Sun to Red Sea Rally
11th June 2004
Day 9 - Sibiu
to Veliko (Bulgaria)
BELLM SIGHTS LOCH
Into a hidden secret
mountain range, with some wonderful roads. They make the Stelvio
in Italy look like a motorway! More hairpins than a hairdresser's
salon! And we're over 2,000 metres up.
We hit the motorway
to get some fast kms done before coping with half an hour
of the beastly ring road around the capital, Bucharest.
A real tester for the
driver’s today, as they battled to negotiate the hair-raising
hairpins of the high alpine backroads of Romania. On 51km
of stages that typically stretch the talents of the best European
Rally Champions, conditions were made even more demanding
with the tarmac covered by a slippery sheet of overnight rain.
Overall 4th place man
Ray Bellm started the day intent on cutting into the 4 minute
and 17 second margin between him and 3rd place James Ingleby.
He managed to keep his Porsche sufficiently attached to the
corners and clear of the steep drop-offs to gain 10 seconds
on the hillclimb over the Ingleby Mustang.
Bellm was however edged
out for stage honours by the V8 Capri of marathon expert Richard
Martin-Hurst. Martin-Hurst and co-driver Tony DeVantier were
just 2 seconds clear of Bellm over the 24 km stage, with Kiwi
Joe McAndrew taking 3rd place in his Honda Integra another
2 seconds behind.
Smokin’ Joe clambered
back up to his familiar podium place on the longer second
stage, setting fastest time around the 27 km alpine lake stage.
But Bellm was the man on a mission. Starting 1 minute behind
the Ingleby Mustang, he caught up for a rare sighting of the
Loch Ness V8 Monster and overtook it on the stage. In doing
so he took another 2nd stage placing and reduced the gap between
4th and 3rd place to less than 3 minutes.
The Holden Monaro of
Keith and Mary-Anne Callinan maintained some V8 respectability
on the stage, powering their clutch hungry beast into 3rd
Andrew Pidden and Mike
Cotter were the only team to be caught out on the day’s two
stages, with their Ford Cortina getting out of shape on the
snowbanked 24 km first stage and slamming into the side of
a mountain tunnel.
“The steering’s all
a bit deranged and it looks a bit roughed up, but it should
hold out” said Australian Cotter. Proudly piloting the cheapest
and oldest car in the event, they are intent on seeing their
37 year old £4,500 classic continue to serve as old master
to some of the younger Group N apprentices. They currently
lie in 14th place overall.
Graham Lorimer and Jenny
Brittan made a welcome return to the event this morning, driving
through the night in their saturated gear to make the day’s
start control with just 50 minutes to spare. Having dismissed
the prospect of continuing the event after yesterday’s suspension
tearing episode, it was the efforts of Hungarian rally champ
Janos Balazs and his crew that managed to get the limping
Toyota back on 4 wheels.
“I was ready to pack
up my troubles and crate them off to Durban” said an exhausted
Lorimer. “But those guys were amazing – I can’t thank them
enough.” Starting in 8th place at the start of the day, Lorimer
overtook the Astra of Steve Coad and the Mustang of Peter
Cochrane to settle in 6th place at the overnight stop. This
now puts him 3 minutes and 19 seconds behind the Peugeot of
tarmac wizards Steve Blunt and Rob Duck.
With the beautiful lakes
of Scandinavia a distant memory and the final frontier of
a former Iron Curtain country now in sight, tomorrow will
mark another transition day in the event. Competitors will
tackle 44 kilometres of rural Bulgarian tarmac and then drive
into the enchanting minaret silhouetted landscape of Turkey,
a land that historically represents the crossroads of Eastern
and Western civilisations. more...