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