Day 33 … Troyes to Paris

There were just the matter of a mere 200kms and three Passage Checks to pass through and it would be all over!

Drizzle as we left Troyes at the unusually late hour of 9.40, but things were brightening up as we drove along the Seine into the heart of Paris. We had the final holding control on avenue Foch, and then against the authorities wishes it was down the Champs Élysées and round Place de la Conorde and into Place Vendome and the finish arch. The Garmin showed we were 75m from our destination after 12400kms.

Arriving in Place Vendome

It was a surprise to find Helen and David in Paris to greet us, a spur of the moment late evening dash across the channel for 20 hours in Paris! Some crews seemed to have bussed in their supporters club, the Japanese had many madly flag waving fans.

Reception committee, late lunch
Gala prize giving dinner in the Salon Opera.
 
The dinner was preceded by an excellent twenty minute rushed edit of the film, that gave all the assembled friends and family a taste of the past 5 weeks. Many of the excellent photos shot by Gerard Brown were also shown including two particularly gruesome shots of the crew of Car 50 in full Gobi sand make-up.
Receiving the award for 2nd in Class

Delighted to have finished 5th overall as well.

 

So it's just a matter of getting back to normal now. Thank you for the many kind comments concerning my blogging skills, it started out as a simple discipline to ensure there was permanent record of the trip, little did I know it would lead to a treatise on bus shelters.

So it's goodbye from me, and it's goodbye from him.

 

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Day 32. …. Gstaad to Troyes

The final long 500 km day out of Switzerland and over the Jura. One short circuit test and numerous Passage Checks were undemanding and wasn't going to change anything.

What a difference a day makes….view from Troyes hotel room!
 

A few pictures to illustrate the day are below, together with a short video clip – a first for the blog, if it works….

The waterfall in the subterranean entrance to the Alpina in Gstaad
 
Lee and Sue Vincent manning the hotel Out Control
 
Rolling Jura countryside
 
We only have a leisurely 200km to Paris in the morning and we are expected to start arriving in Place Vendome from 1pm. So there is a chance for some reflection upon our trip.

My single memory that sums up the unique nature of this road trip is the moment we headed off from the frontier town of Zamyn Uud on the first Time Trial in Mongolia, about the first 300m were on tarmac and then you were on your own for the next 24km. Many different cars could be seen fanning out, dust plumes spiralling behind them, heading into the Gobi.

We have had no serious disasters, no low moments worth mentioning, and we are both still on speaking terms, remembering that not all crews are. There is very little we would do differently if we were to set out again in 3 years time (no, only kidding, Chris and Jill) … (( you weren't serious were you Richard?)).

And from the other seat:

Rally finish eve..

So we're almost there, 120k to Paris tomorrow I believe..

What an experience……the size, remoteness and beauty of Mongolia, the huge friendly and enthusiastic welcome received in Russia and Slovakia and having my fill of racing up and down mountains in Europe.. and we mustn't forget the Russian bus shelters ! I have no doubt the finish in Paris will also be spectacular.

It's been an amazing experience that I shall never forget, I feel privileged to have taken part in this extraordinary event – thank you Richard for making it possible for me to participate and Jill for her encouragement and enduring 5 weeks of stress from work (boy am I going to pay…)

Fingers crossed for the next 120K…

I also have to thank Chris of course for sanctioning this trip of a lifetime.

The only item of a personal nature that we forgot were overalls for keeping clothes clean while crawling under the car to check things. RW would probably wish it to be known he did most of that. Well, it is his car.

The recommended Rohan clothing was excellent, easy to wash out regularly and dry quickly, I probably had a few items of clothing with me that were not needed. We both remained fit and well throughout.

Car preparation was excellent and Richard (with some help from Rob) must be congratulated on getting everything spot on. We should perhaps have had more substantial shock absorber protection and carried a couple more spares but everything else performed admirably. Won't mention the door seals and the battery…

The original aim was a finish in Paris, that was soon modified to obtaining a Gold medal. This meant you had to do the entire route without missing a Control or a Test. We would both have happily taken a top 20 finish too if it was possible, to be in the top 10 would have better of course, but fingers crossed…

The 81 year old Gerry Crown from Australia in the leading Leyland tackling the final circuit test.



