Day 21 to Saratov 460 km
Early start at 8.00, again time trials today. So probably an easy day for us. Deadline to arrive: 16.21 plus are starting position which makes it 16.32 hour.
This became the worst day since we have left Mongolia. Almost all the way broken tarmac, potholes, repair patches much higher than the old road surface, extremely deep groves carved into the tarmac by trucks, everything you can imagine. The day was getting hotter and hotter. We learned that it was 37 to 40 degrees in the afternoon and some cars had overheating problems especially in stop and go traffic in towns. Then at about 3 o’clock and 150 kms to go, our first puncture on left rear wheel. Well, we have to spare wheels, but they carry Michelin tyres, which are a bit wider than the Bridgestones. That prooved to be a mistake. We had to put one front tyre to the left rear and the two spare Michelin to the front. Fortunately a few minutes after we had the Car liftend up in front, a service arrived and with their hydraulic jack the changing of the wheels was done in a few minutes. We arrived in Saratov at 16.26. I jumped out of the car and ran to the controll desk in the hotel lobby und get my card stamped. No penalty points! Udo had parked the car and had already organized help for our broken luggage carrier. Two corners and on of the stands had enough. The organisation had asked via internet for help and a young lady speaking german and englisch perfectly had organized someone who disappeared with the broken parts of the carrier and returned with the welded carrier. 300 rubels were the fee.
Meanwhile we searched for the reason of the puncture and found a lovely 8 cm nail. We exchanged the punctured tube with a new one, minutes the wheels and carrier back on the car, had a short dinner and went to bed. At least I did. I was finished. We both had a bad night. Udo still suffered from his hang over, he couldnt sleep the next night because of my constant caughing and this night prooved not to be better. No good basis to make the next day to Voronesh.
Day 22 to Voronesh
7.00 o’clock starting time for no 1. We are on position 11 since Novosibirsk. Due to experience of yesterday we expected the worst. But it was a nice day. Good weather, in the morning a bit fresh, during the day getting a bit warmer, some drops but we did not close the hood. In the afternoon there was a time trial on 8 km of soft tracks on farmland. It was not difficult to drive, no hidden cross tracks, potholes etc. I did not press on very hard and Udo was not satisfied. We could have done better, he said. The way back to main road was not so nice, tarmac with plenty of holes. Overall the route rolled up and down the hills, through wide farm land and finally into Voronesh and to our hotel at river Voronesh. The hotel was OK, Udo got an extra room to get some sleep. The shower in 8th floor was cold, but i heard that everybody was complaining about a more or less cold shower. The girls behind the bar obviously were not able to handle the crowd. No ice cubes, not enough glasses, the service took hours to bring what we wanted. Didn’t they know we were coming for over a year?
The attitude of the hotel team seemed to be: please go away and leave us alone. Other than that it was a nice day.
Day 23 to Charkiv 380 km to the russian border and then another 50km to Charkiv.
As usual a very early start from the hotel. Everybody was on its own, first passage control at the race and training track near Bolgorod. You had to be there at 11.30 plus your start number. We unloaded our car and a few minutes later we were in the line of the starters to go 3 laps on tarmac and then 1 lap on the dirt track. The tarmac was great fun! We made every meter in 2. gear at very high revs and for our small car we were pretty fast, not much slower than the leading cars in our categorie. Then a deep breath and the dirt track was attacked. Our light car did as good as possible with the small tires in the deep but dry dust and dirt. With full throttle and moving like a drunken sailor from one side of the dirt track to the other. After the finish line the car looked like after one day in Mongolia. Nothing of the car wash in Voronesh was left. We watched the other cars on the track for a while and then went on to a lunch break in the next town organized by the ERA in a shopping mal. We got a very good italian style lunch. The race track parking as well as the parking aerea at the mal was again crowded.
We got to the border and the border passage this time was very quick. Less than half an hour, unbelievable! On the ukrainian side of the border another passage control of our rally. The road book was stamped. A small mistake concerning the position of the next passage control in our road book led to confusion on our side. We heard and thought that this was it for the day and drove satisfied about this wonderful day to the Palace Hotel in Charkiv.
We did believe it but on the way to the car park thousands of spectators were watching the arriving cars, big applause for everyone, stooping at the finish line, get out of the car, photos on each side with young ladies in historical local dresses. What a welcome!!!!!
