In today’s #oldcarshooters we will discover the Autobianchi A112 Elegant. Let’s imagine the car of your dreams abandoned in a garage, waiting for who knows when it can return to travel on scenic roads, perhaps in sweet company. A car to which you are linked for a specific reason, for the brand, its lines, for the history or for any other personal reason that only you know. Now imagine that this car really exists in a garage and that the opportunity arises to take it to reserve it a new (way better) life. Well, this really happened to the owner of this adorable (yes, that’s the right term) Autobianchi A112 Elegant from 1973. What he couldn’t imagine is what satisfactions he would experience a few years later in an motorsport discipline in which precision is the decisive factor of sports performance: regularity rallies.
The A112 was for several years the best-known Italian small car, conceived in the 1960s to counter the sales success of the Mini, put up for sale in Italy by Innocenti. To do this, FIAT, through its subsidiary Autobianchi, decided to realize its vision of a utility car, placing the emphasis on purely Italian elegance. It was presented at the 1969 Turin Motor Show, immediately achieving great appreciation that would have turned into unprecedented sales success and a long-lasting productive life, so much so that the A112 only retired in 1986, after eight series.
The history of this A112 began in the 2010s when the owner, Gabriele Tonarelli from Massa (Tuscany), heard about this car put up for sale. I have the pleasure of teaming up with him during some regularity races in Italy. The car previously belonged to a lady who bought it as a young man, several years earlier, as her first car and kept it until the end of her days. Having had no children, the baton passed to her relatives who decided to put it up for sale during a real estate sale which included the garage with the car inside. When Gabriele showed up, he noticed the dust deposited on the bodywork, but also corroded parts due to the loss of the radiator fluid. Luckily, thanks to a booster, the car resumed its motion, foreshadowing the possibility of restoring it with a conservative restoration that lasted a couple of years. What struck Gabriele about the car, that also contributed to the purchase, was that it was built in the same year of his birth, 1973.
In the meantime, Gabriele approached regularity rallies, taking part in the “Granducato Challenge”, a regional Trophy that included a series of local races that were not so demanding, but ideal for starting to hone their techniques and driving skills. He started with a modern car, and then climbed onto the newly refurbished A112, participating as the car’s first race in one that had the finish line in the place where the previous owner lived. He finished third overall, but what certainly excites him was the nostalgic reaction when the villagers recognized the A112.
The peculiarity of regularity rallies is that it is a motoring discipline in which not those who manage to mark the fastest time in a given path are rewarded, but instead those who manage to pass in predetermined points in an imposed time as precise as possible. The time can be known by using pressure switches or pipes on the roadway (and then we speak of classical regularity) or secret, so there is the need to try to respect the time imposed by trying to match the average set speed (and then we speak about regularity to medium). In classical regularity rallies, accuracy is evaluated to the hundredth of a second and every hundredth of a second, earlier or later, is worth a penalty point. The winner is the one who accumulates as less penalties as possible. The same applies for the average regularity rally, in which, however, the precision is evaluated to the tenth of a second.
The performances of a classic regularity rally driver are evaluated on the basis of the average of the penalties, calculated with the ratio between the amount of penalties acquired and the number of Timed Stages foreseen in the race. Based on the value, a driver acquires a level of performance that varies from D Driver (average over 40 cents) to TOP Driver (average from 5 cents down).
Gabriele’s performances improved race after race, until he became a TOP Driver when he began to face more important and titled races. To get there, three years were needed. In 2016, we participated in our first competition together, called “Rondina d’Autunno” which took place in the Florentine Chianti. We made a good performance which led to our return the following year at the “Mugello Grand Prix”, where we got an unexpected overall victory. This was the prequel for 2019, when we participated in the more demanding National Regularity Trophy, a competition reserved for those who continuously faced the panorama of national regularity. We participated in five races located between Mantua, Parma, Bolzano and Treviso: very different distances compared to what we faced in the Grand Duchy Challenge. They were also very exciting races, due to the unexpected encounters in the race courses, faced with the determination and passion necessary to bring home the best possible result.
Since that day, several races, many more “tubes” and valid results have been acquired in his competitive life, which have contributed to the construction of a car with a solid and recognized sporting value. After the hard efforts faced and the consequent restoration and repair operations of the worn mechanical parts, also for this A112 it is time to take a break, taking a leisurely ride through the winding roads of the Apuan Alps, waiting for take part in new races thanks to which he will be able to add new chapters of his extraordinary career in classic regularity.