Journal: Here’s How Racers Get Ready To Face The Fearsome Dolomite Mountains

Here’s How Racers Get Ready To Face The Fearsome Dolomite Mountains

Avatar By Jacopo Villa
May 2, 2016
7 comments

Photography By Federico Bajetti

The day before a historic rally is one of those experiences that only this form of motorsport can produce. If you love rallying, I strongly advise to go see any and all regional races held in your country. Go a bit earlier, and you’ll see that getting a car ready to compete isn’t an insurmountable (or prohibitively expensive) goal.

While following the modern day World Rally Championship is still way more entertaining than Formula 1, small events like this are the essence of the sport. It’s not about the cars: it’s all about the people who participate. The Valsugana Historic Rally, held in Italy’s Valsugana valley, is one of those races that gives you the perspective of what one can do when passion for rally is set free. It’s a one-day event which—besides being the best way to spend a Saturday—it’s an excuse to hike on mountains to see some racing.

We received an informal invitation from our friend Marco Frainer to join him in the preparation of his 1989 Opel Kadett GSi, one of those forgotten Cosworth-tuned hot hatches from the days gone by. Although not as competitive as a Renault Clio, which is a popular sight in rallying, it is a less sophisticated car overall. It represents, however, the pinnacle of hot hatch rally cars…at an affordable price.

The equipment upgrades to Marco’s car from stock are very minimal: a tuned engine, reinforced suspension, and the racing harnesses. It doesn’t get as basic as this package. The bodywork? Completely stock. No fancy carbon fiber (except for the air intake), or ultra high-tech materials.

Before being a capable rally driver, he began as a car mechanic: you shouldn’t be surprised that his hands were not only on his car during the time we spent with him. As a matter of fact, his shop looked like the epicenter for all cars that were participating in the event. Being located at the bottom of the Sella valley, the sound of the cars coming and going was reverberating all across the place: it was truly surreal.

While still being very friendly, Marco was busy dividing himself between the preparation of his 1989 Opel Kadett GSI 16v and the constant flow of customers that kept coming to make final adjustments.

While Marco’s shop is the headquarters of the Scuderia Manghen Team, he never refuses to help other competitors out. During the time we spent with him in his shop entered a yellow Fiat 131 Abarth Rally, two Autobianchi A112s, and a Porsche 911 SC, all to receive final adjustments. This is the sort of collaboration that you only come across in historic rallies: everyone helps everyone.

In a world where racing is getting more expensive and, at the top end, is tough without manufacturer backing or a large bank account, old-school rallying is a breath of fresh air. Rallying is built on the very honest philosophy of driving on varied roads, and at its core, it’s events like the Valsugana Historic Rally that remind us why we love cars so much.

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Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

You’ve just got to love how agreeing with the writer … adding to his comments rather than disagreeing … not to mention expressing an honest and well founded opinion based on reality and facts has become the new .. Old and Bitter ! Well my revisionist dictionary fans … old(er) I may be … wiser most definitely .. a hell of a lot more experienced you betcha.. blunt and honest almost to a fault , guilty as charged … but trust me .. in light of my current position/status in life … bitter never even enters into the equation .… Read more »

Maxime Veilleux
Maxime Veilleux

Skipping GS comment about the past.

Is the car in the first picture in the third row of picture (with a guy exiting it)
an Autobianchi?

Definitely wish something like this would be available in Canada.

Great pictures as always.

Maxime Veilleux
Maxime Veilleux

Just paid closer attention to the article and saw that the car is an Autobianchi A112 sorry about that.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

1) Honestly …. be glad they never did ! Import the Autobianchi NA way that is . It was the worst combination of desperate and unreliable parts imaginable
2) Funny that a car [ the A112 ] with absolutely zero rallying history would not only make its way onto this event but be featured in the header of the article as well . Proof positive once again that Historic Rally and Racing .. is neither historic … rallying .. or racing in the slightest . Its all about the parade and the conspicuous displaying of ones possessions

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Varied roads [ both paved and unpaved ] of various lengths , varied weather [ remembering when a blizzard was no excuse for canceling a stage ] and varied conditions [ night and day ] in a wide variety of cars both factory and private entries driven by a wide variety of characters/drivers . Those were the days ..sigh Now its all manufactures teams with overly homogenized cars .. driven by homogenized corporate drones .. on safe little micro stages .. daylight only .. in only the safest of conditions [ rain is enough of an excuse to cancel a… Read more »

De Dion
De Dion

Now you just sound old and bitter. WRC has definitely became boring compared to the past and that is mainly due too sophisticated cars and every event being forced into the same mold (short and fast). But still, they race on tarmac, gravel, snow, dirt.. you name it. They race in every possible weather. The only things missing from the events are the sense of adventure and the endurance aspect.

And if the WRC doesn’t float your boat there are countless series around the world with cars from historic to modern and everything in between.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

@ De Dion – Not to be contentious or anything but you’re sounding terribly young and utterly clueless ! Seen any mixed stages [ gravel and pavement on the same stage ] lately ? Been paying attention as to how many stages get canceled because of weather ? Witnessed any night stages recently ? When’s the last time a stage even reached 20 miles in length not to mention exceeded it ? And tell me … whens the last time a winner came out of the ranks of amateurs ? Not to mention who might even so much as approach… Read more »