Monday, December 24, 2007

Friday, 17 August: Let the Rallye Begin!

After partaking of the hotel’s fine breakfast buffet, we headed out to Ruwertal, the very first stage of the rally, with a start time of 10:13 a.m. We arrived with plenty of time to park in a huge grassy field and hiked about ten minutes to the first viewing area, which consisted of a short straightaway, a sharp right turn, and a lefthand hairpin. We staked out a decent position just above the hairpin, but were a bit disappointed because the best angle for photos was on the lower side of the bend, which was off-limits to spectators. (As always, I was immensely jealous of the press photographers, who get all the best shooting angles.) While we waited for the stage to start I took a hike through the woods to the next viewing area, another hairpin bend heavily shaded by trees. It was a dramatic turn but it was already pretty thickly staked out by spectators and I was worried about the low light conditions for photography, so we ended up sticking with our original position. All of the WRC cars and most of the Super 1600s made it through smoothly but some of the Evos and Subarus made some dramatic slides.

Here are photos from Ruwertal:

We grabbed some sausages and Cokes for lunch and then headed to the second running of the Schönes Moselland stage, which, as its name suggest (schön means “beautiful”), is set on a dramatic vineyard-covered hillside overlooking the town of Piesport, surrounded by an enormous horseshoe bend in the Mosel River. We arrived in time to take some shots of the postcard-perfect scenery and then made our way down the hill in search of the ideal viewing spot. We arrived between stages and managed to nudge our way up to the fence on the lower outer side of another lefthand hairpin turn. We watched the historic rally cars go by from the previous running of the stage and then waited around for over an hour and a half for our stage to start (rally fans certainly have to be patient). From here we could see the cars snaking down the next hill in the distance and we could just barely make out two white cars that had gone off the road and were now stuck amidst the vineyard rows. A crew was swarming around one of the cars but they didn’t succeed in retrieving it – I guess they are out for the duration. We think the two unfortunates were Super 1600 entries but we couldn’t tell for sure.

There were no big mistakes by the WRC cars at our turn, although Petter Solberg deposited some large chunks of rubber on the road as his already-damaged Subaru came screaming around the bend. A guy ran out and snatched up a hunk of the rubber – to take home as a souvenir?!? There were a lot of naughty spectators here who kept trying to sneak up the road between the vineyard rows, and I could swear that I saw several of them trying to touch the cars as they went by. (This is no laughing matter – one of the motivating factors for the establishment of controlled spectator zones in the last decade was that several fans lost fingers while trying to touch the cars, and more than one spectator has been run over.) The course marshals do their best to look for wayward fans and keep them behind the fences. One of the marshals was wearing a floppy straw hat and everyone jeered at him when his hat blew off and he had to walk out onto the course to retrieve it. We didn’t stick around to watch all of the independent-class cars because we wanted to get back to Trier to watch the WRC cars arrive at Parc Fermé.

Here are photos from Schönes Moselland:

We drove back to Trier, parked at the hotel, and made our way through the center of town to the Parc Fermé (closed park) at the Viehmarktplatz, where all of the rally cars have to spend the night. The cars arrived by a different route from last year and we got to watch them driving through the streets of Trier. This is always a fun thing to see, especially when you get a great shot of folks sitting at an outdoor café just a few feet away from a passing WRC car. We arrived at Parc Fermé just in time to see Grönholm drive in and greet the throngs of fans. We also watched Kopecky, Latvala, Stohl, Atkinson, and several of the other WRC cars arrive, then went back out to the street to watch some more cars coming through. We ended up eating a late dinner at the hotel, which was excellent.

Here are photos from Parc Fermé:

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