 

 

Day 31 … Davos to Gstaad

We thought this might be a fairly gentle day, less than 500kms, with one short Time Trial and one slightly longer one. On closer inspection of the map and road book as we motored out of Davos I realised that perhaps the assessment might have been a trifle hasty…..

The old cobbled climb up the Tremola

 

Just a short way out of town and we had to wait 15mins or more at a level crossing, only the leading car got over before the lights turned red. Then we met busses and heavy traffic. Reality was that there were two Time Controls that we had to get to and a lengthy section of narrow twisty mountain road, this could be serious!

First item on the agenda was a short test at a driving centre, executed promptly and then off to the first Time Control. We got there just 10s late and realised that only Gerry in the leading car had been there before us. To cut a long story short all the classic car class were late, this caused many complaints and as is often the case the organisers took the line of least resistance and scrubbed all penalties. But for that we might well have been leading the European Cup competition……

Heading to the top of the Nufenen
 

We drove over the St Gothard pass to drive up the old cobbled Tremola, this was meant to be timed but couldn't be as it could not be closed. The on over the Nufenen at 2438m, the highest we'd been where it was snowing.

 

Verbier start line.

 

Next it was along the Rhone valley for a hill climb up above Verbier, and then the familiar drive up to Villars over the Col de Croix and Col de Pillon to Gstaad.

Some of you may recognise this loction

Rally split between the Palace and the newly built Alpina Hotels, we are in he latter and it is truly luxurious.
Balcony view in Gstaad
 

Only one full day now with just a series of passage checks on the way to Troyes…

 

Day 30 .. Schladming to Davos

My god, have we really been doing this for 30 days…..some crews are certainly ready for Paris. They aren't bothering about the correct route and getting penalties but rather getting out a map and plotting the shortest course to the overnight hotel.

We did the whole 480 km's of course, well apart from the 'narrow and very steep mountain road' that in fact had been closed as there was snow on it! The day started with more low cloud and rain, but by mid afternoon as we entered Switzerland the cloud lifted and things got a bit brighter.

Breakfast in misty mountain restaurant
 
The day actually started in an unusual way, well no actually it started by being woken up by revving engines about 2 hours earlier than necessary. But after that we had to leave the hotel before breakfast and head off for another hill climb, up the Planai, the main Schladming ski area. The idea was to send everyone up the hill and have breakfast in the mountain restaurant at the top, before setting off for the rest of the day. Schladming is at only 700m the very top is 1900m, the drive up was about 14 km's, the last 8 were on gravel and timed we didn't go to the very top, maybe to 1700 m which was in the fog. So we had no views, but a very excellent breakfast buffet. Good run up narrowly beating Ludovic, sixth fastest we think.
The lower slopes at Schladming.
 
The first half of the day was rather dreary with the rain and heavy traffic, only enlivened by one of the camera team who was in a helicopter following us along the valley. We passed the Krimml waterfall (at 380m the highest in Austria) but it was obscured by low cloud. Then on through Innsbruck on the motorway. We had passed a number of ski resorts already today and now we took a loop through Kuhtai and then finally over the Fluela pass into Davos.

Nearing the top of the Fluela

Had an amusing afternoon running in convoy with the Australians in the Datsun , the Rich Landcruiser, and the Rusians in the Moskovitch who are placed 4th, 6th and 7th respectively.

 

The Special, earlier in the day.

On entering Davos we encounter the Model A Special on the side of the road (again), Richard calls out, do you want a tow? Before I can even get out of my door to see, the tow rope is attached.. We tow them into the hotel, their water pump had expired. Ever resourceful, they has spotted a Model A outside a property on the edge of town, so go an ask the owner if he could spare the water pump. The car was not a runner, so they had a new water pump!

Swiss wild flower meadows
Mountain restaurant carving.

Day 29 …. Bratislava to Schladming

We were hoping for another day like yesterday, but the 500kms into Austria proved to simply be a matter of picking up several Passage Checks, with the Time Control in the middle of the day cancelled.