We were guided to our parking spot, unloaded what was needed for the night and checked into the hotel. An extra room for Udo, because I still did not want to disturb his sleep by my cauphing in the morning.
After dinner we looked to the rally board and we did not believe our eyes. We were positioned down on 15th and had a late charge of 12 hours. We missed the main time control in the hotel lobby. We tried to explain why and asked gently for a correction of the penalty. Obviously we were not the only team with this misunderstanding and our pledge was granted. They scrubbed the 12 hour penalty and we were back in our old position in the group C2. What a relief!!!
In the hotel garage our TC got another good car wash and in the next morning we could hear: Hey, you got a new car flown in overnight! That is not permitted by the regulations!
Day 24 to Kiew 460 km.
The start again at 8. 10 for our car. Hundreds of spectators again that early warning US a good bye, taking pictures of the passing cars. A policemen on every corner cleared the traffic out of town for us. Without any problems we could leave the town. The weather beautiful, blue skies with white cotton ball clouds, not too hot for a nice summer day. After a few kms the route left the main road to Kiew and the road book showed us the the beauties of the countryside. The very bumps roads we got for free for the next 200 kms. At position control no. 3 Udo took the steering wheel, because I was tired being concentrated not to hit one of the many potholes, which were very hard to see when the shadow of trees made it difficult to see them in time, so we hit quite a few. At control point 4 the road changed to completely new 4 lane tarmac. Driving on paradise roads, the best we have had on the 8700 kms.
Guardian angels proctected us. On control point 4 some cars already had arrived and many people gathered to see them causing a minor traffic jam. We got out the car, I got my control book stamped, while Udo took care for the car. We wanted a tea and may be something to eat, but the
” Restaurant” was so crowded, the service crew completely unorganized, we decided to on and find another cafe down the road. Meanwhile it was very warm. I stowed my wind jackett underneath the hood canvas and on the 4 way lane. After 150 kms we got close to Kiew and decided to refuel, We were not sure, how much fuel we had in the tank since our instrument did not work for whatever reasons. We filled the tank with 48 liters only, we told that our fuel consumtion was less than 10 liters / 100 km. I wanted to pay, searched for my belly pocket which should have been in front of my seat. Nothing! All money, all documents, gone!!! What a disaster!!! We searched the inside of the car, nothing. By chance I looked to the folded canvas of the hood and our luggage carrier and there it was, sitting there for 150 kms without falling out off the car. A small miracle and I was happy as a child. The final kms were the everyday traffic jam of these big towns. There was a big bridge crossing the 3km wide Dnjepr River, a few more km along the river to downtown Kiew and we reached the parking lot of the Kiew Fairmont Hotel.
Day 25, rest day
No rest day for us! We knew we would better look after our car and check every detail if we wanted to make it to Paris. The workshop we found suitable for us fortunately was not very far away. We lifted the car and found both shock absorbers mountings ripped out from the bolt eye. Everything was welded back into position. We hope this will last for the next 3000 km. While I was replacing the upper leaf of our front springs to improve the suspension activity, Udo took care of the rear axle and inspected the half shafts. He decided to exchange the left side which was worn out much more than at our last inspection in Novosibirsk. He also fixed the fuel meter.
The workshop owner asked for about 130€ for half the day plus two mechanics. Some tips for the mechanics, some photos and back to the hotel. While I relaxed in the lobby, Udo was taking nap because for the night before again was very long.
It was too late to do sightseeing, so many rally friends were sitting in front of the hotel, watching the people as they admired our cars and posed for fotos.
Anette and Lars Rollner car no. 8 from Danmark were happy to have gotten their Bentley differential repaired and were now back in the race. They invited us and some others from Australia and Norway to a restaurant right around the corner. It was a great evening, we had wonderful ukrainian specialties, some beers and too much wine. Thanks again Anette and Lars !!
Day 26 to Lviv 530 km.
