Six Decades on the Limit

The 2017 Eifel Rallye Festival proved to be just the spectacle for which everyone had hoped. There were one hundred and sixty cars making a great show on the demonstration stages in the Vulkaneifel region. Watching them were thousands of spectators from all over Europe as the Festival celebrated cars and drivers representing 'Six Decades of Rallying'. From the rattling of a two-stroke Wartburg via the fire-spitting beasts from the Group B era including three Peugeot 205 T16, five Ford RS200 and as many Audi Sport Quattro E2 to the modern-day World Rally Cars, the Eifel Rallye Festival had it all. During the three-day event, the spectators could either watch the cars in action on eight demonstration stages that totalled one hundred and twenty kilometres, or get up close with the cars and drivers in the Rallye Mile in Daun.

The stars were shining
Mingling with the Gentlemen Drivers who restore and drive their precious classic rally cars themselves in the Eifel, were a dozen 'VIP drivers' who were also taking an active part in the Festival. The youngest of them was 29-year-old Hyundai works driver Thierry Neuville who made a stop in Daun before heading on to the next WRC round in Finland. "I really enjoyed it and I hope that the fans also enjoyed my driving. I have tried to drive in as spectacular a way as possible", says the current Vice-World Rally Champion after climbing out of his Hyundai i20 WRC on Friday night after inserting the occasional series of doughnuts into his stage performances. Looking at the cheering crowds on the stages, one can say: Mission accomplished!

Neuville's Eifel Rallye Festival 'team-mate', Armin Schwarz, took the wheel of two different Hyundai WRCs. When his own 2003 Accent WRC retired with gearbox problems, Schwarz had the chance to swap into a proper works car - a slightly less historic Hyundai i20 WRC. "Thanks to Hyundai for letting me drive such a fantastic car. What I like most about this event is that the rally is based right in the centre of Daun - and that we all feel most welcome here. It is a real Festival."

Equally thrilled was 1983 World Rally Champion Hannu Mikkola: "I would like to thank the organisers for giving me the chance to be here. This is a superb event with a great atmosphere." While Mikkola joined the Eifel Rallye Festival for the second time, Kalle Grundel from Sweden made his Festival debut. "There are so many memories from my time in the German Rally Championship that are coming back, this is really fantastic. I certainly want to return next year." even-times German Rally Champion Matthias Kahle experienced his own form of time travel by swapping cockpits between the 1977 Monte Carlo Rally class winning Skoda 130 RS to this year's WRC2 class winning Skoda Fabia R5, which he drove on both stages of the 'Festival Parade'. "This was my personal journey in time. It is simply unbelievable how many people came here to watch the action."

Winners without sporting competition
The three-day demonstration event began with the Shakedown and Welcome Evening on Thursday and ended with the Rally Party on Saturday night. The final show even included a Prize Giving and due to the lack of a sporting competition, the prizes were selected by a jury of experts. For the 'Champion's Choice' award, this role was served by the VIP drivers taking part in the event and they chose the tiny Trabant P 800 RS driven by Olivier and Marc Hermans. While the BMW 2002 of Wolfgang Schröder and Detlef May resembling the 1972 Olympia Rally works car was crowned as ‚Best Replication', the Toyota 222D owned by Ernst Kopp was awarded the 'Best Original' prize. This Group S prototype drove its first stage kilometres since 1986. The 'Sideways Star' trophy for the most spectacular course-opening car went to Michael Rausch and Marcel Stauch in their Opel Ascona B 16V.

While Rausch's driving style caught the attention of the jury, it was something else which made them vote for Dave Kedward and Felix Wiseman to win the 'Special Prize': The red-hot turbocharger of Kedward's Peugeot illuminated the Eifel skies during the proWIN night stage and made it look like a glowing fireball racing through the night. The final - and probably most prestigious - award of the night was the 'Rallying Ambassador' trophy handed over to Stig Blomqvist who has made history by winning rallies in six different decades. "I had a lot of fun this weekend and there was also a lot to do as I could drive three different cars. I really enjoyed that", said the 70-year-old Swede who is known to be rather silent and undemonstrative, but during the Prize Giving one could see that he was really moved.

Change of leadership solved successfully
After being headed by Peter Schlömer for many years, the Eifel Rallye Festival as well as the organising club, MSC Daun, saw new bosses taking over for 2017. Chief organiser Otmar Anschütz and Festival Manager Dr. Tim Becker were now heading a team of 800 people working on the event during the Festival weekend and filled their predecessor's boots very well. "The whole event ran pretty smoothly and this was also thanks to the previous organisers who have helped us a lot in the background and shared all their knowledge and experience. I would like to thank all of them and especially our long-term chief organiser Peter Schlömer. But we would also express our thanks to our volunteer helpers and the residents in and around Daun who took the arrival of so many rally cars with composure."

Schlömer used his new freedom to take out his 1981 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus for the Saturday stages alongside Martin Kiefer. "It is wonderful to see the event from the driver's perspective. It is only now that I realised how many fans are lining the stages." Dr. Tim Becker was especially pleased by the international audience. "It was impressive to hear so any different languages when you walk through the Rally Mile here in Daun. For the fans coming from all parts of Europe, we could even keep our promise and improve on the weather. Finally we had an Eifel Rallye Festival with a lot of sunshine and no rain - at least while the stages were running."

Side stories

2,000 Euro for a good purpose
Just before the start of the shakedown, the local charity organisation 'Verein zur Förderung der Jugendarbeit im Landkreis Vulkaneifel e.V.', represented by Petra Himmels and Christoph Reis, received a cheque of 2,000 Euros through chief organiser Otmar Anschütz and Festival Manager Tim Becker. The amount was raised by an eBay auction for a ride with Harri Toivonen in an Opel Manta 200 and a lottery where one could win a co-drive alongside Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai i20 WRC. The donations will be used to continue charity projects that are already running.

Down-under coming to Daun
Over the last years, the Eifel Rallye Festival has regularly attracted spectators or journalists from Australia, now the first crews from 'Down under' are planning their participation in Daun. For this reason, Darryn Snooks talked to Slowly Sideways boss Reinhard Klein about the possibility to enter his classic Nissan rally car in next year's Festival. For his 50th birthday, Snooks is planning the enter the event together with three friends. The Australians already found a container in which they could ship their four rally cars and now they also have 'reserved' their own service area in Daun.

Never give up
With classic rally cars driven on the limit, it is only natural that sometimes technical gremlins appear. But for some crews, this was not the end of the story. When Andreas and Ramona Hoppe found the rear axle of their Opel Ascona B leaking oil after the shakedown, they drove home over night and returned the next morning just in time for scrutineering with a spare car, an Opel Manta 400. Swiss crew Franco Lupi and Daniel Petermann were able to cure the problems on their Porsche 924 Turbo in Daun but only by taking the whole gearbox apart right there in the Rally Mile. But nobody seemed to have worked as much on their car as the No. 2, the Fricker Mercedes 190E 2,5-16 driven by Harald Demuth. On Thursday, they repaired a broken drive shaft after the shakedown and then, on Friday night, they worked on the gearbox until 3 am. Both times, they managed to get the Mercedes running again but it wasn't enough. A broken fan belt eventually ended the trip out on the stages. Two-times German Rally Champion Harald Demuth was sorry for the fans. "We did not get back to service in time otherwise we would have tried to get it running for the afternoon stages again."

International interest
More than one hundred and ten journalists from nineteen different countries and four continents attended the Eifel Rallye Festival and will be reporting the event in print media, on TV and radio stations, and online.

[Sommaire de nouvelles]