Shortly after crossing the Danube.

The day dawned cool, there had been heavy rain and wind in the night and the Danube looked pretty full as we headed out of town and straight over the border to a kart track for a bit of early morning action.

It was 2 laps with a split point, reminded us of an HRCR style test, the track was damp and a wrong test was simply not an option. After that we had a long day climbing Austrian mountains collecting nine PC stamps in various off the beaten track locations, including a bit of gravel over one col.

Well, it's in Austria I'm certain of that…
 
In contrast to the last two countries visited we saw hardly any interested spectators! The first part of the morning saw us in a fruit and wine growing area that was relatively flat, many fruit stalls lined the road, cherries and strawberries mainly. After that we were in the mountains for the rest of the day, passing little traffic as we crossed the alpine meadows and twisted up mountain passes.
There was an end of day hill climb planned up the Stoderzinken, close to Schladming. This turned out to be 8 km on twisty steep damp tarmac into the low cloud. We arrived to find a queue and that we were sandwiched between Vintage cars. Inevitably we caught two as we reached the final part of the climb, one kindly made some room and Richard managed to overtake the second on the inside of a hairpin, just… Some were complaining of lack of power, but with some adjustment of the timing, the old girl seemed on song. We shall await the results with interest.
We were all served a drink and apple strudel by lederhosen wearing staff in the mountain restaurant at the top whilst waiting for the later runners to complete their run. It was the a short run back down to our hotel in the ski resort. In my top floor oven, I can hear the whine of a drill, sawing and the occasional hammer blow as cars are sorted out in the car park below my window. Not forgetting the sound of a Lancia being revved. The buffet tonight receives universal acclaim as the best yet with a vast selection of everything, I couldn't even begin to list it all. There had been a concern the we both might lose weight on his little jaunt, certainly not the case.

 

Fresh sprinkle of snow.

 

The results showed that we had an especially good day yesterday, coming 3rd overall with only the two leading cars beating our combined test times. So Switzerland tomorrow and the day after we we pass through Villars between 4 and 5 pm en rout for Gstaad.

 

PS. On a slow news day…….

Ukrainian bus stops often have matching toilets….
And how would you know this is a Ukrainian bus stop?
 











 

Day 28 …. Kosice to Bratislava

Yesterday I said, Sunday it must be Slovakia. Well, one of our company decided to go to Hungary instead, what was a 8 hour day became a 16 hour one!

We enter the fifth week of the event and today became the first really hard days rallying with over 500kms to cover that would include four closed road hill climbs as well as a spin round the Slovakoring race circuit to end the day.

Rural Slovakian village

There was a midday Time Control we noticed. Now as we have had a fairly relaxed schedule for most days so far, we thought this might catch a few people out. We decided to press on and in fact arrived with 20 mins to spare. We'll have to wait to see the results as to whether any of our close rivals have picked up road penalties.
Chasing the Landcruiser and the Beetle…
 
It was quite easy to follow the correct route out of Kosice as many junctions were manned by smiling policemen holding up traffic and waving us on. We were soon onto minor roads twisting up into the mountains. The first two Timed Sections were on roads closed by the police, both involved a climb and then a short descent and were 8 and 8.5km in length. Both were on good tarmac, and we were pleased with our times as we caught earlier cars but on each occasion they let us pass with little delay.
The small villages we passed through often had people out waving encouragement in fact it appeared that several schools had the day off as all the children were gathered on the roadside to watch. A large banner was held aloft, “Keep Rolling On” it proclaimed.
Some of the roads have been lined with walnut trees in the rural areas and one more notable sight was a man scything hay – no time to stop and take photographs today though. We also seem to pass several shanty town like areas, people living in the most run down decrepit buildings, no windows or doors. We are told they are gypsy like social outcasts who are avoided at all costs.

The third Section at 6.5 km's was flatter, the main point of interest was that Gerry Crown in the leading car and ourselves who were following him, both met an oncoming car on this closed road. Both passes happened on straightish sections but one had to be a little circumpspect for the remaining 2kms…

Rolling countryside
 
The navigator had to pay close attention today, as we couldn't afford to lose any time with errors as we continued on minor roads to the fourth Section This was much shorter, only 4kms, but narrow and twisty with some gravel too and steep drops. The Turner brothers were on start duty here and were as helpful as ever.
In case of accidents, the Turner brothers have thought of everything.
 
