Day 27

Rzeszow – Kosice - 303 km

A nice rally driving day in the beautiful country site. The weather was finally bright and warm for most of the day so the top has been down all day.

Today we left Poland to cross the border into Slovakia. This is an historical interesting area with Polish, Ukraine, Belarus and Slovakia borders all quite close together. Politically tense and the Poles particularly nervous about the happenings in the Ukraine.

We did not see anything worrying but we did see many WW2 monuments while driving around the area. The Second World War has left its marks in this area.

We started late at the historic market square of Rzeszow. The mayor of the town flagged us away and then we headed for our first closed time trial of the day.

This first session was a 9.5 km speed trial with a target time of 7.5 minutes for the 10 km road. It was a narrow but smooth country lane climbing up and dropping down hills. The target time meant an 80 km an hour average speed. An impossible task as you do not know how the road runs beyond the crest of hills and if an upcoming bend is a light bend or a hairpin. So we proceeded with caution but as fast as possible. We made it in 8 minutes and 29 seconds. The second test was about the same distance with a similar narrow road and a 7 minute 30 sec target time. We cleared it in about 8 minutes and 40 seconds.

When we finished I said to Anty that these two stages would cause accidents for people who would try to go too fast for their ability.

Later we heard that one of the two British Ford Escorts rolled on the stage and hit a tree. Then it caught fire.. both crew are okay but they were one of a set of crews that I could have predicted to go off the road at these stages. They go very very fast even after five weeks of rallying. The Escort is being repaired tonight and might be back in the rally tommorow, but the ego’s are dented forever.

There was a late lunch time control after which we headed for two more time trials in the after noon. They both went through hills and forests and the target times were just as steep as the morning times.

The road were a bit wider so I found it easier to push a bit harder.
The Pagode is really agile and fast on these sections with the smooth six cylinder engine screaming trough the forest. In second and third gear I can go to 6500 – 7000 revs and particularly in the uphill sections we gain a lot of time on the smaller four cylinder cars. The handling off the car is much better now and the limited differential works great at take off by the start and coming out of tight bends.

The afternoon sessions were really fun.

Please remember that all four of these stages were cleared by the police from beginning to end so there is no oncoming traffic. except when Tom and Femke ‘s– car no 100 did the second stage when they met an oncoming car…

Yes it is great for the driver to do these trials as fast as you can but one little misjudgement and your are off the road or worse. So we always drive with a bit of reserve. Anty is holding out very well during these sessions because you need to trust your driver. He is giving me as much information as he can and keeps me up to date with the distance covered and the distance to the finish where you have to stop at the red finish board before the clock is stopped.

One car that was not so lucky this afternoon was the number two placed Australian Mustang – no 101 – that literally overshot a bend and rolled 15 meters down a bank into a forest . The crew are okay but I think the car is out.

Can you imagine rallying for almost five weeks, coming through the gruels of Mongolia and then lose it all during a ten km time trial. Both Escort and Mustang were in the top ten all along and they have both been racing as if it was sprint event. There are a few more like that in the rally and there will be more time trials in the next week.

The last session of the afternoon was nice run to our night stop Kosice. There was another great welcome in the old market square and street and when we had been clocked out Tom and we parked our Pagodes just off the square opposite a nice terrace and we had our Friday afternoon drink. Very pleasant in the summer sunshine. Most rally cars arriving did the same so there was much to see for the hundreds of people at the finish ramp.

You may have noticed that we have been reinstated in the results and have moved back from 39th place to 30th place today. Obviously we got a lot of penalty time after our breakdown in Mongolia but since then we moved back from 55 th place to 33th last week. Then Grace told me that we were suddenly in 39th place. I had not noticed but it looked like we got some extra penalty times. Anty nervous as he had clocked and registered every day since we left Ulaan Baatar.

I queried it with Kim Banister the rally director and yesterday he informed me that a mistake had been made and that the whole of day 22 had not been recorded for us. Hence the time penalty.

Anty keeps all the time sheets of the rally days so things were corrected today and we now find ourselves in 30th place overall. Nothing to write home about but it is good to know that we were right.

Thanks Grace!

Tomorrow Budapest and then a rest day, the last one before Paris.

Good night ,

Mick