This year, we lucked out big time with the addition of one heck of a rider in our team at the last edition of the Swank Rally di Sardegna. None other than Mr. Forrest Minchinton hopped on board for an Italian adventure filled with fuel and here's his spin on the tale.
“The Swank Rally di Sardegna is a race for gentlemen and women on modern and vintage two-wheeled machines, either single or multi cylinders depending on what tickles their fancy.
This rally takes you on a wild ride, starting from Milan’s outskirts, and zipping through the streets, backroads, farmland, tiny alleyways, and sidewalks. For who wants to make things a little more spicy, your trusty navigation tool is a good ol' paper roll chart, aka "the roadbook," strapped to your handlebars. It's like trying to read a novel while riding at high rates of speed. If you follow the roadbook precisely, bob and weave your way through local traffic, avoid odd cows, and make the occasional cappuccino stop… the fruit of your labours will be landing on the beautiful Italian island of Sardinia.
It's like time travel to a magnificent era, with postcard-worthy views and vibes around every corner, from olive trees to crystal-clear sea coves.
Now, this rally format is nothing new, in fact, this very race dates back to the 1980’s. The Swank Rally di Sardegna was born from the ashes of the now mythical Rally di Sardegna, the first “African” rally organized outside the European continent. A bygone golden era of rally, a true adventure and one of the events that made up the World Rally Raid Championship of the time, a world championship highlighted by the Paris to Dakar rally, drawing more than 1,000 entrants hungry for adventure. In 2019 Deus Ex Machina and Adventure Riding decided to bring the Rally di Sardegna back to life with the aim of reviving the spirit of the golden era of rallies. Riding on the same routes where the history of motorsport had been made, but this time in an inviting environment that was as much adventure as a friendly ride amongst mates.
My entrance into this story happened with a phone call from our friends at Deus Italy. Giuseppe was on the other side of the Atlantic phoning me from his office in Milan with a friendly invitation to participate in this year's running of the Swank. He knew full well that I had been pestering for a chance to come over ever since they brought the event back to life in 2019.
The catch wouldn't be IF I wanted to attend but IF I could make it in time. I was a few hundred miles deep into the Mexican Baja peninsula racing the Baja 400, which would leave me only 24 hrs to get back home to California and catch the first flight to Europe.
Needless to say, we got the Baja 400 done and I flew straight to Milan. After my arrival, it was straight to the garage of the tallest Italian I know, Mr. Ottavio Missoni. A partner of Deus, Dakar racer and finisher, vintage motorcycle collector, and all-around nice guy who was generous enough to lend me his own motorcycle for me to race a Sherco 450. He opted for his trusty and very cool 80’s Honda XR600 for a go in the vintage class, complete with period correct manual roll chart to boot. We traded out his height-appropriate ape hangers handlebars for my height-appropriate (vertically challenged) bar bend.
We mounted a set of new Metzeler tires before Ottavio gave me a quick crash course of the roll chart system through his local trails to familiarize myself with roadbook-style navigation and it was off to the Prologue at the iconic Malpensa Motocross track.
It was a blast to be surrounded by such a laid-back crew of riders, each cruising at their own pace, but savoring every moment like one big, happy family. And let me tell you, the bikes were a sight to behold. From the modern unstoppable Yamaha Teneré to the beloved classics from the '80s and '90s, like the Honda XL and XR, Suzuki DR, and Yamaha TT and XT. It was a two-wheeled paradise with a flavor for every taste.
Fast forward a couple of days, and I found myself tearing up the Sardinian backcountry trails, covering everything from fast-flowing trails and riverbeds to single tracks and fire roads, with short stints on pavement. This party went on for three days, crisscrossing the island from the mountaintops to the valleys and all the way to the seashore. Each evening, we kicked back at a beach resort, sharing war stories, near misses, and unforgettable moments over delicious food and all the beer we could handle.
The grand finale happened at the ferry port in Olbia, Sardinia, where we loaded our bikes and hit the bar for one last round of celebratory drinks with our new and old pals as we sailed overnight back to the Italian mainland. The final stage ended at the Ferry port in Olbia, Sardinia where we loaded our motorcycles and proceeded to the bar for one last celebratory drink amongst new and old friends as we sailed overnight back to the Italian mainland. The smooth rally course and challenge of navigation was something I really enjoyed, it was such a change to the terrors of the Baja 400 I had competed in just a few days prior.
Although I have always been a sucker for self-induced suffering, this Swank Rally had just the right amount of challenge and champagne. Consider my flights already booked for next year!”