Day 3 - Bormio to Salzburg
For me, today was going to be a highlight of the rally. I'd seen pics of Stelvio from the Staples2Naples rally and figured it was going to be fun to drive, especially as it was my turn with the wheel. We had to wait for Stelvio though, as today we were meeting the mayor of Bormio.
After harsh warnings about leaking fluids onto the pristine, pedestrianised areas of Bormio we carefully parked in the town square. Actually, we filled it. Locals stood by looking amused at the cars and even without knowledge of Italian you could tell that the words "crazy" and "English" were being used. A police car parked next to Veronica and before I could chuckle at the lack of switches on their console compared to our V-box controls we were moved slightly more out of the way, so that some locals (who had foolishly parked in the square) could escape. We were now conveniently placed to spray water from the side jet into the Fiesta Van as the cars moved out. Our rear wash jet was used on one of the Bohemia BMWs, though they got out to retaliate with a paintball gun so I switched to the side jet!
After Justin's brief photo opportunity with the mayor, rally packs were handed out and we were escorted through the narrow streets. I've never seen anything like it! Most of the town appeared to be lining the streets, cheering and waving. We only just heard them, as the V-box was running flat out - playing everything from Dixie to Monster, to submarine dive klaxons. Other cars had people leaning out of the windows, sitting on the sunroof and generally larking about. We couldn't climb out of our sunroof due to the camcorder which was carefully gaffer taped and wedged in. For Den's benefit - it wasn't your camcorder mate - that was inside recording the pictures from the roof one!
We came to the edge of the town and were waved out towards Stelvio Pass. The camcorder was switched on after the first couple of bends and we start climbing. Although they didn't realise it, a non-rally Punto a few cars in front of us was the subject of much discussion on the radio. The rallying Skoda Favorit behind them was being encouraged to overtake as somewhere behind us a few cars were suffering from clutch problems. Having 2 people in the front proved really useful for the hairpins and it was common to call visibility on the bends as some needed to be taken quite wide. It became obvious as we climbed that Veronica was getting hotter under her collar, err - bonnet. A great chunk of her radiator was finless so even with good airflow it was harder for her to cool down, and dragging up Stelvio wasn't exactly providing much airflow. The gauge rose until the little red light came on. Then it climbed higher. It did seem to settle in the red zone - with still some space to rise higher. When we did reach the top, I pulled into the first car park, popped the bonnet and held the revs at 3000rpm for the first few minutes to keep the water pump busy. The temperature started dropping and we took a look around the engine bay. Apart from a slight leak from the main coolant cap, everything else looked fine. When your engine is a big mass of pipes like Veronica's Honda V6 you don't mess with it whilst it's still working! Other teams were arriving whilst we were cooling down, one BMW pulled in and turned the engine off - despite the steam coming from the rad.
High above the road, a castle or folly looked down across the pass. I headed up the steep slope and realised that a couple of days of no exercise were having more effect than I'd imagined. I guess the altitude may have made a difference too... The view from halfway up of the first cars descending the Pass was pretty cool. It was from here that we first heard of the motorbike accident over the radio. From what we heard, it seems the biker cut the corner coming up and clipped the left tyre of one of the BMWs with his foot peg. He ended up coasting his way back down the mountain on his damaged bike, lucky for him that he hit a cheap car that wasn't fussed about the damage.
After taking more photos from the very top we headed down the other side of the Pass. Using a lot of sensible gearchanging and a little braking we made it down with zero brake problems. Notice I didn't say zero problems? The clicking CV joints made a fairly nasty noise on one hairpin which caused a collective Team Insaner wince. There was a large number of hairpins on the way down (and generally only about 200m of straight between them) and with the mad bikers and slow cyclists coming up we didn't really want to be hearing that kind of noise. So, when the noise sounded a lot worse a few corners later no-one said anything about it - and that was the last noise it made on the Pass! It was only later in the day that we commented that no-one had mentioned it again...
After some time checking the map we decided to head for Resia Pass then via Innsbruck to Salzburg. That was the plan, anyway. Resia Pass was virtually flat, but very scenic and it was purely by chance that we spotted the church steeple sticking out of Reschensee. This was one of the pics in the rally guide - and I'd believed that it was somewhere near Prague.
There's something about the afternoons on this rally that cause us problems. After a detour (we did stop to ask a local about the length of the diversion as we really thought it would take us miles out of the way) we started heading towards Innsbruck (which we had intended to stop at for a few minutes.) Although he didn't say it at the time, Andy in the 'nav' seat had spotted that after many hours in the car, we were still only an inch or so from Bormio and several inches from Salzburg. :-( For the sake of our morale I think he did the right thing!
Once we got on the faster roads we were able to concentrate on the challenge - taking photos of different nationality numberplates. German, Austrian and Italian cars were popular, but every now and again we'd see something out of the ordinary - like a Landy with Israeli plates. After a while I could spot unusual plates in the passenger mirror and be ready with the camera for when they drew level. The best hunting was in lorry parks - we then realised how Badger Racing got such high scores on the challenges when we spotted them driving round and round one! They were surprised when we used the PA function of the V-box though ;-)
One plate nearly got away, we did wonder if they'd been followed by other rally cars too. However with over 190k on the clock we got our photo... Conveniently our hotel in Salzburg had Swedish and US cars in the car park. According to our Europe atlas there are ~41 country plates in Europe (including the various Channel Islands.) We managed 32 plates - though some were from outside Europe.
We got into Salzburg in reasonable time, all things considered, and were very grateful for the GPS as a number of roads were closed. The rally restaurant appeared to have just one poor woman working flat out taking orders, cooking and serving so we found an Indonesian place a few streets away - which soon filled up with rally folk!
Added: 20/Sep/06 by Darren
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