The Trofeo Tollegno Was A Two-Day Display Of Timeless Sports And Rally Cars In Biella
Photography by Rosario Liberti
One of Italy’s many charms is the fact that almost every region in the country has managed to preserve its own flavor in terms of the natural landscape, the architecture, the local traditions, and, last but not least, the food. Switching to the subject we all love most—pretty cars that go fast—the pattern holds true. I think it’s worth clarifying for a moment the general layout of Italy’s automotive map.
The so-called Motor Valley is an extended section of land in northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, which includes Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and the a swath of coastline along the Adriatic Sea. Here, you can count factories and company headquarters of the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani, Dallara, Ducati, and more. Better yet, should you visit the area with a hankering for a track visit, circuits like Autodromo Riccardo Paletti (Varano), Imola, or Misano. It is also the place where Enzo Ferrari, Ferruccio Lamborghini, and Valentino Rossi were born. As you probably already know, the Motor Valley is well worth exploring, and the history has been steadily compounding over time to make it a modern mecca for the engine enthusiast.
Moving south from the Valley, we quickly—it is a one hour flight after all—arrive in Sicily. The largest island of the Mediterranean Sea hosted parts of Fiat’s and Lancia’s production during the period between 1970 and 2011, but besides that, the area is famous around the world for one of the oldest and most bucket-listed endurance road racing events in motorsport history: the Targa Florio. Founded in 1906 by Italian race driver Vincenzo Florio, the Targa was held around the Circuito delle Madonie—basically an open road track to be lapped several times, from the sea to the mountains through treacherous curves in between.
By the mid 1920s, the race was the one of the biggest in Europe, as neither the 24 Hours of Le Mans nor the Mille Miglia had been established yet. Rosario, our photographer, spent a significant amount of his childhood up in the small village of Isnello, in the middle of the Targa Florio’s route, and the area has retained the flavors and feelings of this mythological racing era, in both the roads and the people who drive them on a daily basis.
The third major Italian automotive district is rooted in the Piemonte region between Turin, Chivasso, Balocco, and Biella. Fiat, Abarth, and Lancia were all founded in Turin, though Lancia would later move within Piemonte to Chivasso, bringing along its Reparto Corse, the once-glorious racing team, and the Balocco Proving Ground, the private test track of FCA group, exists as a fantasy for most, but a test track for Alfa Romeo team drivers and engineers since 1962. But what about Biella?
I always knew Biella, located almost exactly between Turin and Milan, as being famous for its wool processing and textile industries, but not so much its automotive side. The city was built around textiles beginning in the 13th century, and today, when the greatest tailors in menswear seek out the best materials in the land, they look toward those coming from Biella. A few years ago however, I also discovered that the area was also deeply connected to Lancia’s motorsports department.
Here, the elders say, there was a time when there were more Stratos around Biella than anywhere else in the world. This is due to the fact that factory driver Claudio Maglioli once operated a famous atelier/workshop in the area, where Fulvia HFs and Stratos cars were finely tuned for rallying and road racing. In this place, cars such as the Lancia Beta HF and the turbocharged Group 5 Montecarlos joined Group C prototypes and 037s. Today, many impactful collectors are semi-secretly storing their Martini Racing or Alitalia-liveried rally jewels around Biella, and so as before, the area’s DNA is very much helix’d around Lancia motorsport.
To take advantage of this the textile brand Tollegno 1900 started the Trofeo Tollegno 1900 Lana Gatto Revival, a regularity rally for both classic and tasteful modern machinery. The aim of the rally was to re-enact in some sense the old Lana Gatto Rally, a famous event during its time, between 1973 and 2011. The Trofeo Tollegno has been held five times now, and the 2019 edition was the most exclusive yet. All the cars have been strictly selected by the organization. Amongst them, several Lancia 037 and S4 Stradales, a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, an alloy-bodied 275 GTB, a 512 BB, and several Stuttgart-made cars in the form of a 911 RSR, and a Carrera GT, among other P-cars.
In total, 120 cars were featured, and almost invariably they came with interesting stories and owners happy to share them—almost a rule when motoring events like these are organized by proper car enthusiasts like the Germanetti brothers, the owners of Tollegno 1900.
However, the rarest car of the lot was probably the Lancia Fulvia F&M Special, wherein the “F” stands for Fiorio, Cesare, and the “M” for Maglioli, Umberto, brother to the aforementioned Claudio Maglioli. The car itself is a barchetta-style super lightweight Fulvia. It scored a 9th place overall at the the 1969 Targa Florio, and a class victory at the Nürburgring 1000km in the same year, so it has a bit of special provenance you could say.
Later in the first day, all the participants drove from Biella to visit Balocco’s Proving Ground via Castellengo, and then finished the first leg of the race in the evening back in Biella. On Day 2, the group moved out to Bielmonte—the heart of the Oasi Zegna nature reserve—and arrived in the Sanctuary of Oropa for lunch, ending the second and final leg at the Lanificio Tollegno. The overall victory went to a Fiat 850 Sport Coupé from the Valsessera Jolly Club.
One of my favorite things about living in this country is the infinite amount of automotive history to not only be found, but to be maintained into the future. It’s all but easy to find beautiful events like this all summer long, and attending them with great cars and better friends begs the question of why you’d want to be anywhere else.