The Rally delle Valli Biellesi | Oasi Zegna
Each year in the last weekend of September, Oasi Zegna hosts a classic car rally. Beautiful cars – and those who love them – gather for a time trial that takes them through the spectacular Biella Alps
S
eptember 24, 2016, Biella, Italy. A cold morning in the Biella Alps. It’s not yet quarter after seven, but in a car park outside Biella, the atmosphere is busy. Amongst newly-polished car hoods and the rev of engines turning over, old friends greet each other. Men pat each others backs, and crack jokes.

 

It will lift a little later in the day, but now the air is damp, a low fog hanging above the car park. Through the chatter, the expert ear will recognise a 1948 two stroke here, a 1963 V8 here, the characteristic sound of a V12 there. The field is strong, with showing from all shapes, makes and colours: Porches, Lancias, MGs. Here are all types of motorcars, all built between 1940 and 1980.

Map of the race with prominent landmarks | Oasi Zegna
A 375Km long time trial devoted to vintage cars and the men who love them ... Read More
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The race is a celebration of beauty: of these beautiful cars and of the landscape.

Part of the route is through the undulating course of the Oasi Zegna, a nature reserve started by Zegna’s founder, Ermenegildo Zegna. The cars follow the Panoramica Zegna, a road specially built by Ermenegildo Zegna to connect people – for commerce and for pleasure – with nearby towns and the beauty of the landscape. 

Historical car during the race | Oasi Zegna
Autumn in the Biella Alps

A vintage Porsche makes its way up one of the ascents

Autumn in the Biella Alps More Less

A vintage Porsche makes its way up one of the ascents


Remember your route - The Rally delle Valli Biellesi | Oasi Zegna
REMEMBER YOUR ROUTE

Each team is given a paper document marking out the route - and prominent landmarks like bridges - of the rally

REMEMBER YOUR ROUTE More Less

Each team is given a paper document marking out the route - and prominent landmarks like bridges - of the rally

As the hands on the watches tick toward the hour, the crowds begin to go quiet. Intense conversations between navigator and driver go over race plans already well-rehearsed. Then someone makes a run for the toilet. With just four minutes to start time, the driver of a midnight blue Triumph (1962) makes a run for it. The tension breaks momentarily as the assembled drivers cheer his speed: a seventy-year old making a run that would be fast for a man half his age.

 

Once the flag goes down, speed matters, but not in the way it might in a conventional race. The Rally Delle Valli Biellesi is a regularity trial. The rules are as follows: each team is given a route schedule prior to departure. This schedule contains information about the designated speeds and target arrival times for each segment of the route. Marshalls record the team’s time at set markers. The art is in precision: to minimise penalty points by arriving at these markers at precisely the designated time. The prize goes to the team which picks up the fewest penalty points. Go too fast, and you’re in trouble, go too slow or take the wrong turn: the same. A little like life. 

The italian tricolor at the start of the Rally | Oasi Zegna
A RACE OF PRECISION

The Italian tricolour at the start of the Rally. The race is a time trial in which precision is rewarded

A RACE OF PRECISION More Less

The Italian tricolour at the start of the Rally. The race is a time trial in which precision is rewarded


This rally is not about speed. It is about precision. ... Read More
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Rather than an aggressive tour round a circuit at top speed, it’s a game of judgement, skill and strategy: the journey matters more than the destination. Time trialling started in the 1950s as a means of ‘racing’ between cars of different vintages. It’s since developed into a finely tuned game of cat and mouse.

 

Like all rallying, the partnership between navigator and driver is crucial. You need to keep a cool head while trying to negotiate the road and keep to the time deadlines. Many of the navigator-driver teams are made up of father-son partnerships or of two close friends making a team.

Low fog - Piedmont landscape
A LOW FOG

The autumn weather provides an atmospheric backdrop to the rally

A LOW FOG More Less

The autumn weather provides an atmospheric backdrop to the rally


Ten hours later, having started just outside Biella, at 343m above sea level, twisted through Masserano, up to the summit at Bielmonte, 1517 metres above sea level, cars start to cross the finish at Rossaza. Tired but exhilarated, the crews enjoy a restorative lunch of local food.

Chequered flag | Oasi Zegna
The Chequered Flag

At the end of the rally, the participants gather together to enjoy a meal of food from the region.

The Chequered Flag More Less

At the end of the rally, the participants gather together to enjoy a meal of food from the region.

It’s a day full of jokes shared between friends and family: the mini rivalries and race-day camaraderie. And of course, while navigating a tricky climb: the occasional exchange of strong words, the inevitable argument, soon forgotten once the engine is switched off.

 

Beauty, craft, passion, companionship: it’s a combination that the brand’s founder Ermenegildo Zegna would recognise, and one that takes place on the road he built. For years Oasi Zegna and this part of the mountains has hosted many particularly special happenings. Rally delle Valli Biellesi is one of them. We look forward to men – and their motor cars – gathering here in the spirit of companionship for many years to come.

Historical car during the race | Oasi Zegna

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