In the beautiful Puerto Portals on the southern side of Mallorca, amongst the scores of 100ft yachts and fine restaurants, crowds gather at the start of what must be one of the most charismatic events in the motorsport calendar, the XII Oris Rally Clásico Puerto Portals.
All manner of metal is on show at the Oris Rally Clásico, from a one-off modern Ferrari-based interpretation of the Lancia Stratos, one of the stars of the show, to a Series 1 Jaguar E-Type Coupé, the poster boy of the event with its image plastered on every billboard, brochure and leaflet handed out to the eager spectators and nearby residents alike.
Other notable entrants include cars from the power-crazy world of 1980’s Group B Rallying; a Ford RS200, Renault 5 Turbo, Lancia Stratos and the unhinged Metro 6R4. All of them, expectedly, sounding glorious with their exhaust notes ricocheting off the valleys and hills of Mallorca.
In the typical glamorous style as expected with an event such as this, the start is on the water’s edge with a red carpet for the cars to approach the start line, one slight mishap here and you can turn your car into a £5m submarine; thankfully, all the cars stayed on dry land through the opening procession.
The start line is worthy of that red carpet too, incidentally overlooked by Flanigan’s restaurant – a favourite with the last King of Spain and a famous celebrity haunt of these parts, with a swathe of Hollywood A-listers calling Puerto Portals their summer retreat. Excellent food too, I am happy to confirm.
Those of you expecting a classic car rally to resemble a light jaunt along the French Riviera will be pleasantly disappointed. There are two categories of entry here: the former being regularity, which comprises of driving each segment of the course in a specified time at a specified average speed, and the latter being out-and-out racing – as you would expect, the fastest car wins here.
The racing category is not for the faint-hearted. There are numerous ex-rally champions of various guises driving their hugely expensive machinery millimetres from rock faces and sheer cliff edges. The black ribbon on the rear of the Group B Renault 5 Turbo is a sobering reminder of that – the co-driver of an identical car tragically perished in an accident in last year’s rally. When I tentatively asked the other drivers about this, they mostly shrugged and said ‘that’s a risk you always take when racing’.
The regularity category, thankfully, is a little more forgiving. This can be entered by most people, the speeds are much lower than that of the former race category and has an altogether more relaxed atmosphere surrounding it. Some take the regularity seriously, others were clearly there to enjoy the weather, roads and the glorious terrain surrounding the routes. A few beeps of the horn, beaming smiles and waves out of the window confirm this is a less competitive side to the event. If you are a first-time entrant to the Rally Clásico or a novice rally driver, this is where you would want to enter first.
13 stages make up the Oris Rally Clásico; a combination of fast, winding back roads around mid-Mallorca, and some absolutely spectacular mountain stages further north in the island. The former stages are comprised of undulating roads, rock walls surrounded by fields and villas – the action is extremely fast-paced.
The latter stages take place in the mountains with a combination of sea views, cliff edges and low-lying clouds. Fires were lit by the locals on the mountainside to keep them warm in the chilly temperatures when you are that far above sea level all add to the theatre of the occasion here. Cheers rang out, rattling the mountains whenever a Spanish driver went past, with Nadal Galiana, a champion from last year getting the loudest ovation when he roared through the mountains. 2nd place is all he could muster this year; though; which is not too shabby considering he did it in a Ford Escort.
The winners in the ‘Classic’ Speed category were Stefan Oberdorster & Olaf Heupel from Germany in a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, and the ‘Youngtimer’ Speed category was won by Brits Jim Whelan & James Morgan in their BMW M3 E30. All the winners get a motorsport-inspired Oris watch.
At the closing party during the prize giving and champagne swigging, everybody was in excellent spirits, so I think we can deem the XII Oris Rally Clásico a resounding success. If you are in any way a car enthusiast, add this to your calendar, whether you are a prospective driver or spectator. The beautiful Puerto Portals is worth the trip on its own.
Oris Rally Clásico – Where and how
Tel: +34 620 641 612
Entries for the 2017 Oris Rally Clásico are open now.