It took only a few minutes until the best mood had turned into sheer horror. On Thursday afternoon, the Eifel Rallye Festival was to begin with the so-called shakedown on a 5.4-kilometer short circuit, in keeping with the tradition of the last few years. However, one of the first few cars that started suffered a serious accident which injured about ten people in the official spectator zone, two of them seriously. The shakedown was broken off immediately afterwards to give the emergency services free access to the scene of the accident. This accident is particularly tragic, as the Eifel Rallye Festival (ERF) is not about achieving best times and top speeds, nor about any other kind of victory. Since 2011, the ‘Slowly Sideways’ initiative has been gathering fans and friends of old rally cars here to indulge in the classic times of this motorsport during demo laps on some former stages of the Eifel Rallye. “Although we don’t have a time classification, the track and spectator safety systems are carried out according to international standards as if it would be a rally for best times,” explains organisation manager Otmar Anschütz. Only the best cars or the best drifter will win prizes at the finish.
Despite the accident, the organizing committee decided to continue the event. According to the investigations of the authorities so far, this was a tragic accident that couldn’t have been foreseen. “After considering all aspects, we decided to continue our festival, and the authorities involved were also in favour. The most important thing, however, is that all those injured recover as quickly as possible. This is the wish of the organizers, we speak on behalf of the teams and the numerous fans”, says Anschütz. in slightly depressed mood, the annual rally evening was therefore held late Thursday at Laurentiusplatz in Daun – in the middle of the huge service park for classic rally cars. These days, the entire pedestrian zone of the small spa town is dominated by those cars that once drove in rally events on asphalt, gravel, mud, ice and snow at World and European Championship rallys as well as at national events.
On Friday and Saturday there were a total of five different special stages, where each driver was free to decide how fast or slow he or she wanted to drive. Yes, that’s right, also women were among the starters, for example the two-time women’s rally world champion Isolde Holderied, who drove exactly that Toyota Corolla WRC that she drove at the Rallye Monte Carlo in 1999. In the wider field were many other original rally cars, from the Vauxhall Chevette HSR over a Lancia Delta S4, three Ford RS200, a Volkswagen Golf II GTI 16V or a Toyota Celica ST185 up to a Lancia Stratos, an Audi 80 GLE, an Opel Ascona 400, some Lancia Delta Integrale or a Peugeot 309 GTi. Seat brought two very special Ibiza from the factory collection in Barcelona. In a addition to a poison-green kit car from 1996, it was especially the Ibiza Bimotor from the Spanish Gravel Championship of 1986, built only once, that could inspire the spectators with its sound. Another unusual car is the Mercedes-Benz 280 E, completely painted in white, which took part in the 1977 London-Sydney marathon rally. After these approximately 30,000 kilometers, the rally went to the Safari Rally in Kenya and the Vuelta America del Sud in 1978, and the following year again to the Safari Rally and to the Tour de Europe. This long-distance rally through Europe was repeated with this Benz in 1987, 1988 and 1989, so that the speedometer covered some 120,000 kilometers in rallies on five continents.
Thus this car met in singular way the slogan of this year’s Eifel Rallye Festival: Rallye Around The World. From all continents, on which ever rally events took place, cars were in Daun. Only the Antarctic has never been visited by any rally event and therefore no cars from there came to the ERF. The colorful field of participants consists not only of valuable originals, but is also open for replicas, which are divided into the categories ‘Slo1’ (close to the original) and ‘Slo2’ (different from the original). Many fans, who in the 1960s, 70s and 80s stood cheering joyfully at the edge of the rally tracks, dream today of the realization of the dream to put one such rally vehicle into the garage at home. Some manage to do this with original cars, others can have their dream conversions on a historical basis – and for the rest, there are good miniatures of almost all major rally cars to fill the display case in the living room.
While the Slowly Sideways squad around rally photographer Reinhard Klein originally had a German-speaking core, they are now fully international. Two years ago Ross Clarke from New Zealand visited the Eifel Rallye Festival on a trip to Europe by chance and then decided that he had to participate at least once in the future. At home in New Zealand a replica of the Toyota Celica Turbo, with which Mohammed ben Sulayem had participated in the Dubai Rally in 1986, was created under expert guidance. There are only a few originals of this rear-wheel driven Group B racer left, because the Toyota headquarters ordered to scrap the cars after the last rally in 1986, because of the ban of Group B for 1987. Clarke’s Toyota shared the overseas container with the Datsun Violet 160J (710 SSS) of the Australian Darryn Snooks. He also took part in the ERF for the first time, but promised to come back again. His rare Datsun could already be marvelled at the Midsommar Rally in Sweden and will also be seen at the Finland Rally Classic in August.
It was also Ross Clarke who received the special prize for the best replica of this year’s Eifel Rallye Festival from Timo Salonen. The jury chose the already mentioned Mercedes-Benz 280 E as the best preserved original vehicle, whose owner Andreas Bayer received his prize from co-driver legend Nicky Grist. In addition, there was the special prize ‘Sideways Star’ for the best drifter in the field of the preceding vehicles, which Marcel Baldauf gained again with his BMW 325i like last year. All the VIP rally drivers present (including Nicky Grist, Timo Salonen, Stig Blomqvist, Isolde Holderied, Niki Schelle, Jimmy McRae, Kalle Grundel, Erwin Weber, Josep Maria Servià, Jochi Kleint, Harald Demuth and Matthias Kahle) also voted for the ‘Champion’s Choice’, this time the Subaru Legacy RS Turbo from Wilco Hubens from the Netherlands. There are still two special prizes left. Claus Aulenbacher received one of them for the reconstruction of an original Lancia Stratos, which had gone up in flames during a garage fire at the previous owner in France. The father-son duo Peter and Patrick Berghaus with their MG Metro 6R4 received the second special prize for their twentieth participation in a row at an event of the MSC Daun.
With the best weather, interrupted only by a few very short showers, the many fans along the tracks were able to see fantastic cars in action, some of which have been out of competition for decades. Some rally enthusiastics also use the Eifel Rallye Festival to do good. At auctions you can buy co-driver rides in some of the vehicles. This time Niki Schelle in the Lancia Delta S4 and Wolf-Dieter Ihle in the Audi 80 GLE offered corresponding co-driver seats. The total proceeds amounted to 3,348 euros, of which 2,237 euros went to the KinderHerz Foundation and 1,111 euros to the christmas package campaign of the Lions Club in Daun.
Thus, despite the extremely bad start, a really positive atmosphere arose. Not only because of the generous donations and the great rally cars in the sunshine. Especially with the news that all the injured spectators were in stable condition and, apart from the two seriously injured, were allowed to leave the hospitals directly, the mood of all fans, drivers and organisers was noticeably improved. Planning for the next event in the coming year is already underway. Then hopefully again with a good start and without incidents.
Images: Matthias Kierse