Report and photos by Julien Mahiels
The Eifel Rallye Festival 2012 was staged 26-28 July in the Eifel Mountains of Western Germany. The 3-day event took place on seven special stages all located in a 30 km circle around the small city of Daun. The volcanic Eifel region, home to a certain 20 km racetrack wrapped around the village of Nurburg, offers hundreds of kilometers of epic roads. Motorsport is at home here.
The Eifel Rallye Festival 2012 is one of the most famous historical rally events and it always draws a large number of spectators and a wide array of original classic rally cars. From two-stroke Wartburg to modern WRC Subarus, the Festival is a mix of grace and brutality. This year’s theme was the Safari Rally, bringing together the spectacular cars in desert spec from the ’60s to the ’90s.
Notable entries at the 2012 Eifel Rallye Festival included:
- Walter Rohrl, 1980 and 1982 World Rally Champion, drove four cars. An Audi Sport Quattro E2 (a replica of his Sanremo 1985 winning car), an Opel Ascona A (original car from the European Championship in 1974), an Opel Ascona 400 (original car from his win on the Monte Carlo Rally of 1982) and a Porsche 911 SC (a car from the German championship, it was not driven by Rohrl at the time but competed against him).
- Stig Blomqvist, World Champion in 1984, participated in a Ford RS200, his original winning car from the South Swedish Rally of 1986 now newly restored by John Wheeler, the man who engineered the RS200s.
- Bjorn Waldegard, 1979 World Rally Champion, drove a Porsche 911 Carrera RS, Safari 1974, Kuhne & Nagel, original. In addition, on one loop of stages, he drove a Ford Escort RS1800, a replica of his winning car from the 1977 RAC Rally in British Airways livery, now owned by Richard Eklund and recently restored.
- Armin Schwarz, German Champion 1987 – ’88, European Champion 1996 drove a Lancia Stratos 24 valve, a replica factory car.
- Harald Demuth, German Champion in 1982 and 1984 drove a Mercedes-Benz 500 SLC, a replica of the Argentina 1980 car driven by Mikkola.
- Philippe Wambergue, ex-works driver for Citroen and Mazda, brought his own Citroen BX 4TC, original car from the Acropolis 1986.
- Aaron Burkart, Junior World Champion in 2010, rallied the Subaru Impreza WRC, an original car driven by Colin McRae on the Monte 1997.
- Sepp Wiegand, official works driver of Skoda Germany, drove a VW Golf G60, an original car from the Australia Rally of 1990.
The shakedown for the Eifel Rallye Festival 2012 took place on Thursday. More than a test stage it was, like most of the weekend, more about the fans and the show than trying different set-ups.
It was my first contact with Groupe B machinery on a closed rally stage and I am still in shock of the quattro firepower. Anything short of Formula One, I’ve never seen a car accelerate that fast and on any given surface. More of a catapult than car, with 7.1 THX sounds of the exhaust crackling and the turbo spooling.
Friday morning it was time for technical scrutineering under the sun before the real stage. The was time for the public to get real close with drivers and cars. The paddock area offered glorious diversity, with Groupe A, B, 4 and some really rare and original cars. Perhaps the rarest was the Citroen BX 4 Tc which was left for dead in a French garage for years.
With temperature rising up to 38°C all the cars made it through and all headed to the gravel Bosch Super Stage where the Safari cars could show their full potential on a 8.2 km stage with jumps, river crossing and mud. Each car had to make three passes maximizing the spectacle for the hundreds of fans presents. My unofficial best jump award went to Aaron Burkart in the ex-Colin McRae Subaru Impreza WRC, almost giving the illusion of the messiah coming back to earth.
Saturday morning quickly turned into a motorboat race with massive rainfall for more than two hours. This only made the show even more extraordinary to watch. With rivers on the road and greasy mud, the slides were even wider and more exciting.
The 2012 running of the Eifel Rallye Festival was my first and I want to congratulate the organisation. They did great work with all facets of the event; no delays, great roads and not even one single traffic jam that are so familiar to fellow Belgian rally fans.