When John Hartley sat down to plan the route for the Fellsman Classic Alpine Tour, he had two main objectives.
To include as much mileage as possible from the original Alpine Rally routes of the 1950s and 60s while providing participants with time to enjoy the beauty of the Swiss and Italian Alps.
The Alpine Rally, or Coupe Des Alpes to give it its proper title, was widely regarded as the most picturesque of all international rallies.
The route took in a series of the most scenic mountainous passes to be found anywhere in the world but it didn’t give competitors time to admire and enjoy their beauty.
That’s where Hartley’s event scores over its famous predecessor having a more leisurely itinerary allowing time to enjoy the views.
Make no mistake though, as with any event covering a distance in excess of 2,300 miles, this isn’t one for the faint hearted especially as the participants were all driving cars more than 25 years old.
Among the famous marques participating were Austin Healey, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes Benz, while Hartley, from Fence, flew the Porsche flag driving his 1965 vintage 911, all of which bore special rally plates carrying the name Gaskell Motor Bodies, Great Harwood.
To ensure the tour provided a stiff test for both man and machine, Hartley elected to use a section of road that had been brought to his attention by an iconic member of the cycling fraternity.
It proved a memorable experience as Hartley explained: “I’d read that Lance Armstrong rated the Passo di Foppa as the toughest mountain climb he’d ever pedalled, so I devised a route to include it finishing with its steepest descent.
“What I hadn’t anticipated was that because we’d have to use our brakes so much, they would be on fire by the time we reached the bottom.”
“With all the cars and crews safely back home Hartley is now turning his attentions to the planning of an event much closer to home.
“Starting and finishing at Mitton Hall, the 2011 Fellsman Classic Tour passes through some of the most picturesque villages in the region while providing a good days driving and test of navigational skills.”
As clerk of the course to Lancashire Automobile Club’s annual event, Hartley is tasked with devising the route that is aimed to test drivers of interesting, sports and classic cars.
The Tour is regarded as one of the best events of its kind, due in no small part to Hartley, who first applied his planning skills to the 1992 event.
Suffice to say he’s keeping the details of next year’s event a closely guarded secret but in previous years the Tour has taken participants as far afield as West Yorkshire and South Cumbria as part of its 150-mile itinerary.
The 2011 Tour is scheduled to run on Saturday, May 21, and full details of the event will be published on the Lancashire Automobile Club website.
Click below for the Lancashire Automobile Club website