At 8.30 we had to be at the Kiew race track about 20 kms out of town. We unloaded the TC to get rid of extra weight, Udo took the steering wheel and 9 minutes later Udo showed how fast a TC can run. I got a hold in my seat tightend the belts and started to pray for 6.36 minutes for 3 laps. I think we used up more tire profil than we did in the complete rally so far. This run put us one position up. In our group ranking. Putting all luggage back into the car, Udo detected the front spring bolt on left side to be lose. As we could tightend the bolt that secures the spring to the frame, we took it out and found the bolt to be broken. As we exchanged the spring leaks yesterday we reckon, that the mechanic tightend the bolt too much and it broke at the week point where the grease channel goes through the bolt. Within 45 minutes the cross member was removed, the broken bolt end removed and everything was put together . According to the amendments of the day, there were no further position controls and we could take the direct road to Lviv. A perfect new road, 4 lanes over long distances. Although being late we could take a break at km 280 and we arrived in Lviv at 4.30. the day was hot, pur sunshine, few clouds, almost no shade. We were tired, but entering the center of town a hug party was going on. We drove through the applauding crowds into a big party tent on to a stage, a short interview and out of the tent around a few corners to our hotel uphill situated next to a wonderful park.
After a wonderful hot shower we made a walk downtown through the park, watched the cars that were exhibited, had beer and a schaschlik and went back to the hotel.
Day 27 to Kosice in Slowakia 350km
Again because of very bad back roads the official route was cancelled. The news from the car that checks the route 2 days ahead were: undrivable conditions.
We were advised to use the main road to Uzgorod near the slowakian border. 280 kms. Good roads with a russian/mongolian intermezzo. The border crossing was quick, no complications, no delays. We had to wait until 3 o’clock in the afternoon in the parking aerea of a shopping mal until all cars had passed the formalities. Then the first time trial of day: 8 km on backroads in the nearby mountains. Again lining up and about 1 hour waiting time until the police had blocked the road for safety reasons. It was an uphill and downhill track on more or less drivable tarmac with a lot of curves and many hairpins. With the fully loaded TC naturally our time was not the very best. 9.36 min. Only 20 kms to the hotel in Kosice but just at border of the town a short but very heavy rain shower flodded the streets. The parade into town guided us into the walking streets of Kosice, again many people watching the cars pass by slowly. Every car was introduced by a speaker explaining some details.
The hotel in Kosice was situated a bit uphill overlooking a very beautiful park. We walked down to the center a had a look to all the cars the people of Kosice had to present. Obviously another rally from Poland was in town too at the same time. There were many very interesting and precious cars.
A beer or two, then back to the hotel and to bed.
Day 28 to Bratislava
This day was planned for 4 time trials
Start 7 o’clock. Out of town and after about 50 kms the first trial on very bad road uphill and downhill, length 15 km. Udo took the steering wheel and drove like hell. Result: a good time! But no good noises in the rear axle. 50 kms later next trial, Udo again, we finished in good time, but after this trial the rear axle did not work correctly anymore. For us the diagnosis was clear: the differential is damaged. We rolled through the 3. time trial and the noise from the axle got worse and worse. We jacked up the rear end and inspected the left half shaft. The teeth on the half shaft that go into the diff looked used but good, so but it back in and decided the go to the time controll on the high way to Bratislava and to try to reach the MTC ( main time controll) at the end of the day. We had a hard time to push the car towards Bratislava. On the highway we moved forward very slow and especially uphill we could not go faster than 5 to 10 km. Finally we decided to leave the highway at a point where the roadbook wanted us to to go to a the Slowakia Race Track, about 50 km away from Bratislava. Right after we had left the highway and at the first little hill, the TC gave up. Two minutes later car 20 arrived. The original car no. 20 was a big Delage which was left behind in Ulan Batar. He bought a Nissan 4 wheel drive pick up and continued the trip. For the rest of us this was very good, because the Nissan crew has helped many broken teams. Today it was us who needed a tow and for 80 km our TC was towed to the race track just in time to get the controll book stamped without getting a late penalty. On the track our canadian cowboys from Edmonton gave us the next tow to the hotel in Bratislava. Fortunately we were staying in the same hotel.
As we had not eaten all day long, I organized something to eat and some tea and took it down into the garage while Udo jacked up the rear end and had pulled both half shafts. Surprise! The left hub was loose on the half shaft and the key securing the hub on the shaft was completely gone. Thus the force of the engine just rotated the shaft within the hub.
We have two possible explanations. 1. the cones of hub and shafts were not matching precisely or
2. the key was too high or the groove for the key was a bit too flat.
We took a new half shaft plus a new hub and 15 min later Udo took a test drive in the garage. No noises from the differential. We could have done this repair on the side of the road. IF we would have found the mistake!!!!! Nevertheless we were happy.
