Day Two of the Paris Amsterdam Rally dawned foggily in Sedan, but the skies soon cleared as crews embarked on the day’s 370km route through four countries (France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany), tackling five competitive regularity sections and a track test at the famous Hockenheim circuit. Unsurprisingly, the leaderboard has been shuffled slightly. At the time of writing we don’t yet have detailed results from Hockenheim (we’ll post these as soon as possible, along with more photos) but as things stand Stephen and Julia Robertson continue to hold the overall lead in their Triumph, Barry and Roma Weir have snatched second place in their Alfa and Richard Dresner and Colin Mackenzie have moved up into third overall (leading the Vintage category) in their Talbot. Remarkably, just five seconds separate all three – we have a contest on our hands!
Fate, inevitably, plays its part in any competition, and rallying is no exception. In their fabulous 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, American crew Joe and Kate Hayes somehow ‘cleaned’ the second regularity of the day (completed it without any time penalty, in other words) despite following the wrong set of route instructions – not a technique we normally recommend. It’s also a good idea to zero your tripmeter before setting off on a regularity, something that Jaguar XK140 girls Kate Lawson and Teresa Mathers failed to do at the start of the final section. However, they were just three seconds adrift at the finish, providing them with yet another opportunity to wind up husbands Dougie and Bill, who are not doing as well as they might have hoped…
Less fortunate were Angus Russell and Nadine Mercier in the 1978 Alfa Romeo Alfasud, who were only slightly delayed at the start of a regularity section but then found that a bulldozer that had moved aside to let all the rally cars pass had returned to work. At least they were still in the running; the lovely Lagonda M45 of Charles Miles and Carole Bodell broke down only a couple of kilometres from the hotel this morning and the pair were obliged to cut the remainder of the route, having been rescued by Pepe in the luggage bus. On the plus side they arrived looking as elegant as ever, whereas the 1974 Hillman Hunter of Kevin and Jenny Eld appeared to have been put through a mud bath following a wrong turning onto one of the filthiest little tracks in Europe. Happily, they say they’re loving the whole experience!
Meanwhile Stephen and Karen Freeman have been having a torrid time in their 1962 Mercedes-Benz 190 S, partly due to a faulty alternator (since fixed by Rally Preparation Services mechanics Gary and Simon) and partly because the car’s interior vents have been blowing nothing but hot air; the vents have now been sealed.
Of course there were gastronomic compensations for any misfortune, with a morning coffee stop at Auberge de la Gaichel (owned by a Triumph TR enthusiast) in Luxembourg, a tasty lunch at the Wein Hotel Klostermuhle at Ockfen, close to the Saar river in the heart of Germany’s Riesling wine region (it’s still not clear whether this is a hotel with a vineyard or a vineyard with a hotel, but good time was had by all) and an afternoon refreshment halt at Schniders Bistro at Hockspeyer, in the Palatinate forest. Crews were therefore well fuelled in readiness for their exertions at Hockenheim. From the circuit it was just a short drive to our overnight accommodation at the See Hotel Ketsch, even with a respectful pause at the memorial to F1 Champion Jim Clark, who was tragically killed at Hockenheim 50 years ago.
We are close to Mannheim now, home of Karl and Bertha Benz and birthplace of the motor car, and several crews experienced a rather spiritual moment as their cars rumbled past the historic Speyer Cathedral accompanied by the angelic sound of its choir. Nevertheless, this being the heart of Germany’s wine region, some will find it hard to resist temptation at dinner this evening. Tomorrow we’ll be rallying amongst picturesque vineyards as we follow the Deutsche Weinstrasse (Wine Route) towards Stuttgart. Prost!