We were thrilled to discover that this year’s Rallye schedule slated the first running of the Panzerplatte stage for 11 a.m. this morning, so we didn’t have to get out of bed unreasonably early. As you may recall, Panzerplatte (named after the German Panzer tanks) is run on the concrete-paved testing grounds of an old military base and is one of the most famous – and longest, at 30.5 km – stages in the WRC lineup. The stage is also home to the “Gina” jump, the best-known jump of Rallye Deutschland. Seeing the cars catch huge air here was one of the highlights of our Rallye experience last year and we wanted to try to arrive earlier this time to get an even better viewing position. Of course we slightly underestimated how long it took to drive to the stage, park in one of the huge lots near the barracks, get on a shuttle bus, and then make the long trek over the undulating fields of the military grounds to finally arrive at the gently sloping “Gina” viewing area. We were dismayed to discover that all of the best spots along the fence were already claimed, but we managed to stake out what were essentially second-row seats. We brought our camp chairs along and settled in for yet another long wait. A group of people sitting next to us had huge beach umbrellas set up to block the sun, which partially blocked our view and the view of everyone sitting behind them. As start time approached, we began to wonder if they were ever going to take the umbrellas down. It wasn’t even hot out. I finally worked up the nerve to ask them in German to put their umbrellas away, and they complied. Some of the spectators behind us gave me appreciative looks. The WRC cars didn’t catch too much air, as usual, but the Super 1600s didn’t disappoint and the Evos made some fantastic jumps. There’s nothing quite like seeing an Evo flying through the air and thinking, “That’s our car!” I don’t think anyone topped the little Renault Clios and Citröens from last year, but we saw plenty of great jumps.
You can see my best photos from Panzerplatte here:
We didn’t stick around to watch the historic rally cars because we knew from last year that they wouldn’t get a lot of air going over the jump. Next we decided to go off the beaten track to the Bosenberg stage. We were attracted to the description of an “S”-curve viewing area but had some trouble figuring out where to park. We finally made our way through cornfields and
Here are photos from Bosenberg:
We decided to end our day at the
At some point while we were standing between the Citröen and Ford tents, John and I got separated. I literally turned around and he was gone. I stuck to the fence where I had last seen him, took some photos of cars coming and going, and waited. And waited. I was the only one with a cell phone and we didn’t have any contingency plan if we got separated. I tried not to panic, except I had no way of knowing if John had noticed my absence immediately, or if he had walked halfway around the Service Park before realizing I was not at his side. The
Together again, we left the WRC area to check out the less-crowded Super 1600 tents. I daresay we recognized the Japanese crew leader at one of the Suzuki tents (the guy who came out and said, “Ten more minutes!” last year). After a lot of searching (and even asking someone for directions) we finally found the independent N-class cars tucked away in a forgotten corner. It’s always fun to see the guys working on their Evos, away from the crowds, with no barriers between you and the cars. I was also happy to finally see the tiny yellow Fiat with its frizzy-haired German owner/driver furiously working away on his pride and joy.
Here are photos from the
It was pretty much dark by now and most of the WRC cars had left, so we made our way back to our car and drove back to the hotel. Except we hit a bit of a roadblock – literally. We knew some of the streets in downtown
What we didn’t realize is that they had already blocked off the streets in preparation for the stage tomorrow morning, and we found a concrete barrier barricading the main access route to our hotel. We tried to use Susie’s navigational skills to approach the hotel from other angles, but we kept ending up back in the same place. We couldn’t find any other places to park nearby and we became increasingly frustrated, since we were literally across the street from our hotel. Finally I told John to stay with the car while I ran over to the hotel to ask for help. I tried to explain to the woman at the reception desk what our problem was, but my German failed me and I had to switch to English. She pulled out a street map of
The gentleman said he was going to his car and that he would drive me back to our car and then we could follow him to the parking lot, but I thought that sounded rather complicated since he would have to get over to where John was parked and then drive all the way back. I suggested that he come with me instead and be our navigator. He told his wife, who was also waiting in the lobby, that he would be back in a few minutes and then walked with me out to our car. We started chatting along the way (in German, of course), and I quickly learned that he was actually the owner of the hotel! I think John was rather stunned to see me show up with the hotel owner in tow. The gentleman was very nice and wanted to know all about what we were doing in