Day 29 to Schladming/Austria
The day started with rain, but crossing the border to Austria a beautifull complete rainbow appeared. We took it as a good sign!
Well, the first trial on a small training race track was a desaster. I was copilot and gave the wrong instructions. We missed one lap. That was it.
The road book guided us along the Neusiedler Lake, then into the mountains and on the end of the day to Gröbming near Schladming. There was an uphill race track about 8 km long and about 1000 meter difference in heigth. The road was tarmac but wet from the rain and the view in the upper part limited because of rainy clouds. We did very good on that track. Udo said we did the 4. best time, but I don’t know exactly. When everybody who wanted to do the race was up on top, the hole group was driving down carefully and slow to the Sporthotel.
We decided to send everything we would not need anymore back home by DHL. The hotel manager promised to manage the transport of a spare wheel and to big camping bags. We estimate 50 kg less weight in and on the back of our car.
Day 30 to Davos
Without the extra load behind our rear axle the first time trial in the morning up to the Planai – again 1000 meters uphill on gravel track- our car again did very well. We had breakfast in a restaurant some hundred meters away from he parking aerea. Breakfast was great and it was nice to relax again, when we realiter that MTC was in the restaurant and our controll book was in the car. I run to the car, started the engine and drove to the restaurant as fast as I could, jumped out of the car and handed the book to the officials exactly on the minute. No penalty!!!!!!
Downhill again, fill up the car, many valleys, many mountains, beautifull views, some time trials on the way to Davos. Finally the Flüela pass and we arrived in Davos in time. Davos was crowded with retired Bus tourists. On the ranking list we moved up a position due to breakdowns of other cars. We call it the postmongolian stress syndrom!
Day 31 to Gstaad
The schedule in the road book promised to be a very long and tough day. Oberalppass, Großglockner up on one and down on the other side. Then trial on the old cobble stoned Glockner road, 8 km hairpin after hairpin max time 11 minutes. We 7.11 min. 7 min was the ideal time set by the organisation. Down the main road again and into the next valley and up the Nufenen Pass in 2400 meters, snowwalls meters high on both sides. Down to the Rhone valley again. We passed the queues in Sion by using the bus lanes illegaly, but in spite of the protest of the swiss cars waiting in the queue we had to go on quickly due to the very tight time schedule. We were late 1 minute on TC behind Sion. The hill climb to the ski resort Tzoumas 1600 meters, a time trial uphill on dirt track to the to on 2200 and down to Verbier on the other side. A very foggy downhill drive in the beginning then some sunshine on the way to Lake Geneva, uphill again doing the Coll de La Croix in direction Les Diablerets, down into valley and up again the next pass on our way to Gstaad.
We arrived in time in our hotel the Gstaad Palace Hotel, a very noble but old fashioned hotel with a perfect room service. I dropped everything to the floor of my room and when I returned after dinner everything was put into the right place. My wind jackett on a hanger in the entrance, my bag on the carrier, my sleeping stuff nicely arranged on the bed, fresh towels etc. Perfect service!!
Udo told me that we did the overall best time of our group of this day. May be this is correct, because we drove like hell, passed all Bentleys especially going uphill. I wish the car would have 20 more HP and better brakes.
Day 32 to Troyes
The weather was cold but nice, no rain, some sun later in the morning. We passed beautifull sceneries, hills, valleys, great views again and again, but no time to stop. Near Neuchatel a short two lap time trial on a small training race track and then up on 1700 meters crossing the Swiss Jura mountains. On the other side a PC with free tea, coffee and some food organized by the Swiss Motor Club. Thanks for that. We took 15 mins to relax and went on to the french border. No passport controll, just drove through slowly. On side roads another 260 kms to Troyes. There was some rain in the aerea, but fortunately we missed it. Now the crowd is sitting in the Bar after a nice dinner, some beer, some have Champagner already. Everybody is happy, more or less, depending from the personality. Tomorrow our final drive to Paris, starting at 9 o’clock.
Day 33 to Paris
It was raining a little bit, but the weatherforcast for Paris promised sunshine at noon. The roadbook guided us on narrow winding roads to Fontainebleau and then into Paris. After some waiting minutes the overall winners of both categories were escorted to the place Vendome. The rest of the cars followed and we got a very enthusiastic welcome by the crowd and by family members naturally.
The day ended with a movie about the rally, a slide show, the dinner and a price giving ceremony.
Day 21 to Saratov 460 km