NOT again, surely? Another marathon event taking a bunch of rich boys and their toys halfway around the world? The London-Sydney Marathon is different, however, because it has attracted two former world champions and the world's fastest lady driver. Next Saturday, Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist and Michèle Mouton will head a field of 95 cars on a hard-charging, 32-day event through 14 countries where they race, timed to the second, over 64 closed-road special stages. The format is the same as that for current world championship rallies. Many old-car events are navigational social outings where, at best, participants are asked to maintain brisk average speeds against oncoming traffic. But that's not what former champions do. Mikkola, world champion in 1983, smiles and says: "We are going racing for more than 700 miles just like we used to on world championship events. This is a proper rally. That's why I'm here." Mikkola drives a nimble Ford Escort, just like the one he used to win the London-Mexico Rally. Michèle Mouton will be in a Porsche 911 and Stig Blomqvist, the taciturn Swede, will be at the wheel of a gutsy V8-engined Ford Capri. "Most classic rallies are like mobile cocktail parties," says Blomqvist, world champion in 1984. "This one is a real old-fashioned, long-distance rally for serious rally men." Then he adds, "Oh yes, and for Michèle ú" as he remembers that she was his team-mate in the Audi team. And that she won more world championship events than he did. Clay Regazzoni, former Ferrari Formula One star and winner of five grands prix, is at the wheel of a lusty 6.3-litre Mercedes fitted with hand controls. Clay's F1 career ended at the Long Beach GP in 1980 when brake failure tossed him into a wall and left him crippled from the waist down. "I'm still a petrol-head and love these long-distance rally races," he says. "You like my new fold-up aluminium wheelchair? I had it made specially to keep the weight in the car to a minimum." Starter Andrew Cowan won the original London-Sydney in 1968 in a Hillman Hunter (a car replicated by Freddie and Janet Giles on the Around the World in 80 Days Rally) and is taking time out from running Ralliart, his world championship-winning Mitsubishi team, to flag the cars away. He says: "I wouldn't miss it for quids. I still get misty-eyed when I remember this event. It was my first big important win. It's great to see the good old boys like Hannu and Stig having a go. I envy them."