Video + Photos: Eifel Rallye Festival 2012
Despite the occasional rain, the crowds attending the 2012 Eifel Rallye Festival did not appear to have their enthusiasm dampened in any way.
Indeed, when slippery roads caused a few rally cars to visit the scenery, they were able to participate fully by helping them regain the road.
In fact such incidents were rare though one small section of road on the infamous Mantaloch stage did provide more than its fair share of excitement. An uphill hairpin onto a cobbled surface followed by a hairpin right saw both Lancia 037s of Dave Kedward and Rob Whitehouse dive off the road as an alternative to hitting a bank. Both rejoined by driving down a field and coming out on the original road just before the first hairpin. On the second time through that stage, the picnic tables and chairs of the spectators had been prudently moved even further back.
Armin Schwarz’s Lancia Stratos had returned to the fray on Saturday morning with its drive shaft replaced and was revelling in the conditions that, on the first two stages, replicated a minor monsoon. With visibility seriously reduced, Dermott Simpson in his immaculate original Audi Sport Quattro S1 (Stig Blomqvist’s works car from Sanremo 1984) confessed to taking it easy in such a valuable car but also admitted that it was ‘simply great’ in those conditions. In fact, this year there was a sizeable contingent from Ireland that included the two Crawford brothers, Beatty and Esler, who were there spectating. This event was also the debut for the newly acquired and restored Alex Fiorio Group A Lancia Integrale driven by Pat Horan and his daughter, Noelle.
For some reason, several cars suffered from problems with their fuel pumps. For Enda Garvey this had started even before the event when his ex-Safari Peugeot 205 T16 E2 had broken its mechanical drive to the original fuel pump. Since the thirsty machine requires a minimum of 8 psi fuel pressure, he had replaced it with two in-line electrical pumps. When one of those failed on Saturday, he had to resort to abandoning the upper rev range of the engine and short-shifting to make reasonable progress. For Stig Blomqvist, driving the recently restored Ford RS200 belonging to Franz Wunderlich that Stig had previously driven back in 1986 as a works car, the problem lay in the relay that controlled the fuel pumps. This overheated its socket and caused the Ford to coast to a halt in the middle of a stage from which it was recovered and continued in the afternoon. Nigel Mummery’s RS200 also seemed to have a disagreement with its fuel pump system and it halted a couple of times with a lack of fuel to the engine. Another Ford with restricted engine revs was the Focus WRC of James Avis who discovered that he had a broken Lambda sensor that proved impossible to repair and thus the car mis-fired round the entire route though it did not appear any slower as a result.
Ex-Ford engineer and the man behind the RS200, John Wheeler, was there with his evo-RS200. Reading the pace notes – translated from Stig’s Swedish notes – was his son, Scott, and the pair of them really enjoyed themselves driving the stages on forest tyres that coped so well with the gravel swept onto the road by preceding cars. However, coming away from the last stage, the engine developed a misfire that seemed to be the result of a poor circuit in the connection from the ECU and Mr Wheeler Senior was heard to say something about rewiring the car before its next appearance.
The effect of 150 cars doing each stage twice did make for quite a lot of gravel, mud and even grass thrown up onto the road where cars had cut corners. One victim of this was Gabrielle Mahler who drove her ex-Safari Porsche 911 RS in the second part of the rally after Björn Waldegård had driven it in the first half. She slid wide on a left-hand hairpin and crinkled the bodywork on this very original car.
One entry that had created a lot of interest both in the service park and on the stages was the original Citroën BX 4TC owned and driven by its original pilot, Philippe Wambergue. Perhaps contrary to expectation in view of the BX’s reputation from 1986, this very rare Group B car flew round the stages. However, with just one stage to go, the turbocharger failed – like the rest of the car, it is twenty-six years old – and it ended the event on its trailer.
One car that seemed to have an untroubled run, after a near miss on mud during the first night, was the ex-Safari Subaru Impreza WRC of Steve Rockingham and Yvonne Mehta. Similar good fortune followed Walter Röhrl who had three cars at his disposal over the weekend – Audi Sport Quattro E2, Porsche 911 SC and Opel Ascona 400. Indeed that was the experience of the vast majority of the rally car owners who had brought their beloved machines to be part of the biggest rally show on earth and the sight of so many of them passing over the finish ramp was a tribute to the efforts of both owners and the car preparers involved.
One new idea for this year was to have a mass signing session involving all the guest drivers – Björn Waldegård, Stig Blomqvist, Walter Röhrl, Armin Schwartz, Philippe Wambergue, Sepp Wiegand, Harald Demuth, Aaron Burkart, Hans Schuller and Yvonne Mehta. This was so popular that instead of taking just half an hour it lasted over an hour and half and very nearly delayed the start of the rally ! It also coincided with the release of the latest ‘Walter Röhrl diary’ from McKlein Publications.
All thanks are due to Opel whose support for this unique event grows with every passing year, to Bosch who sponsored the Safari stage to celebrate fifty years since the first Coronation Safari was run in East Africa, and to the officials and volunteers of the MSC Daun whose efficiency in dealing with such a large entry and giving the public access to all these cars and drivers is exemplary. Roll on the 2013 Eifel Rallye Festival …
Images via: eifelrally