Recently, RacerViews was stageside at the Eifel Rallye Festival with Sam Tickell behind the lens.
Here we take a look at our second gallery from the weekend, and a short story.
The stories of the stars
At the Welcome Evening on Thursday at the open-air cinema by cult filmmaker Helmut Deimel, presenter Markus Stier elicited exciting and very entertaining stories from the VIP guests present. Here are some examples:
With four WRC victories to date (three times with Michelle Mouton and once with Piero Liatti), the Italian Fabrizia Pons is the most successful woman in the history of the World Rally Championship. In the Eifel, she navigated World Champion Stig Blomqvist in an Audi Sport Quattro S1 over the demonstration stages. “I still drive more than twenty rallies a year, I just can’t stop. There are a lot of women in rallying between now and then, but I’m still waiting for the new top team that is all women to emerge. She added: “The victory in 1997 in the Impreza with Liatti at the Monte was nice, also because it was the first success with the new WRC cars. Otherwise, success in the Monte wasn’t that important to me, I would have preferred to win the Safari once, but that never worked out.”
On the myth of the Monte Carlo Rally, Rauno Aaltonen, who won there in 1967 in a Mini Cooper, added: “The Monte is not the most difficult rally, but it’s by far the most prestigious – and it’s where the best prize money is.” After the Mini Coopers were disqualified from the first three places in 1966 for not having standard bulbs in their headlights, Aaltonen had prepared assiduously for the 1967 edition. “I practised the longest special stage in the Ardèche for a fortnight, day and night, in all weathers. Then in the competition I was two minutes faster than everyone else. But the organisation thought there was a mistake in the timekeeping and cut two minutes off my time, but it was still enough to win.”
During the evening, the first lecture on physics in rallying was given by Professor Rauno Aaltonen: He had won his home rally at the 1000 Lakes in Finland in 1961 with a Mercedes 220 SE. “That was my father’s road car with the production engine. I built my own sump-guard, which was mounted to the car on rubber. When landing after the many crests with a sump-guard fixed directly to the chassis, the driver always blacks out briefly due to the hard impact. That was not the case with the rubber-mounted protection. In addition, I always tried to land like a cat on one wheel and at a slight angle. To do this, I adjusted the suspension and lost a little less time with each jump. That’s how it was enough to win against all the Saabs.”
World Champion Nicky Grist won the RAC Rally in 1993 and 1997, sitting alongside Juha Kankkunen in his 1993 World Championship year. In the Eifel, he was driving the original Toyota Celica from that year himself. For his 1997 victory, he then sat alongside Colin McRae. “That was a special victory when you win together with a compatriot at your home race. But no matter what, at the RAC it was always important above all to have a good heater in the car.”
Bruno Thiry, the long-time World Championship driver and 2003 European Champion drove an original 1987 Safari VW Golf GTI from Wolf-Dieter Ihle’s collection. The newly retired man has been to the Festival several times as a spectator, now it finally worked out to be able to enter and drive. “I have another project in my garage for my retirement – an original Citroën Visa Mille Pistes from Group B. It hasn’t been driven for a long time.”
In 1986, Kalle Grundel was on the verge of his first WRC victory. At the Acropolis Rally he was leading by over two minutes in a works Ford RS 200 until an unsolvable problem at the Ford service brought about his retirement. “In that situation I cried like a baby.” Looking at John Wheeler, also present and responsible for the RS200 project at Ford, he added: “During a test, John and I found out how to win with the RS200. When the stages are as rough as they are in Greece, you just have to go flat-out as the car can take it.”
Rally globetrotter Rudi Stohl (“everything is always different in Africa”) and Rauno Aaltonen shared some stories from Africa. Great laughter was generated when Aaltonen told of a tough test of friendship with his long-time co-pilot Lofty Drews – who was also present in Daun – and he also had to smile. “There were foot rests on the rear bumper at the back of the Capri and hand holds at the top of the roof so that the co-driver could stand on them. Thus when driving through mud holes his weight increased the pressure on the rear axle and thus the traction. We also called this ‘The French Toilet’ because of the co-driver’s funny posture. A bump in a mud hole sent Lofty over the car headfirst into the mud. I couldn’t stop, though, or we would have been stuck. So Lofty had to wade through the mud after me. When he got into the car he was covered in mud, with only his teeth flashing white.”
The RacerViews info
Photos By Sam Tickell
Words from Eifel Rallye PR source.
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