The Baltic Classic Rally 2017
28 May - 10 June
MAY 28, 2017
Copenhagen to Gothenburg
Subscribing to the maxim 'when in Rome,' breakfast for many of us today comprised one or possibly two pastries. Danish naturally.
Thus fully sated, the inaugural Baltic Classic was then flagged away from the Clarion Hotel by Fred Gallagher waving his trusty Dannebrog. Under a deep blue sky and with only a smattering of light Sunday traffic the route took the cars almost immediately across the impressive Öresund Bridge. At a smidgeon under eight kilometres, this is the longest road and rail bridge in Europe. Luckily for us a data cable also spans the bridge and provides the backbone for internet transmissions between central Europe and Sweden / Finland which could be the reason you’re reading this.
On the way across the bridge however, the well travelled and fiercely competitive crew of Lars and Annette Rolner waved goodbye to both their homeland and any such imagined advantage as the first test of the rally was actually in Sweden.
Sweden itself is truly a land of superlatives and weather like we had this morning really shows it off to its best. This is the fabled land of the solid and reliable Volvo, the dazzling, timeless and uplifting Abba, the swift, sleek and innovative Saab motorcars, the moon trotting Hasselblad cameras; and IKEA flat pack furniture. So proud are they of this last fact that seemingly all of the towns are named after pieces of furniture and, driving through the countryside is akin to an automobile tour of the contents page of their latest catalogue.
The test itself took in two laps of the Sturup Raceway, a superb piece of tarmac where corners were cut and fractions of seconds were shaved here and there. The all female crew of Suzy Harvey and Sharlie Goddard were grinning from ear to ear as they slotted from apex to apex but as usual the look on Lars Rolner's face was one of grim determination as he wrestled 'Bent' through the bends with Annette calling out the directions through the chicanes. Jesse Small and Jack Boers meanwhile cut a mint green dash through the sunlight in their Studebaker Power Hawk and along with Arthur and Anna Manners in a Lagonda managed to pick up one or two penalties for missing a coned chicane on the way round.
With the adrenaline still coursing through the crew's bodies and the octane still pumping through the car's fuel lines, there was then a good fast run to the first regularity at Stehag. A mixed tarmac and gravel section where the navigators prowess with time and motion came into play but Henk and Lady Verkou managed to pick up a penalty here however for failing to stop at Jim Smith’s timing point whilst one or two crews wrong slotted and also lost valuable time.
This first regularity was a short one however and soon enough the cars were back to the beautiful rural roads of Southern Sweden. Charles and Nellie Bishop’s venerable Vauxhall was seen to scythe its way through fields of rape, past white clapperboard churches, windmills and Dutch style barns and expertly missing an errant hare who didn't appreciate the pace of a well prepared 30/98.
Along the road we spied a classic car show in Klippan, a town named after a mid range and comfortable two seater sofa and, as it's Swedish Mother's Day there were plenty of families out enjoying the old cars. The second regularity around the town of Hallandsåsen led to an exhilarating combination of swooping tree lined farm roads and a motorway section which took the by now hungry crews to an excellent and well timed lunch in Östrooö at a sheep farm. Graham and Marina Goodwin left a little later than they planned to as a detached rev’ counter cable kept them and Andy Inskip busy in the car park as the clock ticked away.
The fairly short afternoon session which followed comprised a choppy and nadgery gravel regularity through the woods around Svarta and a quirky final circuit test in the environs of the legendary Billdal rally facility.
As truth is generally stranger than fiction it is here that the Volvo of Ludovic Bois and Julia Coleman, who were limping this afternoon with a blown head gasket, is going to spend the night. They arrived at the test with a minute to spare, they nursed their Amazon around the circuit, checked into the MTC and then handed over the keys to the ever eager engineers at Billdal who are more than confident that they'll be up and running at full speed again tomorrow.
Also enjoying the overnight hospitality there is the Ford 350GT Shelby of Vincent Duhamel and Anne Charron. The clutch needs work and the Billdal boys are sorting it for them.
The day one leader board tells us that there’s a Bentley one two three so far with Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman leading the Vintageants from Graham and Marina Goodwin with Lars and Annette Rolner in third.
The Classics are headed up by Jane and Paul Wignall with Gavin and Diana Henderson chasing hard. The Volvo of Mike and Lorna Harrison is sitting in third place.
The Radisson Blu Riverside in Gothenburg is where we are settled for the night rather like the fog which has rolled in from the Kattegat.
Tomorrow we head to Karlstad with a few treats for us to enjoy on the way.