| In the countryside behind the Sardinian seaport of Alghero, October’s annual automotive hill-climb time-trial, the Scala Piccada, blows the leaves from the trees before autumn gets a chance.
First held in 1955, its popularity has surged throughout the years alongside the dramatic evolution of the cars that now compete. Around eighty drivers wrestle their macho machines through vertiginous terrain in everything from super tweaked minis to out and out road racers.
A great many Alfa Romeos appear, and clearly feel at home. Pristine, elderly hot-hatches show their class, and venerable rally-bred Lancias are driven as they were truly meant to be.
The three-mile time-trial starts south-west of the town along a straight flat section that allows the drivers to gun their engines, but not for long. The route quickly ascends and transforms into dauntingly steep, tarmac fettuccini.
Here, the competitor’s readiness to sacrifice gears, discs and their own safety is evident for all to see. After only three minutes of constant short-shifting and last-moment braking, they’re already a quarter of a mile above sea level.
With the rapid climb comes an eye-catching, ever-changing Mediterranean vista, but distraction spells destruction. After this initial ascent, the cars climb still higher along the steep hillside with a stunning panorama opening across the ocean far below. The chequered flag waves them over a crowded finish-line as ecstatic spectators roar their approval.
More information about the Scala Piccada event can be found at http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cronoscalata_Alghero-Scala_Piccada.
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