Day 29 and 30

Kosice – Budapest - 396 km

Day 29.

The rally is now moving in its third phase where we enter the European territory. There is a new day pattern for us with every day at least two time trials in the morning and two time trials in the afternoon.

After the two accidents of yesterday I think even the most aggressive of drivers are being a bit more careful at these time trials. By the way there were no injuries and one of the cars involved has been patched up and took the start this morning.

After the start we had to drive about 100 km on various roads through the country side of Slovakia. Then a turn onto a Forrest road to the start of the first time trial. A standing start and then a stretch of about 10 km over a narrow paved road through a forest up and downhill. This road is just wide enough for one car so it is good it is closed for oncoming traffic . We get a time target of about 5.5 minutes which means you have to do about 80 kph. Far too fast as you have no idea where the road is going most of the time. We did it in about 7 minutes, which is fine.

Then back on the main road for an other 40 km to the next time trial section again on a forest road. The problem with both trials was that there was bright sunshine in some places and then dark shade from the many trees in other places. It was like driving full speed in a tunnel with bright sunshine and then coming out the other side in bright sunshine.

The trick is to find the balance between speed and keeping a safety margin in hand . We lost about a minute and a half on the target time over the nine and a half kilometres which is good.

Then a long run to our TC ( time control) and lunch stop. This was scheduled at about 4 pm, which is late for lunch. The weather was very hot by now, the roads are winding up and down hills and mountains. The traffic in some area’s quite heavy with holiday traffic. It is Saturday after all.

Now being back in Europe the organisers are giving us less time to get from a to b and we really need to push to get to the TC’s in time. In Russia it was all fairly relaxed but from next week onwards the time schedules will get tighter and tighter. It will surprise some competitors that think they have already done the job.

By the way I forgot to mention that during the morning run we crossed the border between Slovakia and Hungary. It is an open border and you hardly notice it. Except that you can clearly see that the Slovakian economy is doing better then the Hungarian economy.

The Hungarian villages look poorer and less well kept and the cars driven are older. We also passed a number of Roma Gypsy villages populated with many very dark skinned gypsies. There are quite a few of these communities around here.

The TC stop was at a market square in a local town in Hungary.

There were hundreds maybe thousands of people welcoming us and we were invited to a local hall for a buffet style lunch. The clock was ticking so we had about 40 minutes for this event. Then clock out and on the last two Time Trials of the day. Both off the main road and both on bad forest roads. Officially they were marked as tarmac roads but the reality was that most of the tarmac was gone. Particularly at the second trial the road was very broken up so we slowed right down. Another complication was that there were many spectators in the forests. I saw small kids crossing the road just before we arrived with 80 kph . It makes you a bit nervous.

In the end we still did a decent time but it felt a bit wrong and we were glad it was done.

The last 80 km to Budapest was warm but pleasant and we arrived at the Hero’s Square in Budapest – yes they had already named it that way before we arrived – at about 6 pm. The cars are parked in the square until Monday when the rally starts for its last leg to Paris. A shuttle bus took us the few km’s to the nice Kempinski hotel in the centre of Budapest.

I have been in Budapest a few times before. First time was during the first Grand Prix in 1985. It was still very communist then.
The change of this city is stunning and for those of you that have never been please go and visit it.

The night before the rest day is always a bit of a mess as nobody has a plan, so we all meet in the bar. Well in this case the terrace of the hotel as the weather is very warm and pleasant. There is still a rally buffet in the hotel and then everybody wants to go out to town and in the end virtually nobody does as we are all so tired so we go to bed at 11pm….

Day 30 – Rest day Budapest

We should be sleeping in but we wake at 6.30 try and try to sleep longer but it does not work. I read the papers on the iPad and Anty disappears in the bathroom. We the go down and have a very nice breakfast on the hotel terrace.

By about 10.30 we take the shuttle bus to the rally car park and Anty sets to work on the car. No major problems but we want to change the brake pads, ‘grease the nipples’ – sorry but that is what it is called.

First the iconic bleu overalls are put on and then Anty takes off wheel for wheel. I fiddle around with the adjustment of the shock absorbers, the position of the Trip meter – it reflects in the sunshine and try and locate some irritating rattles.

There is nothing major so far and in fact the front brake pads are so good we do not need to change them. The rear pads are more worn , through my use of the hydraulic hand brake during he time trials. The rest of the car looks fine. After about three hours the overalls came off and we took the shuttle bus back to the hotel.

We had a lunch salad in the hotel lobby coffee shop while watching the British GP. Congratulations Max! A star is born..

Tonight Tom van den Berg has booked a table for 16 people in a local restaurant – with local food- so that will be nice to do.

We are entering the last week of the rally and we are looking forward to our stop in St Moritz, where Grace and the boys and Maria , Fritz and Uschi and many others will welcome us.

For those who want to know we are entering Switzerland from Italy via the Bernina Pass on the way to St Moritz. First cars will come past there between 15.30 and 16.30. The pre-war cars will be first through.

Before we get there are still a few km’s to go. Tomorrow Maribor where we hear our hotel has been flooded by a freak storm so maybe back in the tent….