This statement might seem a bit convoluted at first but it is, nonetheless, accurate. However, there are a few conditions that should be mentioned, as a disclaimer of sorts. Firstly, you have to be a member of the Automobile Club de Genève. Secondly, you have to be able to participate in (and win) their annual three-day rally.
Every year, in early autumn the glamorous lakeside Swiss Riviera—a term I would use to broadly describe Geneva’s cosmopolitan, jet-setter atmosphere—wakes to the sound of multiple, loud, classic sports cars driving through the city in the early hours, heading to a top-secret meeting point. After a quick, simple breakfast (weight is the enemy of speed) and driver briefing, with thick roadbooks weighing heavily in the co-pilot’s hands, the teams depart for the first timed stages of the Rallye de Genève. A motoring event that IWC is recurrently a proud sponsor of.
Classic sports-cars are ready to hit the road
Heading for new adventures with the members of the club automobile de Genève
This is a regularity rally, which means that teams must depart and arrive at certain checkpoints at their due minute and second. If they’re late or, even worse, early, penalty points are awarded. To make things more complicated, there are special stages in between these checkpoints, where all cars must drive at a pre-assigned average speed. Let’s say 40 or 45 mph. This might not seem like a lot, but maintaining a consistent speed over 10 or 15 miles per hour on a winding mountain road is not easy. It is however, extremely fun. Especially because while no speeding laws are being broken, driving on such stages still requires a lot of skill and concentration both from the driver and their navigator. And this year, the conditions were also especially demanding, making their respective jobs harder.
This year’s route took participants from sunny Switzerland to France, more specifically Alsace. They traversed the Jura Mountains at least twice (once on the way back), then passed the Vosges Mountains with a brief afternoon stop at the Musée National de L’Automobile - Collection Schlumpf in Mulhouse. This converted factory is home to the world’s biggest and most impressive collection of Bugattis (as well as other automobiles such as Hispano-Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, Avions Voisin, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati etc.)
When in France, you’re also supposed to eat bien, so big lunches were served. Albeit in contrasting circumstances. On day one, lunch was a fancy affair at the Domaine de Bournel, a grand, neo-gothic château (in fact, two châteaux that are located on an 80-hectare English-style park). On day two, a very authentic, simple but delicious potato gratin was served in a converted barn, which smelled of cheese and cows. Yum.
On the second day of the rally, the cavalcade of cars turned back and headed south-west towards the Château de Saulon (located just outside Dijon in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region) to attend an IWC dinner party. All that was left was the simple matter of covering another 145 miles back to the finishing line—the Le Floris restaurant, located on the banks of Lake Geneva.
First stop at Domaine de Bournel
… Then to Chateau de Saulon
Overall, the participants covered 600 miles over the three-day event. All of those were timed, logged and driven over narrow, minor B-roads. More than half of their time was spent in the rain, fog and—in the Vosges Mountains especially—gusts of wind that could knock a grown man off his feet. Fortunately, motoring enthusiasts are the kind of people that have a “carry on regardless” attitude. So even if the weather was trying its best to spoil the atmosphere, it failed miserably, as new friendships were formed and camaraderie triumphed over the elements and odd breakdown.
Not that breakdowns happened often, which is probably the reason why the most popular car of any rally or classic car gathering is a Porsche 911. A car famous for its bulletproof reliability. The sheer number of various 911s taking part in the Rallye de Genève was not only astounding, but also interesting, as cars varied from a vintage 964, through to a first generation Targa and Grégory Driot’s (the ACG’s co-president) 1986 930 Turbo aka “The Widowmaker”, a nickname it has earned due to its notorious turbo-lag.
Our favorite models however, were the white rally-spec Audi Urquattro, the IWC Team Mercedes-Benz Pagoda (driven by Guerreiro-Kohler), the stunning, light brown 1979 Aston-Martin V8 Volante, a jet black fastback Mustang Shelby, which made the most glorious V8 burble, and last but not least, the three Ferraris: the 365 2+2 (a distant cousin of the popular Daytona), Testarossa Monodado (meaning a single, central wheel-nut), and the delightful 246 Dino. These are all testament to the vast differences in car design and engineering solutions (often with the same problem) developed over the decades, before regulations made all automobiles quite similar.
The race to the podium was tight and there was no sure winner until the last minute, with the top participants neck and neck to the finish line. Incidentally the rally’s overall winners, David Ittah and Anthony Domenicucci, were driving possibly the fastest car in the line-up (and one of the newest)—a very rare and sought-after 1992 Porsche 911 Carrera RS NGT. Which in a rally of this kind isn’t necessarily an advantage. They celebrated their success by popping Nicolas Feuillatte champagne with Mark Griesmeier, Marketing Director of IWC Schaffhausen Switzerland, who presented them with a specially revamped Automobile Club de Genève, IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Racing Green. A fitting color for a rally winner, contrasting with the color of the Guards Red Porsche Clubsport.
As you can see, the claim included in the title wasn’t just simple clickbait. You can really benefit from observing the time, making the best use of it, and lastly not being late. A universal rule for life, not just for classic car rallies.
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