With the infamous phrase “You’re only meant to blow the b****y doors off” ringing in their ears, a team set off from our Fiat Group Brand Centre in Swindon in October to tackle The Italian Job!
The Italian Job Rally, that is. This event has been staged every year since 1990 as a way of having a great experience and a lot of fun while raising money for childrens’ charities. Over the years the rally has raised more than £2.4 million and the chosen charity this year was ‘Variety, the children’s charity’ which helps sick, disabled and disadvantaged children to achieve their full potential.
Equipped with steeds a little more potent than the three Minis of the 1968 Michael Caine classic – in this case two Abarth 500s and an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider – the team embarked at Folkestone for the two-week escapade, six days of which would comprise the rally itself. One of the team members, Jason Harris, kept a log of the trip. Here are selected highlights…
DAY 2 Having spent the first day on the prosaic drive from Swindon to Folkestone, Day 2 saw us head through Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany enjoying the freedom of higher speeds on the autobahns than permitted in the UK. Overnight at Nurburg, where the Ring was sadly closed.
DAY 3 Seven hours of driving, into Austria and the mountains.
DAY 4 Emerging from the tunnel leaving Austria, the sun was shining… Italy at last!
DAY 5 The first day of the rally and our red Abarth was the first car off the blocks at 8am. The ‘Record Monza’ exhaust fitted to the Abarth Competizione certainly sounded crisp echoing between the buildings!
DAY 6 Two stunning car museums en route today – Maseratis in the Hombre Museum at Cittanova and then the Lamborghini Museum at Sant’Agata Bolognese.
DAY 7 A nice long drive from Imola to Forlimpopli! The roads were lovely, the sun was shining, and none of us seemed to make any real mistakes. We parked in the square and enjoyed a good few hours visiting the theatre and the Artusi Culinary Centre… learning how to make a traditional Emilia Romagna bread. Our three entries all finished in the top six!
DAY 8 Imola circuit today and then special stages including a slalom – rather easier in a Mini than an Alfa 4C.
DAY 9 Off to Monza and then three challenging special stages, followed by a drive round the circuit – tremendous fun!
DAY 10 Last day of the rally, but what a day. Having spent the night at Fiat’s
old Lingotto factory in Turin – now reinvented as a cultural centre and hotel – we headed up to the rooftop test track made famous by the film, which amazingly is all still there.
DAYS 11-12 With the formal part of the rally over, we still had to make our way back to the celebration dinner in the UK where we would hear the results. Two long days of driving through Switzerland and France, stopping in Paris of course!
DAY 13 Back in Blighty for the gala dinner, and then came the shock! In third place, Team Red Abarth; Team Alfa 4C in a very close 4th place and Team Yellow Abarth just outside the top 10! Through sponsorships, events and selling rare tickets, the T H WHITE crew raised £7,203 for the charity. A great result and a big ‘thank-you’ to our sponsors.