Day 23

Zavidovo to Smolensk - 535 km

We are now in Smolensk.
It is one of the oldest Russian cities on record. First recorded mention of it is 863 AD.
We left the very nice and brand new Zavidovo Radisson hotel at about 9 am.

Zavidovo is few ours ride from Moscow and is used as a weekend retreat for many wealthy Muscovites. Vladimir Putin is known to come here. The resort hotel is situated on a large lake and even has a white sand beach and water scooters. The Radisson beds were the best we have had since our stay in the Hyatt hotel many days ago. Both Anty and I had a really good night sleep and that makes all the difference during the day.

The morning started clear and hot but the forecast en route was for heavy thunderstorms. Our first stop after the start was about 85 km down the road at the Moscow Grand Prix circuit. The Russian GP was held there for a few years before it moved on to Sochi.

A nice circuit where we had to do three full speed laps , with a standing start and a standing finish. We used a smaller section of the circuit with many corners but the Pagode comes in it own at such tracks. The fast and high revving engine sounds great and it seems that we have been able to solve the handling problems that I encountered the last few days. Anty checked over the rear suspension last night. This morning before the start I made some adjustment to our shock absorbers and changes to the rally tyre pressures. Suddenly the car feels good again.

I have not seen the times but I am sure we did well. I managed to overtake two cars that started each a minute ahead of us.

Then back on the main road and some side roads on the way to an afternoon time control. The weather turned really bad with heavy thunderstorms, rain showers and lightning flashes’ everywhere . With our recalcitrant windscreen wipers we each take turns to try and switch them off. It is like a roulette but eventually until now we always manage to switch them off and they do work fine .

The country in this part of Russia is really nice and the roads are generally in good condition. I guess the closer we are to Moscow the better they will be.

At the time control we were informed that the planned off road time trial section had been cancelled because the rain had made it impossable. The navigators got new route instructions and our next stop was now the Smolensk Ring . A small and very well kept racing circuit a long way off the main road. To get there we had to drive a few roads in very bad condition and then suddenly there is this lovely little circuit.

Again three laps at full speed. This track had a few very good long straights which suits the Pagode even better.

Then back to the main road for the last 85 km to Smolensk our last night in Russia after thirteen nights in this big country.

It was all done in changeable weather and when we got to the hotel the sun came out briefly. It is much colder then this morning though.

We are staying in the centre of Smolensk in a renovated version of an Old Russian hotel. It is kept very much in the old communist style but it is very tidy. Each floor has near the lift a lady at a reception desk to watch over the floor. Just like the old times.

The area near the hotel has really been nicely renovated with a small park in the middle and some nice town houses.. The outskirts of this town as so many Russian towns are really in very bad repair. Very old crumbling flat buildings where you don’t believe people are living until you see them behind the windows. There is still a long way to go in Russia but there are green shoots around. There is a whole new young population with small families and the same aspiration as our young people have. They all have smart phones and iPads. In most places there is good wifi and internet access seems unrestricted unlike China where almost every thing is restricted.

Tomorrow we cross the border into Belarus for the next two days. We have been told that the border crossing is a formality like a schengen crossing in what is left of the EU.

I will let you know tomorrow how it went.

Good night,