Colin 'Codge' Harris writes:
The Stella Alpina was created in 1966 by Mario Artusio of the BMW club of
Turin. The first rally was held at the Stelvio Pass on the other side of
Italy. I think Harry Louis of "The Motorcycle" met up with Mario there and
they decided that a rally on the other side of Italy would be a better bet
so checked out the Bardonecchia area. In 1967 the Stella Alpina was held
in Bardonecchia for the first time; it was small but a great sucess. There
was a substantial British presence right from the start, all of us on road
machinery, all of it totally unsuitable.
Think about some of these: a Royal Enfield Constellation with Child/Adult sidecar, a Vincent 1000cc with a Steib chair, an assortment of BSAs,Triumphs and Nortons and a few rich riders with old Earles Forks Bee Emms. We had quite a few laughs with some of those.
It was considered a great success by all of us and it continued, getting bigger and bigger, into the seventies and eighties with the addition of the Alpine Safari after the rally for 3 more days of trail bashing. In the eighties it got too big and we had to "de-publicise" the event as it was getting out of hand and the locals were getting a bit anti.
Since then it has continued and we alternate the Alpine Safari between Bardonecchia and Marmora (about 140 miles south in the Mara Valley). Space for sleeping in Marmora is a bit limited as they can only sleep about 60 or 70 at max. However I have little doubt that something could be arranged if we were stuck.
A few memories:
I first went in '67 on a BSA Super Rocket with 10.5 to 1 pistons, Spitfire cam, TT Carb and Thruxton bars. Swapped to an old Earles forks R60 Bee Emm in 1970, hard work, but despite rusty main bearings it took me to Istanbul and back after the rally. In 1971 a 500cc 4 cylinder Honda was hopeless, what with me going in the pubs and the bike going into petrol stations, we never seemed to have much luck. In 1972 I took a Triumph TR6R, the last model before they put the oil in the frame. All I did was put the old 7.5 to 1 pistons in and could run it on tea slops and use it to do daft things on mountain tracks. Used that same bike for years. Then I bought a disused R60/6 Bee Emm in 1978. I soon found out why it was disused, it pinked like Hell, didn't go very well and the drum brake was a bit lacking. In 1980 I put an 800/7 engine and gearbox in it and it was much better. Kept it until 1985 when I bought the R80GS that I am still riding.
At the moment I'm building another with a 1050cc Henk Scheck Paris/Dakar spec motor, by the time I finish it I'll be to old to master it!!.
Just about every machine you could imagine has got to the top of the Stella and I do mean everything. No doubt some clown will try it on a motorised bathchair, or even a motorised bar-stool sooner or later.
The Wing Man
This year he came with a brand new 1800 Gold Wing, but 12 years ago I chased Steve up the mountain when he had his 1200 Aspencade. I had to dodge the enormous rocks his back tyre was throwing at me, but managed to stay just in listening distance to the good tape he had on the stereo!!. We got to the very top that year and as I pulled up alongside him he said "Great Music" he looked a bit astonished and said "I was only keeping you behind me because I thought you were a Kraut!". I replied, "I'm going to report you to the Gold Wing Owners' club for cruelty to Gold Wings".
Does the track count as public road? YES. If you have an accident and don't have insurance/tax etc things could get heavy. Unofficially anything goes, but the "tossers on crossers" as some like to call them are rather unwelcome. A bit of consideration for other riders goes a longway.
I somewhere have a potted history of the Stella that Mario prepared a few years ago. I'll see if I can dig it out.
All the best, safe riding