Rally the Globe’s first long-distance ‘Marathon’ style event certainly lived up to its big billing as the club’s longest and most spectacular driving adventure to date.
Taking plucky participants on an epic 7,500 mile (12,000kms) odyssey from chilly, damp Anchorage to sweltering Cabo San Lucas, as promised the spectacular Alaska to Mexico Marathon (27 August – 26 September) put the emphasis on exploration and endurance.
The unforgettable 30-day voyage crossed no fewer than 38 lines of latitude as crews travelled through barren wildernesses with artic flora and fauna, remote outposts from the gold rush era, rocky snow-capped mountainscapes, rolling vineyards, ancient canyonlands and, finally, cactus strewn deserts en-route to the very welcome tropical beaches at the southern-most tip of the Baja Peninsula where two first-time Rally the Globe winners were crowned.
Along the way, four hard-earned rest days were set aside in Dawson Creek, Walla Walla, Moab and Tucson to give everyone a well-deserved opportunity to draw breath and refettle machinery.
In anticipation of the incredible itinerary ahead, a full-capacity field of 47 scrutineered cars and their excited crews gathered in Anchorage ready for the start, entries in age ranging from a trio of vintage Bentleys from the 1920s to a pair of Range Rovers from the early 1980s.
Unsurprisingly, proven American automotive icons such as Chevy Coupes and Ford Mustangs were out in force alongside an equally impressive line-up of European challengers from respected marques with rallying pedigrees including Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Saab and Volvo. Adding to the international ambience, crews hailed from right across Europe as well as the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Living up to the event’s ‘marathon’ status, driving days were always challenging and rarely less than 250 miles (400kms) in distance, much staged on unsurfaced gravel or sandy roads taking participants through a never-ending succession of dramatic backdrops they would never normally experience.
Competitive elements consisted of daily Regularity Sections requiring navigational skills interspersed with Speed Tests at some wonderfully named motorsport venues. The Alaska Raceway, Caribou Raceway Park, Thunder Mountain Raceway, Atomic Motor Raceway and Tucson Speedway all featured on the long and winding route south via remote parts of Canada and the US to the Mexican coast.
Among the Pre-war entrants it was the 1940 Ford Coupe of Manuel and Irene Dubs that was fastest out of the Alaskan blocks – a lead the swift-starting Swiss pairing maintained throughout. The well-driven and distinctive Dearborn-built V8 was right at home on the north American dirt roads.
The battle behind, though, was fiercely fought right to finishing line with a fellow Ford – this time the 1936 V8 Convertible of Andrew and Ann Boland – finally taking second place ahead of the 1927 Bentley 4½ Le Mans of Graham and Marina Goodwin.
“There’s nothing I like better than driving on challenging gravel roads so this event was amazing for me,” said the victorious Manuel Dubs. “I really must thank the Rally the Globe team for the excellent organisation and support.”
It was another Ford – this time the 1973 Escort RS1600 of Ean and Alison Lewin – which led the way among the more modern Classic contenders. And, once again, the real action came behind the leaders where places were constantly swapping.
Eventually it was the 1959 Volvo PV544 of Mike and Lorna Harrison which secured second position on the podium with the 1965 Porsche 911 of Steve and Jenny Verrall recovering to grab third after dropping time in Arizona. The same three crews had also annexed the top three spots on last summer’s Ypres to Istanbul Challenge, albeit in the reverse order.
“The fantastic Rally the Globe team has surpassed themselves again – it was utterly, utterly brilliant,” enthused the delighted Ean Lewin. “We weren’t the fastest on the Speed Tests nor were we top on the Regularities but we were consistent throughout – that was the secret to our success. Roll on Saigon!” he concluded looking forward to Rally the Globe’s next event, the Road to Hanoi Marathon in early 2024.
As well as the overall awards there were some discretionary prizes. The Spirit of the Rally went to Tim Eades for never giving up, eventually bringing his son Patrick to fill the spare seat in a 1978 Ford Bronco which replaced his 1971 Ford Escort mid-matathon! The Against All Odds trophy was scooped by Brian and Catherine Scowcroft for getting their old 1936 Chevy Fangio Coupe to the finish after an electrical fire, brake failure and several steering issues.
“This was our first marathon style event and probably the best long-distance rally that we’ve done yet – as planned, it really did have everything,” admitted a delighted Fred Gallagher, Rally the Globe’s much-respected Rally Director. “We travelled from virtually the Artic Circle to the Tropic of Cancer, experiencing the full north/south extent of the North American continent on great traffic-free roads, off the beaten track virtually all the way.
“As ever, we wanted to take crews into parts of the world they wouldn’t otherwise savour and it was particularly pleasing to show our American crews places they didn’t know virtually in their own backyard!” grinned Gallagher.
“There were massive variations not only in the epic scenery but also in temperature – we went from 4 degrees to 45 degrees centigrade! We also had an amazing bunch of competitors and great team running the rally. From all angles it was a huge, huge success.”
Though the widely acclaimed Alaska to Mexico Marathon was Rally the Globe’s final event in 2023, the triumphant Rally the Globe team has little time to savour its latest success.
Next year’s schedule will be the not-for-profit Club’s most ambitious yet, kicking off with the Road to Hanoi Marathon at the end of January. The Asian adventure is swiftly followed by the third of its award-winning Generations Rallies in March (with a new Cheshire base in 2024), the Vintage Shamrock in May and the Carrera Bavaria in June. In latest news, those will be joined by a stunning Challenge style rally exploring the lesser-visited parts of the Balkans during the Autumn.
“There’s a lot to look forward to!” anticipated Gallagher.
2023 ALASKA TO MEXICO: TOP FIVE RESULTS
1. Manuel & Irene Dubs (CH) 1940 Ford Coupe 3m:00s (time penalties)
2. Andrew & Anne Boland (IRL) 1936 Ford V8 Convertible 4m:50s
3. Graham & Marina Goodwin (GB) 1927 Bentley 4½ Le Mans 4m:58s*
4. David & Jo Roberts (GB) 1929 Chrysler 75 Roadster 5m:06s
5. Richard Turner & Nigel Lee Boland (GB) 1938 Ford Model 62 V8 6m:34s
1. Ean & Alison Lewin (GB) 1973 Ford Escort RS1600 3m:28 (time penalties)
2. Mike & Lorna Harrison (GB) 1959 Volvo PV544 4m:06s*
3. Steve & Jenny Verrall (GB) 1965 Porsche 911 5m:20s
4. Michael & Anne Wilkinson (AUS) 1968 Holden HK 6m:23s*
5. Stephen & Samantha Hardwick (GB) 1970 Datsun 240Z 6m:35s*
* Class winners
RALLY THE GLOBE CALENDAR (2024-2024)*
27 January – 23 February 2024 Road to Hanoi Marathon
24-26 March 2024 Generations Rally
6-9 May 2024 Vintage Shamrock**
16-27 June 2024 Carrera Bavaria
30 September – 13 October Challenge in the Balkans
*Further events to be announced shortly
**In association with Irish Racing Green