Midnight Sun to Red Sea Rally

6th June 2004

Day 4 - Gdynia to Wroclaw (Poland)


First impressions of Poland are the famous shipyards of Gdansk, but do not be deceived...

Once out of the grey industrial areas, Poland will amuse and amaze you - rolling hills and farm land, small villages untouched for 40 years, charming traditional architecture mixed with huge monolithic blocks of flats, the landmarks of the former communist regime.

Look out for the horse drawn ploughs and the tiny slow moving smoky two-stroke Trabants.

Having crossed the Baltic sea overnight, competitors on the Midnight Sun to Red Sea Rally awoke to find themselves on the northern coast of Poland. With 170 kilometres of gravel special stages completed in Sweden, a new dimension to the rally was ushered in, with all special stages up to Istanbul set to take place on entirely tarmac surfaces.

The day offered a taste of what is to come over the coming week, with the completion of 2 of the shortest tarmac stages on the event. Sending a clear warning shot to the seemingly untouchable Joe McAndrew, it was 24 hour Nurburgring regular Nick Starkey that set the stages alight today.

He took top honours on the first stage and got within 2 seconds of winner Smokin’ Joe on the second. His blistering run today sees him close the gap on the overall 4th place Corolla of Lorimer / Brittan to just 3 seconds.

“I think we will see a big shake up in the pack in the next few days”, predicted Zimbabwe-based Graham Lorimer. “Top track drivers like Bellm and Starkey will really come into their own on these road stages and will give the leaders a proper run for their money”.

Also lapping up the event’s transition to tarmac was Keith Callanan in his grunty Holden Monaro. With a 3rd and a 6th place in today’s stages, he is now wrestling for stage positions with the V8 Capri of yesterday’s big mover, Richard Martin-Hurst.

British Peugeot 306 of Steve Blunt and Robert Duck had their best day yet. After 3 days of getting to grips with gravel stages, the pair posted their best stage result to date on the second stage, finishing just one second behind the 6th placed Fords of Martin-Hurst, Ingleby and Glover. They are in 10th place overall in the event.

The day did provide some drama for the Cortina of British pairing Andrew Pidden and Mike Cotter. The pair were overtaken by an interballistic Mercedes, and then mistakenly pulled over by the local police.

“Their diesel powered FSO pursuit car couldn’t catch the Merc, so they settled for the next thing they could find which happened to be us!” joked Pidden. $70 lighter in the wallet, they then made towards the day’s final time control. They made it on time, but with a foot of water on the floor and less a set of windscreen wipers, which flew off en route. “I hope we have a less amusing day tomorrow,” said Pidden as he retired to the comfort of a hot bath.

In the team section of the rally, interim positions at the end of the day show the classic rally cars on top. The G.P.R team of Martin-Hurst / Bellm / Ward are 13 minutes clear of Team Rapid-B, consisting of the Group N cars piloted by McAndrew / Blunt / Ryan.

“This is an interesting result,” started Event Director Nick Brittan. “Although we have a Group N car leading the event, this shows that classic machines in the right hands are still extremely quick and capable rally tools”.

Bigger shake-ups can be expected tomorrow, when the rally passes through the villages of rural Poland to Zlin in the Czech Republic. It is the biggest stage day of the rally, with 74 km of tarmac racing stages. It’s classic Eastern European rallying, with plenty of opportunity for the road racers to claw their way up through the pack.  more...

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