Driving a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 from Peking to Paris in the June 2019 ERA Rally.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

0135 Germany, Belgium, France. Days 33-36

0135   Germany, Belgium and France.  Days 33-36
July 4th-7th 2019
A mad dash to the finish in Paris !

Start of the special stage in Szczecin
Day 33.  Szczecin Poland to Wolfsburg Germany. 375 kms.  Since it was only a few kilometres to the German border, I have included the start of this day in this post.  Our last day in Poland - In fact Szczecin is almost in Germany, so not far to the border.  However, first of all there was a short, sharp test to do almost in the middle of town - They had closed a cobbled section of road for us, and it was tight, twisty, and undulating, with a couple of chicanes thrown in for good measure - And we had to do two laps !! Once again, Ashton steered us quickly and safely round, and we maintained our position in the European Cup standings.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

0134 Baltic States & Poland Days 29-32

0134 Baltic States & Poland Days 29-32
30th June - 3rd July 2019
Getting closer !

Sunset over Tallinn
1929 RR Phantom I in Tallinn
Day 29.  Tallinn to Riga.  356 kms.  Leaving the hotel,
roadworks necessitated some "ERA Arrows" to be posted at the last minute to change our route out of Tallinn.  No problem, except somehow our Monit had changed its distance measurement from kilometers to miles, and markers in the route book (like gas stations or churches) were coming up very early !  After a while I sussed what was happening and got it back to reading kms again !

0133 Finland. Days 27 & 28

0133 Finland,  Days 27 & 28
28th & 29th June 2019
Short and sweet visit to Finland.  Forest rally stages !

All tucked up in Finland
Day 27.  In to Hyviinka hotel.    Shortly after crossing the border, we stopped in a gas station / cafe for a 5 minute break, and found a little stall outside selling delicious looking cherries.  After a lack of fruit recently, we decided to buy a bag - And our only
In the hotel car park
regret later was that we hadn't bought a bigger bag.  We agreed that they were possibly the most delicious cherries we've ever tasted, and there wasn't one soft or bad one in the bag.  We spat cherry
Chatting in the car park
stones out of the car the whole way to the hotel ! A very pleasant drive, and when we reached the hotel found everyone standing around in the car park in the warm evening sun, enjoying a beer and one (or was it two ?) delicious free hot dogs put on by the hotel.  A very pleasant "Welcome to Finland" evening.

Day 28.  Hyviinka Finland to Tallinn Estonia.  138 kms.   It may only have been 138 kms, but it was split pretty equally between the fast and excellent timed stages, and the quiet of standing around waiting for ferries !   First of all, near the hotel, was the Hyviinka Rally Cross circuit, and there were plenty of knowledgeable spectators there who were actually waiting for a full blown rallycross meeting later that day.  Gidget (and Ashton !) did really well on the mix of dirt and tarmac, the transition between the two always providing a stern test of both man and machine.  We only had one hiccup where we almost turned left where we should have gone straight on, but to be fair, the "normal" circuit DID turn left 
there, and there were lots of tyre marks on the tarmac to indicate the turn.  However, for us they had put cones there, but they were hidden from view until the mistake was made !  Devious.  Luckily we were far from the only car to make that error, and we ended up well up in the results, beating several of those newer, faster cars that are normally ahead of us.  As today marked the beginning of a "new" competition, the European Cup, this started us of on the right foot.

Holden on rally stage
From Hyviinka we moved on to the Saukkolan Rally Circuit, which is a much longer and freer flowing course, albeit it with a mix of tight twist sandy sections to open sweeping gravel sections.  As usual with all these tests, we never get to see them before we compete on them, so, apart from a paper diagram of the course (not to scale, so doesn't really tell you a lot !), you drive it as you find it.  This one was really good, and we worked it the same way as we had done on other such tests, where Ashton concentrated on the immediate road ahead, while I tried to look ahead and call out what was coming up - a tight hairpin, or an opening bend, etc.  It seemed to work quite well.   On this occasion, apart from getting a lot of understeer on the inner tight sandy sections, we did well, and were again up there well into the top 10.   All in all, a great couple of stages in Finland.

As they located the MTC at the end of the Saukkolan test, we were able to relax there and enjoy some food and a cup of coffee, in the knowledge that it was a relatively easy drive down to Helsinki to line up to catch the ferry across to Tallinn in Estonia.

Statues in Helsinki
Once we arrived in Helsinki, we waited around in the terminal for a while, having a bite to eat with some of the other competitors, underneath a somewhat questionable piece of art !  The mood now we were out of Russia and finally in Europe was noticeably
Seagulls on Gidget
lighter - Perhaps because people really started to believe that maybe they WERE going to reach Paris.  Before this, it had been more of a "hope" than a "possibility" !   When check in time came and we
Patrick getting attacked !
moved through into the holding area, for some reason Patrick in car 33 decided to feed the seagulls, and within two minutes he had dozens of them not only swooping him, but also sitting on many adjacent cars, waiting for their turn.  And as usual, seagulls make a mess !!   It was hilarious to watch !

Finally we moved forward and drove up onto the ferry.  This was
my second time on this ferry, as I had been here 3 years ago in my Toyota, so it was all starting to become more familiar.  Our route down through Latvia was also the route I took, so I was to see many sights I recognised alog the way.

Once we docked in Tallinn, it was only a short drive to the hotel in Tallinn, and I was exhausted and soon in bed.  Ashton and many of the other guys went into the old city for a look - I had spent time there before and knew how beautiful it was.  I was just too exhausted to join them.

Rest of the pics are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/mhtEmEE5M6vzPMbw7