Sunday, 30 March 2008

50th Anniversary of the Rally Barcelona - Sitges

There was a thick, unpleasant smell over the beach promenade of Sitges today when the vintage cars of the rally Barcelona-Sitges (Ral•li internacional de cotxes d’època) reached their goal and lined up for all spectators to have a closer look.

When it was organised for the first time, in 1959, it formed part of the carnival. From the beginning, the rally was intended a means to promote tourism to Sitges, which at that time suffered economically after the town’s two big shoe factories were closed down. The 24 participants of the first rally were flagged off by Joan Antoni Samaranch, then deputy mayor of Barcelona.

This year, it was again Samaranch - nowadays well-known as the former President of the International Olympic Committee - who performed this task to mark the 50th anniversary of the rally. The route still remains unchanged: from la Plaça de Sant Jaume, the cars follow the Rambles, Passeig de Gràcia and Diagonal to leave Barcelona and then drive through the municipalities l’Hospitalet, Cornellà, Sant Boi, Viladecans, Gavà and Castelldefels before they take the curvy, but highly scenic road along the Garraf coast to arrive at Sitges.

It is gaining in reputation. Today there were 150 vehicles taking part, all made in the year 1924 or earlier. One of them was driven by Sitges native Marcel Maluquer, who has taken part in all 50 editions. In another one, Jordi Baijet and Jordi Hereu, the mayors of Sitges and Barcelona, respectively, had symbolically taken place in the front seat.

This is not the biggest rally of vintage cars in Europe - the one from London to Brighton usually counts some 400 participants - but is unique in its concentrated format. All the cars come in one long caravan, so it is not a true rally, but a parade. The only competition this year was for best costumes, to add historic flavour to the event. As long as you disregard the foul smell from the old engines, the rally is a beuatiful tradition.

Remark: The source of a lot of the information in this entry is our local weekly Diari de Vilanova.

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