This Sunday I’ll be on a plane to Rome. I’m participating in the 15th running of the Modena Cento Ore Classic.
My copilot is Lilly Pray, and it’s her first time driving in an event in Europe.
I’ve driven in the MCO several times before, in an Alfa Romeo Giulia TI Super (with SCMer Monte Shelton), an Alfa Romeo GT Junior (with SCMer Joe Tomasetti) and a European 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera — the car we will be driving again this year.
“The ‘Cento Ore’ will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a very special edition, featuring a ‘one-off’ route, which will cross Italy from Rome to Modena. Four days, four circuit races and a dozen uphill special stages, across four wonderful Italian regions. Participants will also savor the best hotels of Rome, Perugia, Florence and Modena, evening entertainment, lunches and dinners in unique locations, great chefs and the best Italian wines, and the cozy and friendly atmosphere we really care about.
The ‘Cento Ore’ is a great combination of wonderful cars, gentlemen drivers, competition, tourism, gastronomy and relaxation. It is also the only classic rally in Italy, and one of the few in the world, where participants can compete on circuits and mountain roads closed to traffic.”
I’m driving the “regularity” section rather than the “competition.” I’ve participated in both, and while the competition section is automotive nirvana, I simply didn’t have time to renew my racing license and make the necessary preparations.
There are four circuit races in this event. The cars in competition grid up for a standing-start SCCA-style 15-minute race, with no holds barred. When you drive in the hillclimbs, you run flat-out against the clock. There’s nothing quite like putting on your racing suit first thing in the morning, driving a couple of hillclimbs and a race, and finishing up with a glass of Prosecco at a castle at the end of the day.
In regularity, you drive on all of the same roads, but your goal is to match specific checkpoint arrival times. The Europeans are fanatic about the regularity class, and their dashes are festooned with electronic aids.
I’ve told Lilly I don’t care where we place. Our number one goal is just not to get lost.
I’ve been driving in European (and South American) events since 1992, when I participated in the Mille Miglia. There are several reasons why tours and rallies here in the U.S. will never offer the same level of excitement and satisfaction:
First and most important, in Europe, the local culture adores sports cars and enthusiastically supports the events. There are always people lining the highways waving and cheering as you go by.
By contrast, in the U.S., it’s not unusual for residents of small towns to call the police when the first car with a noisy exhaust rolls by, setting off a revenue-driven feeding frenzy for the local authorities.
European events have the support of the police. They wave you through intersections. They have no problem closing roads for special sections. They don’t like it when you drive stupidly, but they admire it when you motor along briskly.
Let’s face it — when you are driving a European car in Europe, the car is in its homeland. In the case of the MCO, we will begin in Rome and end in Modena. This is the region of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini and Maserati.
In addition, while Oregon and Washington have a lot of magnificent scenery, there’s nothing quite like driving past the Coliseum in Rome or parking near the Piazza Ognissanti in the center of Florence.
We’ll have a full report on the race, and I will be posting regularly to Facebook.