Poor Jackie Ickx didn’t have a chance. We were leading and he just couldn’t pass us on those narrow roads. He made a couple of brave attempts I admit, but how could he know that it’s not easy to overtake seasoned motoring journalists, that too from India? But a racing driver is always a racing driver. One narrow gap, and Jackie downshifted. With a strong exhaust note and the wind tousling his hair, his silver Denzel passed us. Anyway, we had made history. We delayed a Le Mans-Formula 1-Dakar champ for, er, three whole seconds. The point is, we were ahead of a motorsport legend for a brief while, and that’s one for the history books. I would like to add here that it was a mere coincidence that our start number was 33 and his was 34, okay?
Did I just mention Jackie as in Ickx? Yup, the very legend, that too, driving a very unique Porsche 356-like car. The 1958 Denzel that the Belgian great was driving was a very special and unique Volkswagen-related roadster. Wolfgang Denzel was an Austrian motorcycle racer who built his own cars with VW components and here was an immaculately maintained piece being whipped by a racing legend who, let’s say, outlasted his own cars in endurance racing. And what was the car that kept the great Jackie Ickx at bay? Our 1958 Beetle Karmann cabriolet.
Pause. You must be wondering how come, in just 200-odd words, I have mentioned a racing great, a rare classic and a special Beetle. That’s because, ladies and gentlemen, I participated in an exclusive rally for classic and vintage cars in Germany and later feasted my eyes on some of the most exotic metal that could move. It was the first edition of the Schloss Bensberg Classics (SBC), a fancy do for classic and vintage machinery, which had Volkswagen as one of the main sponsors. That meant the whole group was represented by some incredible cars. Which ones? Hold on, hold on, all will be revealed. But there were plenty of other awesome non-VW cars as well. The SBC was held in a fancy baroque castle near Cologne and the event included a rally with the old-timers and the next day was a concours. The concours jury had some big names, including Walter De Silva and Giorgetto Giugiaro, while one of my co-participants, driving a 1966 Lamborghini 400GT was an elderly bearded Italian driver called Valentino Balboni (funny, did you know there’s a Gallardo with the same name?).