Day two turns out to be as exciting as day one. We start at one of the nicest places in Switzerland with incredible views over lake Vierwaldstadter See. A short run and we arrive at the top of the freezing San Gotthard were the first time control is situated at 2100 meters. Down the old pass and than back up over the traditional cobblestone road as a regularity. Kies Alkemade got it wrong, they went down opposite rally traffic on the cobble road but are stopped half way by rally director, Bart Rietbergen.

Before even the start of the climb drama again for the Jaguar of Wim Peters, yesterday they broke the drive shaft and after a full night of repairs they arrive in the Hotel just before the start of day two. Than after only 30 kilometers the cylinder head of the Jaguar engine is sheared.Another car that came in very late was the Volvo of Sjors van der Heide. Electrics played up and he found himself along the motorway in heavy run for four hours. But also Sjors made it to the hotel. Once we hit Italy the sun is shining the temperature is going up rapidly, up to 27 degrees. What a difference from the 0 degrees at the St Gotthard.

The even inventive results team of the rally has introduced a new item this year. All cars are monitored by GPS and undefined secret checks are build into the route, as well as unseen, unknown timing points in regularities.Great to see that this system works for 100% right from the start and adds to the competitiveness of the event.The Bentley of Bert Kersten lost all electrics and was helped out by Hans Pernet and Do Meeus. Magic happened, as they unscrewed the ignition put it back together again the car fired up and made it to the end of the day. In the mountains around the lake Como two tight regularities had to be tackled by the trial class contenders.We are leaving the crowded western world as the route will go further south to Ancona tomorrow.Leaders in the Trial Class are now Ronald Hof with Wim Snellen since the Vermeulens made a navigation error and dropped three minutes.

Day 3 Bologna – Ancona

This morning at 07.00 Martin Aaldering joined the rally again. He went home to bring his Porsche, but it turned out to be a Cayenne. Well we will start a 4×4 class because we have two 4×4 running now. The leaders in the trial class made a major mistake and they lost lots of minutes as well as the lead in the event. The first regularity is not an easy one, with 5 timing points the penalties are coming out of the competitors ears. Why, well the roads are slippery, covered with wet autumn leaves there is fog and thee roads are narrow. On top of that the navigation is not easy.
Once the sun comes out the scenery changes into the beautiful autumn colours of Tuscany.
After the lunch we move on to Umbria with yet another mean regularity section. Having said that the competitors seemed to like it.
Then we head for the classic rallying stages around Pietralunga for our last Regularity Section in Italy. When the San Remo was a real marathon rally in the 1970s and 80s, before it became the sanitised driver-friendly sprint event of recent years, it would come this far south to take in these great stages when they were still entirely gravel.
Again lots of penalties and after 3 days the leaders, Willem and Ellen Vermeulen have nothing less than 38minuutes and 24 seconds. Second place Mick de Haas and Anthony Verloop 42 minutes and 37 seconds.

Day 4 – Ancona – Kalambaka

Todays will be a sort day. One regularity and than onto Kalamabaka. The main reason for the short day is to give the competitors a chance to explore the glorious Meteora region.  Here we drove around and took in the incredible views of the cliff top monasteries.  Most date from the 14th and 15th century when the area was susceptible to raids from neighbouring countries and the monks sought refuge and serenity high on the rocks.  The monasteries were originally accessed by removable ladders, and later by nets hung on the end of a rope and wound up by a windlass.  The story goes that if anyone asked how frequently the ropes were changed; the monks reply was always “When the Lord lets them break”!  Nowadays there are steps cut into the rock and bridges to allow less perilous access.

The richest and most powerful monastery is Moni Megalou Meteora (Grand Meteora) and the most remote is Moni Agias Triados which was visited by James Bond in “For Your Eyes Only”.

Day 5 – Kalambaka to Xanthi

The Meteora area was traditionally used in the Acropolis Rally and the road that we take north from Kalambaka was part of one of the classic stages of the 60s and 70s although it was unsurfaced then.  There is an excellent little ridge top track that turns off of this road which we will one day use on a rally, although at the moment it is sadly still too rough.The service team of Jan Altena Classic service did not have to come in action and that is for the first time this event. Herman de Jongs Volvo needed a new rubber in the gearbox mounting, a problem that followed him right from the start. Jan hopes to have it cured now.

