This year’s Liège-Brescia-Liège Rally for Triumph TRs in July was a great success, with 26 TRs from 1953 to 1976 taking part. The rally closely follows its historic, original 1958 route, but split over 10 days instead of the original continuous 60 hours with just one 8-hour break. Still formulated as a navigational endurance challenge, with three circuit tests, the rally can optionally be driven as a tour – but none of the TR owners were interested in that option, all battling to find the route controls and win at least a class award, if not win overall.
The spectacular route heads over the Belgian Ardennes into Germany, then climbs up into the Dolomites, crossing Austria to Italy then heading east into Slovenia and over the challenging Vrsic pass before dropping down to Ljubljana where the rally takes a day’s break, allowing competitors to service their cars and enjoy this delightful, cosmopolitan capital city.
By this stage, the roads had already tested the cars – some were battling on after repairs, while two had retired. Vincent Paccellieri, running with his 20-year old son in the oldest car, the first Triumph TR in Europe that was shown at the 1953 Paris Motor Show, had a catastrophic front hub failure on the first day. Undaunted, he persuaded a friend to drive from the south of France to Germany with a spare hub, replaced it at the side of the road and caught up with the rally at midnight.
The camaraderie on the event was terrific, competitors all helping each other and enjoying the company of fellow TR enthusiasts. On the first night in Italy, the Italian TR Register came in force to greet the rally and dine together – and would later help competitors source parts and find good local repair shops. The weather was superb throughout – making the scenery all the more stunning and the roads more enjoyable, but also increasing the strain on cars and crews as heat and dehydration took their toll.
After the break in Ljubljana, the rally heads west, back up into the Dolomites to take on historic greats such as the Passo di Pordoi, Passo Stelvio and Passo di Gavia. The rally tackles 15 major mountain passes – in 1958 most would have been gravel, but now all are tarmac, so the rally takes in a 10km gravel road section in Slovenia to give competitors a feel for the extra challenges those 1958 crews faced. Just as then, the rally triumphantly enters Brescia to a reception in a central Piazza, now accompanied by police motorcycle outriders and staying in a stunning historic palace hotel. Now the rally also takes in visits to motor museums and the spectacular Schloss Lichtenstein in Germany, and after a glorious drive through sweeping country roads in Germany and Belgium, it finishes at the evocative Abbaye de Stavelot, which houses the Spa Circuit Museum.