags away car 1, a 204cc 1958 Heinkel driven by in­domitable 83-year old John Ducker, who bat­tled through with the small­estengined car de­spite hav­ing to train a novice 13-yearold nav­i­ga­tor from day two

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