Carving Up Bohemia During The 7 Castles Trial
Photography by Máté Boér
There are three major classic car rallies in the Czech Republic, but after the snow melts the season of driving unofficially opens with the 7 Castles Trial, a one-day event, which – as its name implies, passes by seven castles on a 200-km course in central Bohemia. Since my participation last year, I definitely wanted to be there again, and it did not disappoint in 2018.
This year, the whole weekend became a road trip for us, as we drove 1,500km in three days: from Budapest to Prague, the trials route, and the retracing it all for the way back home. As a first bombshell, on the way to Prague we ran into a car museum in Nová Bystřice, which I can only recommend due to its great pre-war American car collection.
This collection showcases a little taste of how colorful the Czech classic car scene is. And just like last time, the variety of cars on the 7 Castles Trial itself was also remarkable. A Bitter CD, a Apal Coupé, a Meyers Manx Buggy, and of course the various, rare Škoda models. One of the main sponsors of the rally was the Škoda Museum itself, and they not only lent the museum space for a stylish finish and dinner, but opened the doors and let some of their treasures out for a sunny drive too.
The field’s oldest vehicle was a Škoda Superb 3000 OHV from 1939, which you might assume to not be very competitive (even in regularity racing) due to its size and driving capabilities, but this car won one of the 1/100 challenges of the day (wherein passing the line .1 seconds too soon or too late “earns” you a point). This gothic giant is powered by a 3.1-liter straight-six, and less than 300 examples left the factory. During WWII, under Nazi occupation, Škoda even produced an all-wheel-drive version for the Wehrmacht.
Two quite funny-looking utility vehicles also appeared in the Škoda Classic fleet, one of them similar to early Land Rovers, while the other rather looked more like an off-road test mule, than a finished project. The beige one, the Trekka, came from far away, and in fact is a New Zealand-born model. It was made between 1966 and 1973, and only 2,500 units left the assembly line. Initially it was designed by using parts from the UK, but the Trekka went into production based on the Škoda Octavia. There were two model versions, one with canvas top and one with the plastic hardtop, which we were happy to follow on the Czech roads during the Trial.
Like the Trekka, the other strange thing, the Škoda 1101 VO Tudor is a rear-wheel driven machine as well, odd for a car that looks the way it does; none of them had great off-road capabilities, despite their appearance. The VO Tudor was designed for military purposes and produced between 1948 and 1951 on the basis of the Škoda 1101, a basic model that served as the “people’s car” after WWII.
The 73 participating teams gathered on early Saturday morning in the beautiful park of the Břevnovsky Monastery, in the outer districts of Prague. We planned to participate with a friend’s 1971 NSU 1000 C, but its engine rebuild wasn’t finished in time, which meant we had to deploy my trusty Opel Kadett C, which collects the kilometers without a moment of hesitation.
After the field passed through the morning traffic jam and left Prague behind, we hit the best roads you can wish for in spring time. All the trees, the lilacs and rapeseed fields welcomed us in their full bloom, and in some areas we drove through white tunnels of the flowering trees. The Czech roads are in great condition and the organizers did their best to show us some of the natural and architectural treasures of the Central Bohemia region along the way. The road books had some background history on each of the castles we visited, and a few of the sections of the Trial even brought is into the gardens of a few of them, where we were met by the typical tourists who were quite happy to see our convoy of classics.
After a fun but exhausting day, the 7 Castles Trial finished in Mladá Boleslav, about 50km northeast from the capital, a historically significant town on the banks of the Jizera river, nowadays known for the Škoda factory. Here we enjoyed a private tour of the museum, where I especially loved the prototypes and sports cars depository with all sorts of examples of the Czech brand’s colorful racing (and especially rallying) history.
On top of all the great experiences of the day, we won the team’s competition together with our Czech friends and achieved third place both in the mechanical stopwatch and in the overall ranking. The next event in the Czech regularity racing calendar is the Carlsbad Classic in the middle of July, followed by the South Bohemia Classic in September. See you there!