Featured: Celebrating Six Decades Of Rallying At The 2017 Eifel Rallye Festival

Celebrating Six Decades Of Rallying At The 2017 Eifel Rallye Festival

By Máté Boér
July 28, 2017

Photography by Máté Boér

The Eifel Rallye Festival is a time capsule containing the best from the past decades of the sport, and every year the cars come out of storage to churn some earth again. There’s little better than having nice vantage point to watch rally legends being released into the lush green forests and fields of the volcanic Eifel Mountains.

The temptation of the Festival is a strong one, and was not lost on me as I headed to the event’s epicenter, the town of Daun, Germnay. Each year the festival has a specific theme; in 2017 it was the celebration of the past “Six Decades of Rallying.” I’m not sure if that’s a theme or just a general celebration of the muddiest form of motorsport, but I know I’m not complaining when it brings a turnout like this.

The sixties is often considered the birth of the modern rallying, and for good reason; this is the decade when long distance trials turned into speed tests with measured sections, service teams appeared, and rally driving became a bonafide profession. It was also the decade when the role of the co-driver saw drastic changes in purpose. Seeing the mind-bending speeds of today’s WRC cars, it is hard to imagine how things worked in the old times. Until the end of the 1950s, co-drivers more or less kept track of average speed. Even though teams were racing on public roads—a rally often covered close to a thousand kilometers—pace notes were actually largely unheard of back then. The pioneer of the modern notes system was Denis Jenkinson, co-driver of Sir Stirling Moss on the 1955 Mille Miglia.

So we know that rallying made a seismic shift during the ‘60s, but where and how did this happen? Well, in 1961, the Rallye Monte Carlo started on closed sections for the first time, but the timed results were modified by a coefficient relating to each car’s performance capabilities. It was the heyday of the Minis, before the it was all about hunting for seconds against the timer, which arguably began in 1968 when the Vic Elford/David Stone/Porsche 911T trio were the fastest up the legendary Col de Turini. After this turning point, the world of rallying started to evolve into the “pedal to the metal” form of racing we know it as today.

At some points in the sport’s history, this evolution of speed overtook the development of the rule book. I think you know which era I’m referring to. In the 1980s, the speed of the cars overtook the speed of the rules’ amendments, and the infamous Group B was born. Surrounded by tragedies accompanying the frantic pace these new all-wheel drive forced-induction cars, it is a decade that still sticks in our heads as the craziest in an already wild sport. It was a decade in which the World Rally Championship was just as famous as Formula 1, a decade which every rally fan worships to this day. There are only a handful of events now where ex-Group B cars are allowed to tackle the stages again, and the Eifel Rallye Festival is one of the best for this.

Aside from the Group B heroes, this year’s event presented the evolution of rallying through a lineup of iconic cars in the discipline, with vehicles like the 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint, the oldest car among this year’s participants, and the 2017 Hyunday i20 WRC, driven by today’s star, Thierry Neuville. 

Except for the absence of timed results, the Eifel Rallye Festival is organized like a real rally event, with special stages, shakedowns, time control, service parks, etc. Everything is set for the perfect live history lesson for all the spectators and participants, and among them you could find rally legends like Hannu Mikkola (WRC Champion in ’83) and Stig Blomqvist (WRC Champion in ’84), driving their original cars no less. 

And for those somehow still unsatisfied with last year’s sensational Audi Group S monster (which would have likely replaced Group B had it not been for the Toivonen accident which put an end to Group B and the proposed Group S), the 2017 edition of the Eifel saw the debut of one of the two Toyota MR-2-based Group S prototypes, which moved for the first time in front of an audience.

We can’t be thankful enough to Reinhard Klein and to the whole organizing team behind the Festival for turning this small piece of the globe each year into three days of rallying heaven. This event is a must attend for sideways racing enthusiasts, and as two-times German Rally Champion, Harald Demuth said, “If all else fails, I will come with a bicycle.”

Join the Conversation
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

It’s such a shame I missed it. It’s only 200km from where I live! But the exams are more important right now. Maybe it’ll work out next summer.

Sam N
Sam N
6 years ago

Love the photo of the dash with the cigarette lighter front and center. Classic.

6 years ago

Living in NZ with some of the best gravel rally roads around, and no current WRC round, we miss this greatly. What and event and now on my bucket list with Goodwood

6 years ago

Yes you most certainly can thank Reinhard Klein for both this event as well as his efforts across the board to sustain and maintain the legacy and history of the sport of rallying by keeping it relevant with events such as this … his multiple books , calendars , annuals etc . Suffice it to say without RK the history of railing may of passed into the void

FYI; RK is one helluva mensch not to mention his son as well

As for this article ? A very nice and well done CliffNotes version of the basic history of rallying rallying well suited to a site such as this . May it lead people to
dig further into what is one of the most glorious motorsports histories of all time .. rivaling F1 in many cases in my never humble opinion


6 years ago
Reply to  GuitarSlinger

PS; Meant to mention the great photos as well . With the crapy day I’ve been having today… they along with the article provided a well needed positive distraction .