The Baltic Classic Rally 2017

28 May - 10 June


MAY 29, 2017

Gothenburg to Karlstad

History lessons

Today we continued our journey north and visited two more car museums. The first in the morning at Saab’s one time hometown of Trollhättan and the second right at the end of the day, private Lasse Jonsson Museum in Karlstad. In between we drove some simply fabulous roads and enjoyed another highly commended lunch.

We woke to a damp and dreary Gothenburg morning and, as we threaded our way through the roadworks and bridge repairs the very idea that we could finish the day in yet more beautiful countryside and with yet more amazing weather seemed fanciful.

There was some brightness in this misty gloom though. True to their word, the Billdal boys had managed to get both the Volvo Amazon of Ludovic Bois and Julia Colman up and running, as well as the Ford 350GT Shelby of Vincent Duhamel and Anne Charron. A great effort and one very much appreciated by all of us in Rally World.

As we left the city and headed to the first regularity at Upphärad the modern, dual carriageway - urban landscape slowly gave way and the backroads of Sweden took over. Freshly laid tarmac swapped places with well graded gravel along roads lined with lupins and milk churns - sat awaiting the tanker.

Chris Elkins had the honour of starting this first regularity with spots of rain falling on his check sheet, whilst Ed Rutherford waited some 12km away ready to clock the crews in. Arthur and Anna Manners chose not to fit wet weather tyres to their Lagonda this morning and paid the price with a low speed slide into a drain. The only real damaged sustained was to their pride and a small area of rear mudguard. A little attention with the wheel changing mallet soon put matters right though.

There was a coffee halt scheduled at the Saab museum and time had been allowed for crews to explore this cathedral of motoring memorabilia. Long time Saab devotee and Cadillac navigator Tony Brooks, had dug out an old 'made in Trollhättan' T shirt sadly too cold and damp to show it off properly but in true grid girl tradition he stripped off his jacket to strike a pose next to a Sonnet which took him and his T shirt right back to the '80s.

There was a slight sense of sadness however. A once great company, an icon of motorsport and a pioneer in so many ways was now only a name on souvenir mugs, mouse mats, keyrings and other trinkets for sale in the gift shop.

We’re sure though that the spirit of the Trolls, who made the Saab’s in Trollhättan for all of those years, would have been very pleased to see Matthias and Thomas Bittner’s Saab 96 with a rally plate on the bumper; still doing what it was built to do.

Any depression though was soon cast away as we headed for some fun and games at the Saab Rally Cross circuit, a mere 5km down the road. Crews were given free rein over two laps of a tight, mixed circuit where we saw ambitions and talents competing with horsepower and traction. The small crowd gathered at the corkscrew downhill offered friendly and no doubt valuable advice to some of the crews but sadly it was all in Swedish and they ploughed on heedless.

Jan Hradecky and Dana Hradecka’s Porsche enjoyed itself so much that at one point it was seen to actually jump for joy whilst Hans Geist and Herb Pinzolits got the tail of their Mercedes wagging happily, like a dog with a bone.

Two further regularities in the vicinity of Lake Vänern, Europe’s largest, took the rally to lunch in Baldersnas, through birch forests, over slow deep rivers and alongside fields full of wild flowers and lush grasses.

The afternoon resumed with rapidly clearing skies and a hot sun under which the crews had the third and final regularity to tackle around Edslan. The gravel road pitched and rolled through low lying wetland, forests and lakes as freshly cut timber filled the air with the scent of pine.

Anywhere there was habitation saw small knots of rally fans cheering and waving each and every car with one enterprising group being seated in the elevated bucket of an earth moving tractor to give them a better view.

Our night halt is in Karlstad, the home of the Swedish round of the World Rally Championship but, before we hit the hotel and got on with the spanner checks, the repairs, the laundry and the evening meal, we were lucky enough to be able to pay a visit to the small, but perfectly formed and superbly curated Lasse Jonsson Museum. Here, Mercedes, Porsche, Chevrolet and Ferrari rubbed shoulders in the showroom just as easily they do on an ERA rally although one set were considerably cleaner.

The leaderboards have had a slight reshuffle - but enough to keep things interesting.

Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman still head the vintageant class with Graham and Marina Goodwin second and Lars and Annette Rolner in third.

Gavin and Diana Henderson however now lead from Jane and Paul Wignall in the Classics division with Mike and Lorna Harrison still in the hunt in third place.

Finally, it’s John Cotton’s birthday today and we’d like to wish him many happy returns.

Tomorrow the road leads to Stockholm.

Syd Stelvio



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