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On a weekend of motorsport indulgence in front of the TV at home with FPR finally winning Bathurst, Vettel one step closer to yet another F1 title in Japan, and Pedrosa knocking his fellow countryman off the top step in Malaysia, I jumped on a lengthy 24 hour plane trip to Italy for just three days to soak up another classic rally. So who's the crazy one?


There's no doubt about it, classic rallying is bloody addictive and the 11th running of the Rally Legend event at the world's smallest republic in San Marino is a ripper.

2013 Rally Legend - Lancia Delta S4A few weeks back I took in the Eifel Rallye Festival in Germany, and so when word got out there was another event hot on it's heels, I just had to be there. At only 61 square kilometres it's pretty easy to miss San Marino on the map, but it's tarmac rallying heaven.

Completely land locked by its big brother, the locals will tell you they're from San Marino, but it's the Italian Lancia legend which makes this event. Think Ferrari Tifosi and apply it to rallying - they're crazy about those iconic Martini Lancias and there are thousands of fanatics along (and on!) the road to watch their passing.

No less than four former champions turned up: Sainz, Alen, Biasion and Auriol, who between them hold six titles, but the name dropping doesn't stop there. Former factory drivers Per Eklund and Gigi Galli, Group N world champ Gustovo Trelles, Sandro Munari, multiple Italian champion Franco Cunico, Jimmy McRae (yes Colin's dad, who was British champion), they were all on board for the ride. In a dedication to his famous brother, Finland's Harri Toivonen thrilled the crowd in a Lancia 037 the legendary Henri used before his untimely death in 1986 at the Tour de Corse.

"The younger ones (probably referring to Biasion and Auriol) are crazy, full speed just like a real rally, much quicker than me," said Mr Maximum Attack himself, Markku Alen.

Markku Alen, 2013 Rally Legend"You know these cars are now 30 years old," he added, admiring his Lancia 037 swarming with mechanics during a roadside service. "And they're quicker than they were in my day: better brakes, better tyres, more power, everything better… phew…. is too fast for ole man, but anyway I try," said the lanky Finn in his staccato English for which he is famous.

Absolutely nothing can prepare you for the sight of more than a dozen Lancia 037's and Delta S4's belting up and down roads which make a coil spring look straight - the cream of the crop from the heydays of Group B rallying was just metres away from me at full noise and driven flat out by real rally drivers with  proven credentials, not gently by in a passing parade by rich men in tweed jackets.

Throw in close to 30 Delta Integrales from the late 80s, a couple of beautiful Peugeot 205 T16s, Ford RS200s, Fiat 131 Abarths, the ugly ducking Metro 6R4 and you have an event not to be missed with more than 150 cars all up. But wait, there's more…..

Audi Quattro S1, 2013 Rally LegendAudi Tradition brought two icons from their museum in Ingolstadt. One was the A2 Quattro driven by former German Champ, Harald Demuth, with Michelle Mouton's former co-driver, Fabrizia Pons, alongside. But the absolute highlight had to be the Audi Sport S1 Quattro at full noise, zig-zagging its way up the mountainside. I'll swear you could hear the winged beast all around San Marino all weekend, it was simply THAT good.

Never ever have I seen a rally car lift its front wheels off the ground under acceleration, and I've seen a lot of rally cars over 30 years. The actual S1 in action was the very last one built by the factory and never rallied, until now that was. Popping and banging with flames belching from the exhaust, folks that weren't even born when it reached it's prime mimicked the noise in anticipating of it's arrival. Simply fabulous!

Throw in a handful of night stages that ran into the wee early hours of Saturday morning, fireworks, thousands of spectators, and you've got Rally Legend, San Marino style.

For a moment the sanitised world in which we live seemed a long way off. This was the rallying paradise I remember. What ever happened during the last 30 years?

There were no politically correct rules to abide, minimal ugly tape at road closures, spectators all over the place on the outside of corners and on the route in some cases, crews at maximum attack, servicing on the side of the road, noise, noise and more noise, and the punters loved it.

Audi Quattro A2, 2013 Rally LegendEven a huge jump with post landing crash though a fence into the front of a building by a guy in a BMW M30 drew a swarm of people to help evacuate the crew between cars. The rally goes on regardless.

It's big business in Europe with both the classic Tour de Corse and Classic Costa Brava in Spain all on the same weekend. Combined there were close to 350 cars across those three events. Can you imagine if they were all at the same rally!

It was tough leaving it all behind and heading for home. A weekend to remember for a long long time…. long live Group B.

Bring on 2014. Monte Carlo Classic is only a couple of months away in January.

Story and photos by Stuart Bowes. See more photos HERE.

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