A blazing success!

Good weather combined with an entry of over 160 cars and a dozen star drivers from all over Europe saw the attendance levels at the Eifel Rallye Festival soar well above the 40,000 mark attained in 2012.

For all those involved, it was good to see that everyone from spectators and car owners to organisers and sponsors fully enjoyed the event. Typical comments were:

Peter Schlömer, chief organizer: “Our new shakedown location was a huge success. One of the participants even said that this special stage, ‘Mantaloch’, came up to WRC standard. And we also had more spectators there than ever before on a Thursday as there were over 6,000 people present. The innovation of a long midday break on Saturday also gave the fans enough time to visit the Rally Mile in Daun and talk to drivers and get autographs.”

Christian Geistdörfer, co-organizer: “We are delighted that we were able to surpass last year’s result with more than 40,000 spectators on the stages. It is also amazing how much positive feedback we got from both fans and participants.”

Walter Röhrl: “During the shakedown runs some of my ever-changing co- drivers asked me if I would not get bored driving the same stage again and again. But I must say: No, I still have as much fun now as I did forty years ago driving these cars.”

Harri Toivonen, driving an Opel Manta 400: “When I came to the first stage on Saturday morning and realised just how many great cars were lined up there, it was an unbelievable feeling. And I can already promise right now: I will come back.”

Otto F. Wachs, Managing Director of the new event partner Autostadt: “Every car manufacturer can be happy to support such an event. You rarely find as many car enthusiasts in one place. It is also the variety of car marques here that is an essential ingredient for both Autostadt and this unique festival for historic motor sport.”

Reinhard Klein, Slowly Sideways: “One of the key features of this event is that there is no time-keeping on the stages. Removing the competitive element gives the participants complete freedom to follow their heart and choose a car with which they have a special relationship. That is why we have so many different makes and models represented here. And of course, having no time-keeping you do not have one winner and 159 losers, you have 160 winners!”

The variety of the entry can be hinted at by first mentioning that there were rally cars there powered by engines with two, three, four, five, six and eight cylinders. The cars ranged in age from a 1958 Wartburg 311 Coupé to a 1997 Subaru Impreza WRC while the line-up included such technical diversity as a prototype Group 4 Mercedes 500 SL Coupé, a Peugeot 405 T16 Raid, a Citroën DS 21 prototype and a DAF 555 prototype.

The star driver line up was no less impressive with Walter Röhrl, Björn Waldegård, Stig Blomqvist, Harri Toivonen, Simo Lampinen, Marc Duez, Robert Droogmans, Yves Loubet, Harald Demuth, Matthias Kahle and many more +all assigned cars to drive. They were kept busy while away from the cars signing autographs and being interviewed by the 120 journalists from fourteen different countries – including Australia – that were present.

Harri Toivonen in particular enjoyed his weekend for, though he drove an ex- works Opel Manta the majority of the time, he was also re-united with his works MG Metro 6R4 that he had last driven on the RAC Rally of 1986. Its new owner, John Saunders, let Harri have a go over one of the stages with him as co-driver. Both emerged with big smiles having evidently enjoyed the experience immensely.

Indicative of the fact that the Festival encourages the true spirit of rallying is the story of the Volvo PV544 driven by Ralf Kleinemenke. On the first stage on Friday, it landed heavily and broke a wishbone. This released the coil spring that bounced off into the nearby field from where it was recovered later by spectators. However, they did not keep it as a souvenir but telephoned Rally HQ to enquire if anyone wanted it. The answer was “yes” since the wishbone had been mended and the Volvo now only needed the spring to be able to continue. A car was dispatched to fetch the errant item and, before long, the Volvo was off to the second stage.

There was also a triumph for Triumph and a reward for the persistence of the Volvo crew. Eifel Rallye Festival spectators could vote using the Internet for the greatest car of the event by awarding stars. All in all, nearly 10,000 stars were “collected” by the 160-plus historic rally cars during the event and there was a real “shower of stars” for the winning car, the Triumph TR7 V8 of Rob de Vos/Marcel Benning (#103) with its unique eight-cylinder sound. Second place went to the exotic Safari-style Volvo PV544 driven by Ralf Kleinemenke/Hans- Bernd Böing (#17). Third place in this unique “contest” was taken by the beautiful Lancia Stratos of Claus Aulenbacher and Andreas Mirow (#76) in the legendary Alitalia colours.

Further information can be obtained from either of the gentlemen listed below while copyright-free photographs from the Eifel Rally Festival can be downloaded from the McKlein web site by using the following link :-