It has been an institution for decades. With some ups and downs, but always a big challenge. And a large portion of fun is also involved – the Dolomite Rally.
It was in the year 1966 that Klaus Becker organized a motorcycle trip from Munich to Terlan in Etschtal for his friends. Becker, a dyed-in-the-wool Berliner, used to ride in the German side-car off-road cup and was a member of the Munich automobile club. The idea for a joint ride came from his club colleague and then BMW factory rider, Karl Ibscher. It should be pointed out in passing that the pair were always engaged in intense sporting duels.
The stretch had what it took. Through fantastic landscapes, it led down to the south. Along the way, the riders had to earn points by riding to various check-points. The only catch – all of the friends had to stayed together, selected the same route and therefore have the same amount of points. In order for a winner to be crowned, a special stage was added on the spot. Whoever made it over the narrow pass to the Lagar mines would be declared the winner and could pocket the cup.
The only problem was that the ascent road to the mines was not an ascent road at all. An improved mule track led upwards, and nothing else. Enduro? No way! The attendees were all road riders, not kitted out for off-road riding and no spiked tyros. A large number of participants did not make it to the yard at all. But right at the front, someone managed to climb up the mountain – Helmut Dähne, who would become a singularly important part of the rally in the coming years.
One year later, again at the beginning of October, the second ride began. This one also took its name from Becker’s motorcycle business, “Dillenberg & Co.”, the DICO Rally. The starting point was in Picolein in Val Badia, in the middle of the Dolomites where Ladin is still spoken – a remnant from Roman times. The destination was Terlan again, between Bozen and Meran. The second rally was much more organized. Riding time was limited to nine hours. Anyone exceeding this by as little as one minute would be completely excluded from the competition. Various check-points, distributed over a wide area, could be ridden to. There were various points to be had for this. Riders had to prove they had actually been to the check-point by marking their check card with the stamp that was hung there. The rules were as simple as that.
The locations of the check-points were only made known on the evening before the event. The participants had to choose an optimal route which they thought would take them to the highest number. It seemed doubtful whether all of the check-points could be reached in the time allotted.
Helmut Dähne was once again the winner. His cousin, Fritz Scherb decided not to ride to Penser Joch with him; he thought that there was not quite enough time left. They only had one and a half hours. Dähne managed it with his R69S and was the only participant to complete all check-points.
Dähne also led the third rally, although he had the same amount of points as Rüdiger Gutsche, the then head of construction at BMW. A trial would have to decide. Helmut Dähne got his handlebars tangled up in a prickly bush and lost his balance. Gutsche finished without any faults and won.
The third rally was also the last one that was spearheaded by Klaus Becker. It was too much work for him and he wanted to stop. Dähne and the other 22 participants enjoyed the rally so much that they decided to keep it alive. Helmut Dähne took over the organizing from then on, with his first event in 1969.
When the Automobilclub München (ACM) had the role of rally organizer, the name of the event also changed. It now had the title of “ACM Dolomite Rally”. There were a good 100 participants who were under Dähne’s command in those days and who met in the mountains in October. Dolomite Rally – the name has remained to this day, even though it is not held there anymore. It is a matter of tradition.
In 1987, after the 21st rally, Dähne wanted to call it a day and declared the final rally. From then on participants only met sporadically, just for fun, not to compete. But something was missing. And then things started to pick up again. Just small enough to keep going, on a two-yearly cycle. Stations in the rally were St. Kassian, St. Jakob in Defereggental, Gardasee, Bled in Slovenia, the Bergamo Alps and Tuscany.
The rally has since established itself as the ACM-Metzeler Dolomite Rally, but now it is not just a sporting event. It is a social occasion, friendships are cultivated. Despite a healthy level of competition, people ride with each other, not against each other. Participants from all over Germany and neighboring countries came together in 2009 for the 34th rally. And just like before, the aim was to ride to as many check-points in a fascinating region within two days.
Assistance comes in the form of rider talks with slide shows, maps and the road book. In the end, the participants put their own route together themselves, based on the level of difficulty and what they think they will be able to achieve. 30 destination points provide an incentive each day; the best riders manage half of these. Exceeding the time limit results in losing points; arriving an hour early is rewarded with points. Participants over the age of 50 are given bonus points.
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