Modena Cento Ore 2017

The Modena Cento Ore is one of the most interesting and dynamic classic car events of the season: it takes just over 100 classic racing cars on a trip through some of Italy’s most beautiful landscape, but also onto some of its most celebrated racetracks, creating an amazing contrast. The five days of hard driving in the races, from June 6 to 11, were offset by the quiet charm of the many fascinating villages driven through, the good food enjoyed, and the comfort and relaxation provided by the luxury hotels.

The formula

The Modena Cento Ore is a racing event: most of the entrants, keen to establish themselves as the fastest, take part in the speed races held on various racetracks and in the “special stages” run on closed mountain roads. Other entrants prefer a more relaxed pace and enter the regularity section, where precision counts more than speed.

Interestingly enough, both these types of participant use the same roads and racetracks, obviously at different times, and therefore share the same all-round experience. This year, three racetracks hosted the race: Misano, close to Rimini, Magione, near Perugia, and finally the Mugello racetrack, one of the most famous in the world, situated in the Apennine mountains between Florence and Bologna.

The cities

Rimini, Forte dei Marmi, Modena and Florence were the cities that this year hosted the entrants for their overnight stops. The timeless magic of Florence was enhanced by a perfect sunset and full moon, providing the perfect backdrop for the cars as they entered the old part of the city and snaked along the narrow road flanking the River Arno. It was a simply unforgettable spectacle. The gala dinner was held in the Sala del Cinquecento, the most renowned room in Palazzo Vecchio, famous for its walls, painted by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.

The multitude of tourists crowding the city were amazed to see it “invaded” by noisy, dirty and aggressive racing cars, and even more incredulous to learn that the very same cars had been competing on a racetrack only a few hours earlier, and would be back racing the following morning.

The Modena Cento Ore is one of the most interesting and dynamic classic car events of the season: it takes just over 100 classic racing cars on a trip through some of Italy’s most beautiful landscape, but also onto some of its most celebrated racetracks, creating an amazing contrast. The five days of hard driving in the races, from June 6 to 11, were offset by the quiet charm of the many fascinating villages driven through, the good food enjoyed, and the comfort and relaxation provided by the luxury hotels.

The cars

The cars taking part the event amounted to a perfect selection of racing classics; indeed, the models represented included the Ferrari 250 GTO, Triumph TR2, Alfa Romeo GTA and Porsche 911. Of the 101 cars that started out from Rimini, an impressive 73 reached the finishing line more than 1300 kilometers, 11 special stages and three racetracks later – an amazing result given the harsh nature of this event. We were all thrilled by the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO driven by Scotsman Lord Irvine Laidlaw of Rothiemay and Welshman Anthony Davies, and nobody passed up the opportunity to take a selfie with this model, which, more than any other, symbolizes the classic car world. Only 39 GTOs were built and, because of their value, it is increasingly unusual to come across them, and even less usual to see them being driven on open roads.

So, hats off to them! The prize for the noisiest “soundtrack” should be awarded jointly to the 1975 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione, driven by Tim Summers and Max Girardo (UK-CH), whose 12-cylinder engine had an extra note indeed, and the 1965 AC Shelby Cobra 427 with Philip Vileghe and Filip Deplanche (MC-BE) at the wheel. The roar of the latter, thanks to its exhaust (as wide as my arm!) was enough to set off the alarm of every parked car it passed. Among the 19 car manufacturers represented, Porsche and Ferrari, each fielding 23 cars, were the ones boasting the biggest contingents. The cars that, in particular, enriched the starting line-up were the six Jaguar E-Types, including a semi-lightweight and a lightweight, a Porsche 906 Carrera 6, four Ferrari 250 SWBs, four Lotus Elan 26Rs, two Ford GT40s, and a 1966 Lola T70 Mk IIIb.

The spirit

Nowadays we are, unfortunately, accustomed to seeing people competing without respecting rules, and, still less, codes of conduct. From this perspective, the Modena Cento Ore was a wonderful surprise: the drivers, especially those subjected to the pressure of competing on the racetrack in events where even the slightest loss of speed can impact greatly on the final classification, never once lost their gentlemen’s spirit, attitude and approach.

It was therefore quite normal to see drivers shaking hands after 30-minute “fights” on the track, and helping each other on the road when necessary. This spirit of camaraderie characterized the entire event. When the 1965 Ford GT 40 entered by Olivier Ellerbrock and Klaus Rohwer (DE-DE) showed signs of the problem that would, shortly afterwards, force it to withdraw just half way through a special stage on a mountain road, Ellerbrock pulled over and stopped, so as not to impede the other entrants, even though, had he been able to continue, this gesture would have cost the team dearly in terms of time.

“It’s a pity”

We met Olivier Ellerbrock and his co-driver Kalus Rohwer just after their car broke down. While waiting for their support team to arrive, we chatted about their experience. It was their first Modena Cento Ore, and they had been dreaming of racing their GT 40 on the Mugello racetrack. Unfortunately the mechanics confirmed that there was nothing that could be done at the roadside to fix the car, and Ellerbrock and Rohwer had to pull out of the event, missing the chance of fulfilling their dream. We really felt for them, and when Olivier remarked “It’s a pity” we saw just what a gentlemen he is. We would definitely have used more choice words!

The support crews

This event is pretty tough for both men and machines. As always in such cases, an efficient support crew, providing good assistance, is absolutely mandatory. We saw these guys pulling off miracles at the roadside in order to keep the cars going. The most typical issues were, as usual, overheating of engines and slipping of clutches, suspensions and brakes. Sometimes, extra work was caused by driver errors, easily fixed with a 10-liter spare tank of fuel (in this specific case I’m referring to dear friends Augustin Sebatié-Garat and Peter Haynes of RM Sotheby’s, whose 1951 Jaguar XK 120 OTS ran dry, leaving them stranded) or a good hammer, to restore some sort of a shape to a dented fender.

The most unlucky in this regard were Englishmen Roddie Feilden and Philip Basil in a 1969 Morgan Plus 8: they were fast without taking risks, and their car was running perfectly and was completely unscathed. Then, on restarting after a break, they were caught out by a small milestone by the side of the road that they hadn’t noticed: this resulted in a crushed front blinker scratched fender. It is worth noting that the entire event, including the racetrack stints, passed off without any contact between any two competing cars.

The winners are…

François and Jacques Entremont, in a 1980 Ferrari 308 GTBi Michelotto Gr. 4, won the G/H/I class for cars built after 1965, beating, by just two seconds, the second-placed car, another Ferrari 308.

For the fourth consecutive year, Philip Walker and Howard Redhouse, in their 1962 Jaguar E-Type, won the class for cars built up to 1965, while the “Classifica Compensata” (the classification where index percentages are taken into account) was won by Germans Albert Otten and Kai Billesfeld in a 1939 BMW 328. Belgians Philip Vlieghe and Filip Deplancke in a 1965 AC Shelby Cobra 427 took home the regularity prize.

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