By now the competitors have started to get the hang of the Greek signposts.  The maps usefully show town names in both Latin and Greek script, as do some signposts.  However, the translation from the original Greek is not always the same, so we had to watch out for place names that are spelt differently between sign and map.  For the signposts that don’t feature westernised place names, we are faced with a communication dilemma.  Today there were two regularity sections and a test on a kart circuit. The first regularity was a rally mans dream, nice gravel, turns and turns some 30 kilometre long including a couple of fords, lots of goats and one truck. There was only one place were you could go possibly wrong and sure enough Edwin Hatenboer managed to do so. This made him a bit angry in fact he managed to half his navigators board with one hand.Great to see that Wim and Nellie Peters and their Jaguar XK 150 are back in the rally. Not for long though, just after lunch his brakes fail completely due a broken break line. Oil is pissing out and the Altena Classic service team has to come in action again. Another car with break problems is the Ford Mustang from Ton Kies and Joep Alkemade. Just at the end of the first regularity the car fails to stop. Unheard but shaken the team refills the break oil cylinder and they can proceed. The scenery is changing. Remote mountain life it what we encounter.It is amazing how little traffic we meet on the country roads. Donkeys pigs dogs and sheep seem to rule this part of the world. We just love it. Tomorrow we head for Turkey. An interesting border crossing is awaiting us.

Day 6 – Xanthi to Istanbul

You have a set of tulips to get you out of Xanthi and onto the main motorway heading east towards Turkey, but just when you thought that there was nothing left of Greece we turn off the motorway and head north into the Evros Hills.First stop is a TC in the small village of Esimi – the taverna that we use is on the village square alongside two or three others.  When we were here on the survey, although we didn’t speak any Greek and none of the three ladies in the café spoke any English, German or Dutch, we managed to make a connection and they seemed very keen.  Even promising cakes and biscuits all round (although I guess we may have misunderstood) This area is famous among ornithologists for the bird life.  These practically deserted mountains are especially favoured by eagles with such rarities as Imperial Eagles, Booted Eagles, Short-Toed Eagles (presumably more comfortable in the boots!) and marsh harriers making their homes here.  Out of the mountains on the Turkish border is the River Evros and, where this meets the sea the Evros Delta which is an important habitat for all manner of waders including the black stork.

We may see evidence of military activity in the area, and leaving the road is forbidden along certain parts of the Regularity Section. At times this can be a sensitive military area especially during friction between Turkey and Greece, although at the moment it’s pretty quiet so we don’t anticipate any problems.
After coming down from the hills we have the first “proper” border crossing of the event. Getting into Turkey has been a very lengthy and time consuming process, this time however but the critical thing is that everyone does the right thing at the right time and has all of their paperwork in order beforehand. Than you get your stamp, someone else will check another stamp, checked again at another toll booth and after five officials having checked and stamped again, there is the final check at the gate and you are free to go. It only took us 25 minutes, not bad.

Two great regularities today, fantastic quick gravel, up hill, down hill and great pictures. Big smiles on the faces of the drivers, because the speed was set at the do not make a single mistake level.Edwin Hatenboers Citroën failed to proceed, at the first regularity finish right in front of rally director Bart Rietbergen. So Bart asked them to open the bonnet, looked under it fixed the cables and of they went again. It goes without saying that they lost valuable minutes.Great to see that the Jaguar of Wim Peters had the first day without any mechanical problems. He enjoyed the day tremendously. Wim and Ellen Vermeulen are the winners of the first sector with just under one hour of penalties. Whilst the Club class is won by Pit Lindner / Guide Naase

Day 7 – Istanbul   Restday

Competitors do have a day to visit the treasures of this mystique city, or to work on the car.

Day 8 – Istanbul to Ankara

It is getting a bit boring, but we are having yet another fantastic day. Lots of things happening amongst the competitors incredible country side and family drama.

At the final time control running into Ankara the Jaguar of Wim Peters has yet another problem. This time after filling up with petrol the petrol comes out as quick as it poured in. The experience of Rally director Bart Rietbergen comes handy, he points out that a piece of soap may cure the problem and as Nellie has a piece in the car, the problem is solved within seconds.Earlier on the Citroen of the Hatenboers stops ( again). They are towed for 100 kilometers, which does not come easy without brake pressure and steering aid.
Gerhard Mestemakers had two punctures yesterday and adds another one to the list today. He is helped out by Tonny Goedmakers who has the same tyres and wheels. Monique Goedmakers takes of the snow chains, and mr Tony Goedmakers watches whiles she does so. He has adapted to the rules of life in Turkey very fast.Drama for the Volvo’s of the team Epe. The new crews flown in to Istanbuls start of with great expectations, but in the very first regularities one of the cars, nr 31, is a little over enthusiastic and drops of the road.  A farmer is helping out the couple, who are amazed to see no other cars passing by. Reason, they are off route.At the lunch halt they manage to sign in just before the 30 minute penalty level and continue. Arriving at the hotel they learn that the co drivers mother suffered a brain stroke. Retirement of team 31.On the way to Ankara  team 22 the Mustang of Joep Alkemade and Ton Kies take a wrong slot and disappear for a couple of hours.

The rally arrives without further disaster in Ankara looking ahead to another exciting day going into one of the most interesting parts of Turkey, Capadocia.
Ankara has grown hugely since Ataturk pronounced it the capital of the newly independent Turkey in 1923.  Back then there were only 30,000 inhabitants, now the population stands at over 4.3 million.  Being so young, but so important to the nation, the city has grown in a relatively structured way with design from European city planners resulting in broad boulevards and city parks.

