The Baltic Classic Rally 2017
28 May - 10 June
MAY 30, 2017
Karlstad to Stockholm
Crews trapped in the same car for days on end can develop a strange bond with each other whereby unspoken words, gestures and even body language can take on a whole new meaning. With three days under their wheels it’s clear that this having its effect.
Today, we were to enjoy more smooth gravel punctuated by three regularities on a west / east cross country route which was topped off by possibly the highlight of the rally so far. Two laps of the incomparable Västerås Motor Stadion and a night in the fine Winery Hotel in Sweden’s capital city, Stockholm.
The day got off to a more mundane start for most of us although Adrian Hodgson woke up to a slightly unsettling feeling, as he walked to his Austin 1800 he noticed that things didn’t seem quite as firm as they were last night. Naturally he was troubled so the first person he called was Jamie Turner who, thankfully diagnosed nothing more serious than a leaking hydro elastic suspension unit.
Whilst they were able to quickly patch this up and run with it throughout the day he was quick to quip that ‘there goes my rest day in Stockholm’ as a more in depth look at the problem might be required.
Sadly, there was rain almost right from the start today and, as the first regularity at Alkvettern in the Garphyttan National Park got under way the small knots of Swedish rally fans, waiting patiently in the woods for the cars to arrive; smoked, joked and pulled the hoods of their jackets a little tighter against the downpour.
This first regularity was a real belter and worth the wait with more twists and turns and turns than Dan Brown’s Davinci Code, just keeping the car on the right line was at times a result in itself. John Cotton, looking older than he did yesterday, set them off while wife Gill booked them a full eight minutes later - according to the ideal time.
A second regularity followed soon after at Bergshytten and then thoughts turned to the lunch halt, especially for the open car crews, who were a little on the damp side by now. Ludovic Bois and Julia Colman’s Volvo suffered an untimely puncture on the way to the lunch but, for such an experienced and capable crew this proved to be but a small problem.
For the third day in a row we enjoyed an excellent sit down lunch. This time it was courtesy of the Farna Herrgard Hotel and Spa and many crews remarked on the excellent fruit crumble offered as a desert.
The extensive roadworks we encountered after lunch however meant that Mark Appleton, the Clerk of the Course, was kept very busy with his orange arrow redirection kit but thanks must also be given here for the excellent work done by the 48 hour car of Paul Heal and Dick Appleton. This quick thinking and problem solving led the rally to the final short regularity of the day around Skultuna before the fireworks of the Västerås Motor Stadion.
Here we found a filthy, slippy, blast of a track which had all the ingredients needed to aid the digestion of the aforementioned lunch. Over two laps of the test the crews negotiated a section of steep banked oval, tight tarmac turns and long muddy shale drifts. There was even a jump where Edmund Peel’s Porsche managed a little airtime.
Upon leaving Västerås, the seventy filthy cars along with their seventy exhilarated crews had only 100km of easy motorway driving to negotiate before the night halt at the exclusive Winery Hotel.
There was some drama for Lars and Annette Rolner even on this easy section though. Within 5km of the hotel, they broke a half shaft while pulling away from traffic lights. They're 100% confident though that the replacement will be fitted in time before they have to roll down to the docks tomorrow evening.
Sharlie Goddard and Suzy Harvey have been here in the lap of luxury a little longer than the rest of us though. Their Morgan has got transmission trouble and they didn’t take part in the competition today. They opted to drive straight to Stockholm to await a new gearbox which hopefully will be fitted on the rest day tomorrow and they’ll sail with us to Finland as scheduled.
Steven Hardwick is probably looking for both a physiotherapist and a mechanic this evening as he has a sore left elbow caused by having to operate his windscreen wipers all day. The electric motor has failed and the manual solution, a bungee cord tied to the blades and fed through the window, has taken its toll.
The Vintageant leaderboard is unchanged tonight. Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman still lead from Lars and Annette Rolner with Graham and Marina Goodwin waiting in third. The Classics category however has been shaken up, Jane and Paul Wignall have lost their lead after an uncharacteristic error which means Gavin and Diana Henderson now lead from Mike and Lorna Harrison with Rene Declerqc and Eric Cleys in third.
Tomorrow we rest and repair before boarding the overnight ferry to Finland.