The Brits clean up at Modena Cento Ore

Photography and Words:  Sarah Bennett-Baggs

Phillip Walker and Howard Rehouse stole title honours for fourth consecutive year in the pre-65 Competition Class at this  year’s 2017 Modena Cento Ore. As Phillip Walker commented on picking up his prize “There isn’t a better event to take title honours – the roads, the venues, the organisation – it is the best event of its kind.”

Final results were incredibly close going into the final two stages with top crews separated by just seconds. British crews cleaned up much of the ‘Competition’ silverware as the AC Cobra of Mark Freeman and Mike Ellis were runners up and in third place Jeremy Cooke and Mike Dowd in their little Lotus Elan 26R. Both crews are experienced hands at this event, but it was a great comeback for Cooke/Dowd after crashing specularly out of last year’s event.

A broken throttle cable at the start of the final day, followed by an electrical fire before the first stage nearly hampered the Cooke/Dowd campaign, but fast reactions with two fire extinguishers helped by two bottles of Evian extinguished the flames before the little Elan could turn into bubble gum. Unruffled the slightly blackened car made the first of the two final stages with just seconds to spare.

In the Competition Classes (Post65 -Pre81) the French crew of François and Jacques Entremont took the top prize in their Ferrari 308 GTB. The fair haired duo Will I’Anson and Chris Wilson were runners-up in another competition Ferrari 308 GTB. In third place more Brit Silverware was snaffled by Tim Summers and Max Girado – OK he’s swiss but he lives in Fulham so we’ll claim that one. The pair spent the week driving a competition Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona. You couldn’t miss them, they were the wild boys of the rally wearing two fat cheshire grins all week, like two naughty school boys enjoying ripping through the Italian countryside with a box of firecrackers in the boot.

The Index of Performance was won by the German crew of Albert Otten and Kai Billesfeld in his 1939 BMW 328 Roadster and our little 1954 Austin Healey 100/4 was 2nd in class. The stunning Ferrari 212 Export of Martin Haulsa and Susanne Haulsa was third.

Our week in the grey Healey 100/4 wasn’t without incident, we had clutch problems on day 1 due to the heat and the over-drive packed up on day 2. At the final race at Mugello the carburettor banjo fell apart, it was quickly repaired with rubber glue and tie-wraps which held fast to the end, we then ran out of brakes and had to get by using the handbrake as much as possible. With no working intercom we decided to keep conversation to a minimum which probably saved our marriage. But thanks to Jack Chatham for doing an amazing job of keeping us moving and the German Jaguar E-Type – Alex Berstein and Alex Hermann – who loaned us an intercom midweek saving my voice! Oh and my super fast hubby Mike Thorne who drove brilliantly all week.

As the week progressed the gruelling heat and some rough terrain took it’s toll on the classic machinery and claimed a number of casualties. The Lola T70 – which lets face it we all raised an eyebrow at it, on the entry list  – apparently didnt make it over the first speed-bump. Somewhat predictable!  Diff failure put an end to the Katarina Kyvolova’s campaign in her Jaguar E-Type. Adam Lindemann and Joe Twyman finished the rally but redesigned the front end of their E-Type on a hairpin into an unsuspecting car coming the other way, thankfully no one was hurt. Richard Evans nursed home his trumpet blasting yellow Iso Rivolta all the way to the finish but had to considerably ease off the gas to make it. The lovely Silver Porsche 904 of Mark Sumpter and David Clark lost oil pressure at the final race causing them to call it a day. The same happened to the Lotus Elan of Martin Eyears and Andrew Hall. The only other Healey in the race was a French entered 3000 which was running spectacularly well until the final day when a lock up on the final closed road stage speared them into the wall.

This year’s rally was pretty challenging for both man and machine taking in 11 special stages on roads closed to normal traffic and 3 races with starting grids, held at Misano, Magione and Mugello racetracks. All linked by some 1,300 km of beautiful roads taking drivers through Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, starting in Rimini and ending in Modena, with legs in Florence and Forte dei Marmi.

The entry grids of the Modena Cento Ore always look pretty impressive, but this year with the 70th Anniversary of Ferrari being celebrated the line-up included a dream collection of Ferrari classics including an impressive number of Ferrari 250 SWB and 275, not forgetting Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Ferrari 250 GTO which stole the show. Father and son team Tefft Smith took delivery of their incredible 1959 Ferrari Testorossa recreation (from GTO in Reading) on the day before the event start, adored everywhere it stopped. Other great cars included a Jaguar Lightweight E-Type, a 250 GT Boana, a Maserati 250S, a former Montecarlo Rally Renault Alpine, and an Alfa Romeo 8C Monza, not to mention aand the many Porsche 911 Carrera RSR models. Plus of course two-seater racing cars: Porsche 906, Lola T70, two Ford GT40 models…

Amongst the competitors we saw Duran Duran superstar Simon Le Bon who sadly left the event due to a family illness midweek also the German footballer and World Champion in 1974, Rainer Bonhof.

To sum it all up – Wow – What a great week. This event is a great challenge, nothing like the lengthy days incurred on the Mille Miglia/ Tour Auto/LCP, but it is still tough. Tough on the cars when you factor the heat, the not-so smooth road stages and the races. The scenery however is incredible, the wild flora and fauna up in the mountains was absolutely amazing. We stayed at some great hotels, and enjoyed some fantastic lunch stops. The very slick organisation of MCO is marking this event out as the one to be at. For us, it is the atmosphere, the camaraderie to help one another get to the end – whatever nationality – and spending a week with so many of your friends and meeting new ones who share a passion of owning and driving great classic cars. What could be better?

For Full Results and Official Press Gallery – click here.

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