Andrea Belometti: «Choosing a co-pilot is a real headache for me»

In May all fans of retro-rallies were waiting for the start of «Mille Miglia», the most beautiful road race. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t let the plans fulfil, but this doesn’t mean that we have put it away. That is why our project keeps indulging you in interviews with the ones who are supposed to set off to an incredible 4-day journey of about 2000 km onboard their retro-automobiles. Our next guest is the defending champion of Franciacorta Historic and Winter Marathon – Andrea Belometti.

— Good afternoon, Mr Belometti, we are glad that you have found time to give an interview to our project! Let’s begin with a traditional question that we had posed to our previous interviewees – Andrea Vesco, Giovanni Moceri and Juan Tonconogy. Why exactly «retrorally«?

Good afternoon, thank you for paying attention to my personality! I will answer in the following way. I had been doing motocross professionally for a long time but then I had to quit due to a serious leg injury. And in 2010 an acquaintance of mine advised me to take part in one not very popular race onboard a retro-automobile and I immediately found my passion in such rallies.

— On your Facebook page there is a photo that shows you young and standing in a cabin of a car. Tell us, please, what is this automobile and in what way it is connected with you and your family?

(Smiling) Actually, it was not me. This photo was taken in about 1935. There you can see some unfamiliar boy standing in a car that I eventually bought in 2013.

— Oh, sorry, but now it’s clear why there is a comment under the picture saying «You have greatly turned younger». But the way, a thematic question. You were born on January, 1. What is it more for you: a personal holiday or just a New Year’s festival?

—  Yes, it’s right, I was born on January 1, 1964. So, now I see this day only as a day for New Year’s celebration, because I’m getting older.

— As far as we know, you are the president of «Belp». How do you manage to combine such a high position with the participation in retro-rallies?

For me taking part in these events is a kind of a rest after a long working week. That’s why, I devote myself to rallies only at weekends.

— In 2019 you won «Franciacorta Historic» and became two-time champion. Are you planning to start this year, providing that the event will take place?

Of course. I’m always ready to drive as soon as it’s clear that the rally is to be held.

How many events do you pick in the calendar each year and try not to miss?

Usually it is about 30 rallies per year, I always try to win in every single event. But I can’t highlight any of them.

— In 2019 you took part in «Coppa delle Alpi» where you were just a step away from the podium and this year in January it was your triumph at «Wintermarathon». Does it mean that cold helps you to win? Or warm weather is more common for you?

As far as «Coppa delle Alpi» is concerned, the car was not prepared properly for the race at 2000 meters above the sea level and in cold weather which led to my failure. But we got the best of it and the engine of my Fiat 508 C had the right adjustments before «Wintermarathon», and so we won. But generally I like both «winter» and «summer» rallies. For instance, in 2017 and 2018 I triumphed at «Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti» which takes place in summer.

— The peculiarity of «Wintermarathon» is in the late-night finish and special stages going across the icy lake. No doubt that to perform there successfully you have to practice in the corresponding conditions. How do you and your car deal with such preparation?

Yes, it is important to practice during the night and on slippery road to show good results at «Wintermarathon». I normally start my practice sessions in about a month before the start on a mountain road with similar conditions that passes not far from my house. This way I get used to the peculiarities of special stages of the rally.

— On various rallies you drive different cars. Amongst them we can find 1937 Fiat 508 C, 1932 Fiat Siata 508 S Balilla Sport and 1929 Lancia Lambda 221 Spider Casaro. How do you usually choose cars? Are those your belongings or are they provided for the races?

I am very lucky to possess the car that I drive. I take a car which has parameters that better suit a particular race and I have more chances to win onboard my own cars.

— In the last few years you had had at least 6 different co-pilots – Emanuela Putelli, Giovanni Scarabelli, Alberto Maffi, Emanuele Peli, Doriano Vavassori and Massimo Bettinsoli. How difficult is it for you to get used to a new partner for such a short period?

For me it’s a headache. It’s very hard to find a co-pilot who could be available for all 30 rallies per year that I participate in. So, I have to change them, because they simply get tired.

— Speaking about «Mille Miglia», we have to mention that you have shown rather good results for several times, either being in TOP-10 or even closer to the leading five. What do you think was the reason that you didn’t go up higher, like being a prize-winner or even a champion?

«Mille Miglia» is a very important race. The best one! Emotions are much stronger and more colorful than in any other rallies. And as far as victory opportunities are concerned, Vesco, for example, could win only from the 12th attempt and with Moceri it took him 11 races. But what is more important is the experience you gain because you must stay concentrated throughout all four days. I always try to be victorious and just wait for my time to come.

— Well, persistence should be praised. And here’s another question. Isn’t it a pity that at «Mille Miglia» a great role is played by car coefficient and normally it’s exactly this factor that stands for losses?

The rules of «Mille Miglia» have been always as that. Organizers want the participants to get on the start onboard more historically meaningful vehicles, plus, let’s not forget older cars are more difficult to drive. Those who complain about this, won the MM with a non-original car and they all know who it is.

— Sounds intriguing… And what is more disappointing: to lose a few hundredths of a second (or some penalty points) or be beaten on «clear advantage» by a strong opponent?

Before participating in «Mille Miglia» the rules are clear so I don’t complain about my results.

— Many pilots say that they pay special attention to the preparations for «Mille Miglia» by setting their cars and checking upon the chronometers. Do you have a special strategy of getting ready for «the most beautiful road race»?

Yes, training is especially important to do «Mille Miglia» well and every year you learn something that can make you improve.

— Are there any pilots who you communicate with outside the races? Does competitiveness affect friendship?

It is difficult to be friends if you fight for the same result. But I am always respectful and loyal to my opponents.

— And the last question, we guess. Retro-automobile movement is not so widely spread in Russia comparing to what you have in Italy where automobiles, including vintage ones, are a separate religion. What would you recommend to those who is just planning to be a part of this exciting world of retro-rallies?

Motorsports was born in Italy and this is the first reason. But Russia is a great country with fantastic landscapes and also a lot of wealth, probably your country should organize international competitions. I would definitely come to participate!

Photo: Andrea Belometti, Wintermarathon

Cover: Adrenaline 24H