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Well-travelled South Australian, Jeremy Browne, contested the Corsica Historic Rally in his Lancia Fulvia last month.

Browne and co-driver, Claire Dowling, were up against a host of Group B Supercars, but his trip was more about the experience than the end result.

Here’s his story …..


After last year’s Eifel Rallye, we drove my Lancia Fulvia back to storage near Paris and thought about the 2007 adventure.

Think of the island of Corsica and think of the “Tour de Corse”. Narrow twisty roads, massive drops, old stone bridges, some great rallies and the accidents which brought Group B to an end.

In 2006 a new historic rally started in Corsica, with competition and regularity and using some of the legendary WRC roads based in Ajaccio, the island’s capital.

This year it was on again and I took the opportunity to join Reinhard Klein’s “Slowly Sideways” group again, running in the regularity section. While it is nicer to actually compete, the difficulties of competing properly so far from home, and the high costs of keeping an FIA licence make this option very attractive. The slow average speeds mean that you can drive as fast as you want without breaking any arbitrary limits!

We had experienced gear selection problems in Germany last year and I was unsure of the cause, so given the narrow roads of Corsica, a spare gearbox with a 5.9 final drive, giving a top speed of 135 km/h, was prepared in Adelaide and flown over.  The ratio proved correct - on one stage we were not able to get into fifth.

After flying to Paris I spent a few days getting the car ready, then drove the 800km to Toulon in the south of France, collecting a drum of ELF fuel at Lyon on the way. A six hour ferry crossing got us to Ajaccio, where the SA crew of Claire Dowling and David Rudzitis were waiting for me at our rented apartment. Claire was an excellent co-driver, while David got to drive the service car with a drum of Elf and a few spare parts.

Recce was available, so after a day trip on the Corsica railways to Corte, we set off in a hired Renault Megane diesel to cover the stages twice and make notes. In SA we typically get 2-3 km per page of notes – in Corsica it was only 1km per page.

Nothing could highlight the difference in attitude between Australia and France more than “Scotty’s Corner”,  named by us in honour of the Chief Safety Officer of Classic Adelaide and Rally SA.  A blind sharp right exposed crews to a 1000 metre drop to a river. No signs, barriers, fence, tulip in the road book or mention at briefing. Can you imagine the reaction in Australia? Safety tape, signs, warnings, disclaimers and water barriers.

As in Ireland previously, the driving standards were very high, despite the tricky conditions with showers and narrow, twisty roads. There were very few off-road incidents.

The rally started on Friday afternoon with a 4km prologue stage run twice, followed by a great beach party. Saturday was three stages run twice and Sunday saw two stages run twice. Stages were 10-20km long, with average speeds of 60–70 km/h, so although the total competitive was only 160km, it was the equivalent of about 300km in Australia, based on the competitive time.

Regularity was set at three speeds – 45, 55 or 65 km/h. For the higher speeds, safety equipment was required, but you could enter the 45km/h category without roll-bars. We found 65 very hard to achieve on some stages.

The competition section was dominated by Porsche 911s, but there were also some very quick Opel Asconas, Renault R5 Turbo and Ford Escorts. Regularity had an enormous range of cars, all very original.

Overall a Porsche won out, but was closely followed by the two Asconas.

There were 160 cars in total, mostly from France, but with a smattering of German, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch, Spanish and British competitors. There was a New Zealander living in Spain, but we were the only crew from outside Europe. Only French was spoken at the controls, but our stock of give-away koalas were well received.

The entry fee was under a thousand dollars, accommodation was cheap, as was the ferry, so it made many Australian tarmac rallies look very expensive.

It was 40 years since Sandro Munari had won the Tour de Corse in a Lancia Fulvia, so it was special to be in Corsica in 2007. I was even able to stop for a coffee with Sandro in Bologna on the long drive back to Paris.

The Fulvia has taken me to five great rally experiences in Europe, which was always the plan, but I think my travels with “Olivia” are over for now. Building a replica seems like a good option!


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