Travel: Driving Rally Legends To Suzdal Russia Is The Perfect Winter Activity

Driving Rally Legends To Suzdal Russia Is The Perfect Winter Activity

By Andrey Smazhilo
December 27, 2016

Photography by Andrey Smazhilo

All around the globe classic car enthusiasts consider Winter to be a cold and dull mid-season period, except maybe for those lucky ones of you who live in South California and warm regions alike. During winter, cars are hidden in warm and dry garages, where they patiently wait for spring to come. Some of the car owners are afraid of snow and moisture that are usually deadly to old metal, while others simply don’t want to drive in bad conditions and risk being hit by careless and incautious drivers. Winter is also a perfect period to prepare the cars for the next driving season. However, there are people whose passion to drive cannot be stopped by anything be it rain, snow or ice, and they keep their cars a hundred-percent ready-to-drive all the time.

It may sound funny but I have never considered myself such a person. Likewise, I have not been expecting any of my friends to give me a call on a winter evening and offer to go on road trip. Well, I am glad that I was mistaken! A couple of weeks ago, George, did just that. As it turned out, he and his friend Nikita had recently founded a car club called Veterok (Russian for light wind or breeze), and instead of waiting for summer to come they decided to take out some of Nikita’s cars out for a short car trip.

The plan was to drive to the ancient Russian town of Suzdal, which is located 150 miles to the northeast of Moscow. There we would spend a day or two blasting the beautiful snow-covered backroads during the day and enjoy the traditional cuisine and spirits while relaxing in the rural Russian sauna during the long Winter evenings. They decided that for the first trip three cars were going to make it just fine. They would be driving two of them, while Nikita’s mechanic, Boris, would be behind the wheel of the third one.

When the day came, we met, fueled up and took off for the highway. Our rally legend train was led by a 1991 Lancia Delta Integrale driven by Nikita, who was followed by Boris in a 1-0f-400 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi, while I rode shotgun with George in a 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommy Makinen Edition (TME). The road conditions were not relaxing at all so the drivers had to stay alert all the time. Nevertheless, it was not a usual and slow cruise-like trip but more of a rally-stage-like blast, and to say that it was spectacular means saying nothing at all! Along the way, we made a coffee stop at a gas station, which luckily for us had a large and empty snow-covered parking lot. The coffee was nothing special but we liked it anyway.

Why? Because 4WD donuts.

Having arrived to Suzdal, we checked in and went out to taste local cuisine and relax for the rest of the night. However, as soon as the sun was back in the sky, we set out to spend the day driving and shooting. It was fun to go through the turns sideways, and having driven each of the three cars, I cannot really say which one I liked the most because these cars represent three different rally eras.

Lancia, being the oldest one, is also the lightest one. It seems nimble and fragile at the same time, and while driving it, you really feel the mechanicals work underneath the thin-metal body. You feel the wheels roll over the bumps, and it all adds up to the experience. Mitsubishi felt like a much faster version of Lancia and more of a modern car but Subaru was different. It was not the fastest one, losing a point or two to the Lancer Evo in that field, but it seemed as if it were the quickest one. Moreover, it felt the most comfortable of the three cars, and if I were to choose one-of-three, I would most definitely take the 22B. For sure, its rarity does add up to its attractiveness but apart from this fact, it is also the most driver-friendly car of the rally trio.

It was a valuable experience for all of us, and thanks to Boris, cars performed extremely well. For sure, such trips have many risks to bear with but if prepared well, they are pure joy and fun. As the saying goes, no guts, no glory, so just get out, start the engine and drive without looking back. You will never know, what awaits you around the corner but it won’t matter as long as you stay alert. Straight after our return, Nikita and George started planning the next trip hoping to increase the number of participants, and I already cannot wait for what is next…

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Soniya Singh
Soniya Singh
5 years ago

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Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago

OK … so I see one ‘ possible ‘ rally legend [ its probably a standard road car tarted up to look like a WRC Lancia ] .. with everything else being nothing more than assembly line rally wanna be’s . So … err … if this is any example of whats ‘ perfect ‘ in Russian … never mind ‘legendary ‘ .. suffice it to say … like everything else Russian these days … y’all can keep it .. roll it up into a little ball … and …well .. use your imagination to finish the rest .. in light of all thats coming out of Russia of late .. from chemically enhanced athletes .. to … ahh … you know … Oh well .. from the land that invented the ‘ current ‘ Post Truth .. fake news .. propaganda on the ascendancy suspended reality we live in … what else would one expect ? 😉

Joshua Payne
Joshua Payne(@s1fulvia)
5 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

@Guitar Slinger – The Lancia here is a Delta HF integrale Evoluzione – retrospectively called the Evo 1. Even though this one looks to be an otherwise [relatively] standard road car, but with the Martini livery – I would definitely consider it a ‘rally legend’; no “possibly” about it… The Subaru looks to be a 22B – since these were built (in limited numbers) to commemorate Subaru’s 3rd consecutive manufacturers title in the WRC, I myself would also consider it to be a rally legend. The Makinen Evo 6 is also a special edition, but was built to celebrate Tommi Makinen’s success as a driver (himself a legend), rather than the success of the marque. So, of the three, the Mitsubishi may be hardest to justify calling a ‘legend’. It’s notable that both the Subaru and the Mitsubishi are rarer than the Lancia (in terms of production numbers) – maybe this in itself isn’t enough to make them Legends, but I believe all three have suitable rally successes and heritage to be called “rally legends”.. in my opinion of course. Either way, I’d stop and drool at any of them if I saw them in person.

Evgeny Belsky
Evgeny Belsky(@evgeny_belsky)
5 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Why you add politic and sport related comment to the car related site, we all love cars here – why just not to enjoy the story and pics? 😉

Yevhen Revko
Yevhen Revko(@yevhenrevko)
4 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Can you boast a car at least 10% as good and reputable as any of those mentioned in this story?