So after a long afternoon drive we arrive at the race circuit for a most entertaining 8km thrash round the perimeter track followed by a lap of the track before exiting into the paddock area.

 

As the day progressed the hot humid air gave way to much cooler weather, in fact the wind got up and as we came into Bratislava some heavy rain fell – quite a relief really.

Richard gets caught attaching ballast to slow down Ludovic's Amazon
 
Ludovic had indeed beaten our times yesterday, but viewing the results after supper reveal we beat him today. Better still we have moved up to 5th. The VW that was ahead of us picked up a shed load of penalties with electrical maladies thereby missing the end of day time control. We also overhauled the Landcruiser, who picked up some road penalties at the Time Control as well posting slower times on the tests.
 

 

Day 27 … Lviv to Kosice

It's Sunday so it must be Slovakia – as opposed to Slovenia, a lot of people get them confused apparently! A strange day on a number of counts….

The armed guard fire a salute as cars depart

A straight run to the border again on main roads to avoid the damaged minor roads, we pass the locals in their Sunday best on the way to church, walking along the verges or waiting at bust stops to be collected. It was very humid, and it seemed some rain or a storm was likely.
Locals add period colour to early morning car park scene
 
We see distant mountains, which is a change from recent days, indeed we we are driving through them in an hour or so. We think there may be some sort of mid-summer celebration here abouts. The bunches of leaves we saw being sold yesterday are now seen adorning houses, on gateways into properties and even on cars.

 

Newly built church
 
We also notice that climbing beans are now a popular addition to the vegetable plot and even out in the strip fields. Soapwort, Meadowsweet and Knapweed can be added to the list of weeds.
Strip farming
 
We try to rid ourselves of the spare Ukrainian currency, I had it down as the Hyverna, most people however seem to refer to them as what sounds like greema. Petrol is quite cheap here, less than £1 a litre, we fill the tank, we buy sweets, cokes, ice creams, but as 2 coffees only cost just over £1 it's quite difficult to get shot of them. We decide to splash out on a couple of gifts from a roadside stall….but not wanting to be too specific here, nor appear rather mean, suffice to say we still had a fistful after the transaction was completed.
Efficient border crossing

We rolled up to the border and were whisked through quite rapidly with the blue-tea-shirt -clad support crew (who's last task this was) waving us through the bus lane. They are an organisation based is Kasakstan who were used in the 2010 event when the route went through their country. This time they were bought in to assist with the language problems in Russia and Ukraine and liase with the locals. They have done an excellent job.
Said it was a strange day
 

We then had to muster at a time control situated in a Tesco car park, I kid you not, and we hadn't a club card between us. Confusion reigned as we had to clock out, 2 cars to the minute, both vintage and classic classes together, before heading for a closed road hill climb about 30kms away. We realised this was a to try and ensure all the faster cars were at the front of the field. Arriving at the start we realise that there has been a little confusion with the time of day, we are losing another hour tonight, but rally time was in effect an hour ahead of the time on the policemens watches. So we were rather early and had to wait over an hour for the police to close the road.

The five leading cars in the two classic classes await hill climb start
 

The hill climb was just over 7km, with the last 3 downhill, several hairpins on pretty good tarmac, we await results to see if Ludovic in Volvo no. 82 can maintain his claim to being the fastest Volvo driver….(he has got a bigger engine).

Villagers out in force again.

We we offered boiled sweets by the marshals at the end of the hill climb, then realised that it is Alan Smith and Dick Hall newly arrived to bolster the marshalling crews now we are in Europe.

Then we had a quite short run in to the town and to our hotel, we had been advised that there was to be a drive through the pedestrianised centre. Unfortunately the threatened storm broke just as we entered town, sending spectators scurrying for cover in doorways and under awnings.

Our Italian friend in a Lancia Fulvia explains that he only has a
very small engine but it does make an excellent noise.