RALLYE SANREMO: MONTALCINO
Dodging wild boars under the Tuscan sun.
Location: 27 miles south of Siena, this section of the Montalcino stage runs from Castiglione del Bosco to Nacciarello.
Length: 3 miles
Driver: Miki Biasion, 1988 and 1989 world rally champion
As he powers through the hills of southern Tuscany with dust billowing in his wake, Miki Biasion recalls the night that a wild boar charged from the undergrowth alongside the road to meet its end under his wheels. "It was on this bend," he says, as the cappuccino-colored crenulations of hilltop Sant'Angelo in Colle come into view in the distance, beyond slopes swept with vineyards. "The next day, the farmers who live in that house over there roasted the boar, and all the rally drivers and mechanics had a fantastic meal with a lot of wine. On what other rally stage would the local people turn an unfortunate accident into a fantastic festeggiamento?"
It was 1992, and Biasion was practicing for the Montalcino stage of the Rallye Sanremo. What he is too modest to point out is that these festivities undoubtedly came about because Biasion was a hero to the locals, having won the World Rally Championship title in 1988 and 1989, when he became the first driver to claim three consecutive Rallye Sanremo victories.
It is a curious truth that, although driving fast cars has a place in the Italian national psyche alongside fashion, food, and amorous adventure, the country has spawned fairly meager bragging rights when it comes to producing world-beating drivers.
"It is normal that my home rally should be extra special to me, but the Montalcino stage is way beyond that. You see, I chose to be a rally driver because the driving is on real roads through the most stunning landscapes in the world. But the Montalcino stage is where my heart and soul are."
The stage starts on a straight stretch of gravel lined with cypresses. Biasion opens the throttle and streams through the avenue of trees. The Tuscan sun glints through the windshield as he crests the brow of a hill that, in rallying days, he'd take at 125 mph as the springboard to a 100-foot jump.
There are one or two sweeps of asphalt, but most of the stage is gravel, allowing Biasion to demonstrate some rallying techniques. At one point, he slides sideways, facing slightly away from the upcoming turn in a maneuver known as a Manji drift. "For many years, I tested and developed rally cars on the roads around Montalcino with Tiziano Siviero, my co-driver. We became friends with the local farmers, and one of them sold us a small piece of vineyard, so you could say that we are small-time producers."
Perhaps it was that night - when Biasion, his fellow drivers, and the local farmers went whole hog with the wild boar roadkill - that consummated Biasion's passion for this region. Seventeen years later, his favorite rally stage still fills him with a fervor for the full Montalcino.