Mamma Mia, Winners dump Abba to win Athens to Rome
1. Tomasz Dzitko and Beata Siwek – MG B GT
2. Benno Britschgi and Nina Britschgi – Ford Mustang 390 GT
3. Peter Morton and Louise Morton – BMW 2002
Tomasz Dzitko and Beata Siwek gave up their chance of a Polish championship and sold their tickets for the Abba Avatar show to take part in the HERO-ERA Temple Rally, and what a reward they had when they were crowned overall winners in Rome.
Having led for the last four days, they held their nerve on the final day of competition in the mountains, and on circuit, to delight themselves at never being out of the top two on the 2500 mile sojourn from Athens to Rome.
Tomasz had hoped for the double of also winning the tests on the circuits which allow the drivers to push the throttle hard, but right at the end, he was pipped by just one second by Peter Morton, a superb sailor who showed that on land he is also a master of speed.
That time difference was after ten flying tests and just six seconds behind Peter Morton came Benno Britschgi. So close – just like the crews who partied last night like old friends, although most did not know each other when they gathered in Athens.
They came from Australia, Miami, drove from Switzerland, Monaco, the Isle of Lewis, Sweden, Poland, England, Scotland, and Belgium. The lure of a 4000 kilometre journey from Athens to Rome too much to resist for people with a taste for motoring, spectacular scenery and competition.
Tomas and Beata, who live in Warsaw were thrilled and although they have done other HERO-ERA events like the Flying Scotsman twice and the Adriatic Adventure, they still see themselves as learning. “We only took up rallying in 2019 and then after the pandemic got going again, but this is by far our highest placing and we love it because we have been very fast on the track and very precise on the regularities. I just wanted to finish in Rome, that was it. We went really well, but we also saw some amazing views and went to great places.
“We worked well as team. We used to argue much more in the early days. There were times when Beata was getting out of the car and shutting the door saying I won’t go with you any more, but it is much calmer now. We found it stressful the last couple of days with people congratulating us before the finish, but this is regularity rallying, anything can happen”
Beata said: ”We chose this rally and that meant we would have won the national championship in rallying in Poland. And we forfeited our tickets for the Abba Avatar show in London last weekend. We really wanted to be here and it proved to be the right choice, although we might give ourselves a reward by buying more tickets for Abba because we sold the others.”
Their 1800 cc 1973 MGB GT proved fit for the challenge of many miles and they won by just under two minutes from Swiss pairing Benno Britschgi and his daughter Nina in their 1968 Ford Mustang. “We gave it everything and loved it all but Tomasz is very quick,” said Benno. “This has been a tremendous rally and to do it with my daughter who has been a great navigator has been a joy.” Nina added:”This is our highest finish so we are really pleased and this is my favourite rally because of the people we met.”
In third place, as they have been since the rally left Athens two weeks ago, the teamwork of Peter Morton and his co-driving partner, Louise, reached new heights as she claimed three zero penalties at the timing points to put their 1972 BMW 2002 best car on Day 13.
Great stuff as the final day had been carefully planned high in the Italian national park not far from Monte Cassino, with many traps for any lack of attention in the navigator’s seat. “I’m ecstatic,” said Louise, also a top-class sailor. “I was up at 0500 hours, uptight, studying my map books because we wanted so much to hold on to third spot and have no slip-ups. It has been a wonderful rally from start to finish, competitive and so much fun.”
The cars brought smiles as they wound their way past The Colosseum through the Roman traffic. Every competitor could relax and savour the enjoyment at having experienced first hand the Greco-Roman crossover which saw the cars at many historic sites, take three ferry trips, survive a thousand hairpins with big drops beckoning, and still enjoy romantic views at times from over 6000 feet.
With Tomasz and Beata winning overall and Class 2 for classic cars up to 2000cc, class 1 for vintageant cars went to Nigel Dowding and Mary Antcliff in their much photographed 1934 open top Aston Martin with the 1949 Bentley Super 8 next. “We drove to Athens and by the time we reached here in Rome we have done about 5000 miles,” said Nigel. “Now we are off to take part in another rally in Italy before heading home. It’s been challenging but fun.”
Perhaps the whole adventure was summed up by Dirk de Groen who brought his 1971 BMW 2002 from Miami. “It is very flat in Florida and I wanted to go on this rally to drive hard, see Greece and Italy and just drive, drive, drive. That’s how it was. We had fantastic fun, we have met great people, everyone has been so friendly. The best.”