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Midnight Sun to Red Sea Rally

June 9th - Day 7

Kosice to Matrafured (Hungary)
Today's a short day with two Regularities in the mountains and some superb scenery. Then a fast cross country run over the border into Hungary and into the hotel for a late lunch which will be a barbecue and beers on the lawn of the hotel.

KIWIS UP FRONT AS STARKEY COMES UNSTUCK

'Nick Starkey’s campaign through the top of the field suffered a major setback today, with the rear stub axle of the Englishman’s Astra breaking in today’s first stage.

Even though Starkey and co-driver Jim Hurman were quickly able to replace the component with a spare they were carrying, they were forced to miss the second stage and crawl back to an Opel dealer in Kosice to make additional repairs.

This setback sees their Astra surrender its overnight claim on 3rd place and slide down to 10th overall. Graham Lorimer moves back into 3rd, thus forming a tight All Black front row. Each of the top 3 cars now has a New Zealander either driving it, navigating it, or both.

Event leader Kiwi Joe McAndrew returned to his winning form, taking stage honours on both of the short tarmac stages. His high-revving Honda Integra held out twice against the V8 power of the Fords and the Holdens.'  top

Day's total 307 kms

June 10th - Day 8

Matrafured to Sibiu (Romania)
Some great roads for the Regularities, rising and falling on narrow forest roads, the second one with barely 500 metres of straight line anywhere.

A super fast run through good looking country to the Romanian border. And now something totally different. For three hours you've got 3rd world Eastern Europe with poverty and lumpy roads.

It's a country of churches with superb spires and steeples - no two the same. When you see the Fragas mountains tomorrow you'll realise that the lumpy three hours was worth doing.

LORIMER AND STARKEY WITH A CASE OF THE BENDS

There was high drama in the first half hour of the event this morning. An early morning mist hung over the twisty 19 km damp tree-lined Hungarian tarmac stage. On a downhill section with the wet surface made even more slippery by a film of diesel from the trucks which normally use this road, three of the leading cars fell victim to the ice rink-like surface.

First on the scene was event leader Joe McAndrew who swooped over the crest and performed a neat 180 degree turn on the treacherous surface travelling backwards for 50 metres before flick turning his Honda to face the right direction miraculously avoiding the guard railed bend and trees. He still made fastest time over the stage.

Then charging Nick Starkey in his Astra, intent on making up time, lost the lot wiping his car along the guard rail and tipped it 20 feet down a bank into a ditch.

Co-driver Jim Hurman clambered up the bank to wave down Graham Lorimer in his 3rd place Toyota warning him of the hazard. Lorimer followed Starkey’s path along the guardrail, similarly out of control, with the damaged end of the guardrail wiping the whole rear wheel and suspension off his Toyota.

“Nothing I could do about it,” said Lorimer. “The car was behaving like a drunken ice skater.” The 3-wheeled Toyota was last seen on the back of a truck heading towards Budapest and the workshop of Janos Balazs – a Hungarian competitor on the London-Sydney Marathon – and there were high hopes that the damaged rear suspension could be repaired.'
 top

Day's total 646 kms

June 11th - Day 9

Sibiu to Veliko (Bulgaria)
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.

BELLM SIGHTS LOCH NESS MONSTER

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 place.

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...

Day's total 487 kms

*© Reports from TRANS WORLD EVENTS 2002. Check out the official website for more in depth news.*
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