The Baltic Classic Rally 2017

28 May - 10 June


JUNE 7, 2017

Kaunas to Mikolajki

Silly cone implants

The Endurance Rally Association last had the pleasure of visiting Mikolajki in 2007, during the latter stages of the Peking to Paris Rally. Today we head back there through some impressive countryside and some amazing roads.

Richard and Catherine Phillipson sadly didn't start this morning. their lusty little Kadett Coupe needed some transmission repairs but the clutch bearing was seized and couldn't be shifted. It was sad to leave them and we hope that they can get something sorted and catch up with us.

For the rest of us though, our early morning wake up call came in the form of a lap of the Nemunas Ring. A tarmac track with steep climbs, precipitous drops and helter skelter corkscrew twists. Throw in a few cone chicanes and stop astrides and you’ve got all the ingredients for a great day out. A team of local marshals was brought in to support Chris Elkins and Ed Rutherford in running this test and if we thought that there was a lot of rubber on the track before we started there was a lot more on it by the time we left.

The track also gave the results the first shake up that we’ve had in days. Bill Cleyndert and Graham Goodwin, first and second in the Vintageant category both took penalties in the same chicane and one of them broke into fluent Anglo-Saxon as he left a squished plastic cone trailing in his wake.

While the Bentley is a fantastic long distance rally car, we can’t help thinking that WO hadn't build the steering rack for this sort of test; but we’re sure that the on-board to telemetry recorded all of this and sent a note back to the pits thereby ensuring that the constructors championship is still within their grasp.

The Classics category also took their share of penalties here, including the long term leaders Gavin and Diana Henderson who wacked the very same cone as Bill and Graham had just minutes earlier.

The Volvo PV544 Fredy Niggeler and Mike Gnani seemed to find that taking one of the sections on three wheels minimised the risk of clipping anything and, as if to prove this theory, Tom Smith and Don Polak also in a PV544 demolished a cone while on four wheels.

There was some great entertainment, and the knots of spectators and marshals behind the Armco on in the watch towers were treated to sights such as Edmund ‘spin cycle' Peel launching a cone skywards with a powerful Porsche pirouette and sending the offending plastic off into the gravel. Alan Beardshaw announced his arrival on the track with a cloud of smoke so thick that there were some in the crowd who were convinced that a new Pope had been elected.

After the fun and games on the track though we were soon back to reality and a section of mixed gravel and tarmac for the circuitous, but much more agreeable route to Marijampe and the Polish border at Salaperaugis. Once again the frontier proved to be no obstacle at all and our entrance to the seventh country of the rally passed without incident.

For the next three days we are the guests of the Polish Automobile Association. Their Sporting Director, Jarosław Noworól is an old friend of the Endurance Rally Association having helped with the route of last years Peking to Paris, so we know that we’re in safe hands!

Unfortunately though there were some crews who were suffering, Mike and Lorna Harrison who were worried yesterday about their lack of power on the tests were found by the side of the road with a broken Panhard rod. Luckily for them Andy Inskip and Tony Jones were in the vicinity and quickly got them back on the road. Sadly this delay meant that they've now dropped to 31st place.

The Mercedes-Benz 220 SE of Andreas Pohl and Robert Peil was also stopped by the side of the road - with fellow Mercedes drivers Giselher Stauzebach and Rainer Wolf lending a hand. There was a big oil leak making mess of the engine bay and after a lot of wiping a failed head gasket was diagnosed. With bit of work this evening though there’s a good chance that the crew will be up and running again tomorrow.

Further along the road, those cars still running were pressing on to the lunch halt via another two regularities and were treated to a short muddy forest section where both the rally fans and photographers along the route were subjected to a vampiric onslaught by the local bug life. Pity the poor marshals, John and Gill Cotton, who’d also been thoroughly fly blown in Siberia last year, mid way through the Peking to Paris Rally.

After lunch another pair of regularities bookended a remote and challenging time control section and the Polish Air Force had kindly arranged a helicopter flypast to get proceedings started.

The pace of the rally was hotting up but in the case of Jim Grayson and Simon Spinks’ Ford Escort it was getting a bit too hot. Just as they had during Peking to Paris, they experienced a small engine fire but with the help of the sapeurs et pompiers team of Rene Declercq and Eric Claeys it was brought under control and remarkably, after fitting a new air filter, the crew rolled into the MTC penalty free.

By the time we arrived in Mikolajki, a holiday town near the banks of Lake Śniardwy and its river system, the rally looked like it was ready for a rest but there was still work to be done. Mark Winkelman and Victor Silveira da Conceicao had to take their Plymouth Coupe into a workshop to have some broken gearbox mounts welded. Arthur and Anna Manners’ Lagonda needed a radiator repair and Charlie Bishop had lashed up a mudguard mounting for his Vauxhall with a spanner as a splint and a series of jubilee clips. Vincent Duhamel and Anne Charron’s Ford 350GT was also in a workshop having a piston problem sorted along with John and Nicole Whitelock’s Ford Coupe which was waiting to find out what was wrong with its gearbox.

After such a day then it’s only to be expected that the results will have a had a shuffle and while the top four Vinatageants are unchanged, the Classic category sees Jim Grayson and Simon Spink’s flaming Escort move into third place with Jane Wignall steaming into fourth.

There’s more to come tomorrow.

Syd Stelvio



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