Pirelli Classic Marathon (’89-’92)

In 2013 the Pirelli Classic Marathon celebrated its 25th anniversary and fittingly with the original sponsor providing the backing. To find out more we bought 4 DVD’s from 1989 to 1992 all reproduced by Duke in 2008 and all from a time when the event started on London Bridge with famous names such as Moss, Hopkirk, Clark, Makinen and Unser at the wheel.

One observation was that crash helmets were clearly optional, despite full on special stages run through tree lined tracks and steep drops on mountain sections as the event wound its way down through Europe in a tribute to the famous Alpine rallies of 25 years before. However when I watched the first DVD, the 1989 Pirelli Classic Marathon, I wasn’t convinced. The only thing I could take from it was just how aggressively Moss fired his well sorted Ron Gammons prepared MGB up the mountain passes with firm up changes that clearly relied on a very strong box indeed to survive the 2,000 mile event. But as all the right ingredients were clearly present I pressed on with the next three 50min editions.

Well, I’m glad I did because what unfolded was some seriously competitive driving. Moss tried harder each time despite novice navigators and a slightly underpowered choice of car in the MGB. He did switch in 1991 to a more powerful Healey 3000 but that didn’t work out very well and he returned in 1992 with another B. Hopkirk managed to take victory in his Mini Cooper S, I won’t say when, and a few fell foul to the challenging conditions, a clear indication of quite how seriously this event was being taken. Each year the crews went quicker with the rally legends bringing along experienced navigators. When you think of the advantage that must have brought it is quite incredible Moss did as well as he did with his rookie crew members.

Pirelli Classic Marathon
Hopkirk managed to take one victory in the mighty Mini Cooper S

In the interviews held at different times along the way, when asked whether the event successfully mirrored the past, all to a man said the cars they were driving were faster than before. The only difference therefore was the speed of the now retired stars who did get beaten at times by younger and relatively unknown names. Typically within the mix of 100+ cars setting off, as well as those out for victory, there were many others just there for fun. Within the latter group were also people who were quite clearly completely bonkers leaving you wondering whether they would make it even half way, they did, how absolutely British is that.

Pirelli Classic Marathon
E-Types performed very well every year

This series of DVD’s makes you realise how competitive drivers remain despite aging years. The quality of the leading cars is superb, they are without doubt the real deal and driven absolutely flat out up every mountain pass and then back down again. As a result some of the cars suffer real classic car issues requiring parts to be prized from every available source. In the case of Clark that even included putting an egg put into a leaking radiator. It worked. It was also great to see rally legends like Mini’s and Cortina’s pitched against MGB’s with the latter performing surprisingly well over the full course distance. Something I think that is testament indeed to Gammons preparation work, as Ron provided all the leading Abingdon cars, even piloting one of them to good effect himself.

The Pirelli Classic Marathon DVD’s from 1989 to 1991 and Mitsubishi backed event in 1992 are the perfect addition to any classic car fan’s private collection; use the first one to set the scene before settling into and enjoying the rest as the battles rage stronger each year.

Pirelli Classic Marathon

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