The Baltic Classic Rally 2017

28 May - 10 June


JUNE 4, 2017

Tallinn to Riga

Pulling power


Tonight, quite remarkably we will spend our third night in the capital city of a different country, Helsinki, Tallinn and now Riga.

We pulled out off the leafy suburbs of Tallinn today on a bright and sunny Sunday morning. There was thankfully very little traffic to slow us down but there were still many traffic lights to negotiate. Some of us decided to put into practice a theory coined by Dick ‘regularity’ Appleton in the 48 hour car. With little to do improving on an already thorough route book he had worked out that 48kph was the magic speed needed to get through as many sets of traffic lights as possible while they were on green. After a faltering start - presumably because we hadn’t reached the required velocity - the theory was proved to be correct and we sailed though mile after mile of traffic controls without further hindrance.

This was good, because it meant that we got to the mornings main event all the more quickly. The Laitse Rally Park was about to play host to us this morning one and all were very excited as they pulled into the carpark, took a coffee and awaited their start time.

First out of the blocks were Charlie and Nellie Bishop. Their Vauxhall 30 / 98 is back with us, new head gasket and all thanks to a generous hand baggage allowance and a bit of midnight oil. While their old warhorse trotted around the course in a most stately fashion, there were some who threw caution to the wind and, to coin a phrase, gave it full gas and no-one could blame them. Shale, tarmac, hairpins and straights were linked with a tunnel and a flyover, which meant that those crews who had finished their turn and were in the grandstand to cheer on team mates or rivals, always had something entertaining to watch.

Two Mercedes, crewed by Giselher Stauzebach and Rainer Wolf looked like a pairing who could have played there all day, or at least until something broke. Luckily for them though the organisers had only scheduled one lap of the track and all emerged unscathed.

Edmund Peel and Sara MacDonald were flat out as usual, their Tuthill Porsche once again took every turn with inch perfect precision. Efficient certainly, but not as entertaining as the Power Hawk of Jesse Smaal and Jack Boers which seemed to use every inch of its steering lock and suspension travel in every corner.

Rachael Vestey’s little orange Mini was scrabbling for grip on the loose stuff and spun just before the crossover tunnel finally rocking to a halt in a cloud of dust as Yves, ‘the earth mover’ Faymonville tore up the track in a typically sideways attitude.

Once finished with the rallycross we changed down a gear to take to the public roads on a beautiful cross country run to Järkavandi and the first regularity of the day. This was a dry and dusty lope, alternating between farmland and woodland and led seamlessly to the second at Moisakulä and then onto lunch at the Hallinga Hotel and a chance to visit the nearby Motor Museum of the same name.

The afternoon took us south along the pine lined Baltic coast and then, without any warning other than a welcome sign, we were across the border into Latvia. No checks, no barriers and no paperwork to hold us up, EU freedom of movement at its very best.

If only everything in life was this simple though, there was another regularity to get through at Vitrupe and, for some crews this one proved to be bit more tricky than they expected with many tracks running through a sometimes dense forest.

Certainly the navigators feel the pressure most on these sections. Juggling time, speed, distance and direction is no easy matter but as Ed Rutherford quipped, it’s better to be on the right road at the wrong time than to be on the wrong road at the right time. 

Unfortunately, Tom Smith and Don Polak hadn’t been given this advice before they set off on their own cross country adventure. Finding themselves somewhat lost, Tom also managed to slide the car into a ditch. Unable to drive it any more, he alighted from his Volvo and ran - more than a mile (setting a personal best he was keen to stress) - before finding a farm which was under the watchful eyes of six slavering hounds. Once a human had been located and the dogs had been called off Tom was able to bring Google translate into the mix and a towing tractor was soon organised. It only had one seat though so Tom jogged along beside it back to the stricken car which was quickly extracted from the mire.

John and Nicole Whitelock also tried some ditch digging as they swerved to avoid a fox, close to the end of the last regularity section. They were fortunate enough not to need a tractor as both Andy Inskip and Jamie Turner’s trucks were close at hand and they quickly formed up a twin engine Toyota train to haul the big Ford Coupe back onto the straight and level.

Once we were all out of the woods, an easy run to the Riga Motor Museum was all that stood between the rally and the night halt.

Despite the ferocious and varied competition we’ve throughout the day, the leader board hasn't changed yet again although there has been a bit of shuffling further down the list.

Tomorrow, there are plenty more opportunities for a shake up but, as the end rushes ever closer, those who can hold their nerve might well be the ones who also hold on to their placing.

Syd Stelvio



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