Day 9 – Ankara to Nevsehir

The first day of the event without the need for Altena Classic Service to get into action. This suits them well because there is so much to see and explore. The salt lake, the underground cities near Nevshehir and the unbelievable Capadocia nature.
This is what is in the competitors roadbook:

We pas the  Ihlara valley and the only village along the length of the Ihlara valley is Belisirma and it is here that we have lunch.  After turning off of the main road we first come to the narrow village which one must negotiate – don’t give up and remember that you are trying to get to the bottom of the valley, so you surely have to go downhill!  Eventually you will emerge from the village onto the valley floor, cross the river and see the Aslan Restaurant and Camping.  Again Trial to the Nile competitors may remember this place, and the owner, Sakin Aslan, certainly remembers you.  Incidentally, “Aslan” is Turkish for Lion – you will meet several “Lions” on the trip as it is also a favourite surname amongst the Sikh community in Pakistan and (especially) India where it is translated as “Singh”.

For the first time Ellen and Willem Vermeulen make a big 4 minutes mistake, by starting a self start regularity at the wrong time. This gives Mick de Haas and Anthony Verloop a comfortable 4 minutes lead for the day and the overall positions. The same 4 minutes mistake is made by Jaap and Hansje van den Broek, shame they would have won the day outright.

Day 10 –Nevsehir – Erzincan

As we leave Nevsehir and Cappadocia behind us we are heading away from the traditional Turkish tourist area.  We particularly noticed this on the recce when it came to finding places to stay overnight, and you may notice that the coffee and lunch halts will become a little more “local” in feel.

The lunch halt caffee.

The first regularity of the day climbs the hills to the south east of Urgup and gives you a final view over the Cappadocia region, although you are too far away to pick out any of the rock formations or rock dwellings clearly.  It is easy for the club crews to cut this first section altogether, but you should try not to get to the next TC in Gemerek with too much time to spare as it is not an especially character full place.  It is a clean and modern self-service café attached to a fuel station.  There are a lot of these dotted around the main road network and they serve the many buses that travel around the country on a daily basis so they will hardly blink at an extra 50 people arriving, although they will probably stare at your cars as they certainly won’t see them every day.  As we by now be familiar with the style of the main roads across Turkey and be able to make excellent progress towards the day’s second regularity section along an interesting back road that heads in the general direction of Sivas.  There really aren’t so many back roads in this area, and we feel quite isolated at times.  We also have to keep our eyes peeled for the pot holes along this road – this is as good practice for Pakistan and India!  The city of Sivas holds a place in Turkish hearts as the centre of the liberation movement that, under the leadership of Ataturk, fought for independence from the many different countries that occupied what is now Turkey in the beginning of the 20th century. The Sivas Congress that was held on 4 September 1919 effectively united resistance movements from around the country and heralded the War of Independence.  We use the new bypass to avoid the hustle and bustle of the modern city centre.
Agreat performance today of the Jaguar team of Gerhard Mestemaker and Jan ten Hoor, with only 51 seconds penalty they leap forward in the classification, because the second placed Jaguar of the Vermeulens takes almost 4 minutes.
Tomorrow will be much different, second will become minutes and minutes may be hours as we are approaching the real tough part of the event.

Day 11 – Erzincan to Dogubayazit

As well as the mining and associated industries, the other main employer in Erzincan is the military.  There is a very large base on the northern edge of the town and many training areas around and about.  We have to pass through one of these areas on the way to the start of the first regularity.  The section is named “Three Passes” and, surprisingly enough, crosses three different passes!  These are all gravel, and the climb up to the first seems to go on forever, but the views back down to Erzincan are phenomenal.

The 48 hour car reported however that in places there is so much mud, we may have to consider dropping this section. It is therefore that rally director Bart Rietbergen and route designer, Mark Appleton decide to go over it again the night before, just to check out again. The route turns out to be dry now, with just some big water splashes, but drivable for classic cars.

The results on this “special “are dramatic. Five timing points, fog, slippery mud and water splashes cause lots and lots of penalties and on top of that not all competitors realize that the next timing point is not that far away while time is running out. So those who step out the cat stretch the legs are in for a surprise, penalties again.

Frontrunners Mick de Haas and Anthony Verloop in the Mercedes manage a terrific regularity they also stop and loose minutes at the next TC. What a shame.

The run after lunch into the hotel is indescribable. Harm Altena even finds it to many pictures to store in his brains. Overkill he says. Also overkill for the Jaguar of Wim Peters, the brake pipes break again, this time the one from the left front wheel. Altena Classic Service had to rescue him again.

A faultless run did not just give Jaap and Hansje van den Broek the win of the day, they are also the new leaders in the Trial Class. Pit Lindner had a god run again and won the Club class.

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