Travel: Rubbing Shoulders With Driving Greats At The Eifel Rallye Festival

Rubbing Shoulders With Driving Greats At The Eifel Rallye Festival

By Máté Boér
July 30, 2015

Photography by: Máté Boér

“Where do you travel for your holidays?” asked my boss two weeks ago. I replied immediately with excitement in my voice: “To Daun, in Germany”. He is quite familiar with the history and the geography of Europe but he didn’t understand either my plan or my excitement.

There is a countless number of much bigger attractions in Germany, but make no mistake: Daun is a neat town. “What’s so good there worth driving 11 hours for?” he asked.

The Eifel Rallye Festival, held for the fifth time this year. But the more appropiate answer comes from two-time World Rally Champion and the patron of the event, Walter Röhrl, “It is like a class reunion party, where I meet former colleagues”—you can just imagine the team of so-called “colleagues” from the Group B era!

The Eifel Rallye Festival really is a festival where four World Rally Champions (Walter Röhrl, Stig Blomqvist, Timo Salonen and Hannu Mikkola), a dozen national champions from different countries, original cars (or exacting replicas), and crazy fans all combined to celebrate of the golden age of rallying.

But here, the cars are the stars, not the drivers as it is stated in the policy of the Slowly Sideways organization that stands behind this magical event. Ninety-two different models from 36 different manufacturers were present this year to hit some ex-WRC stages and other nice roads of the Eifel Region.

The German Slowly Sideways group organizes demonstration events for the collectors of historic rally cars, where they and the spectators can enjoy the sight and the sound of these rarities. Some of them are driven really hard, as proved for example by ex-German Champions Harald Demuth (Audi Sport Quattro prepared by Audi Tradition) and Matthias Kahle (Škoda 130RS) who drove more sideways than straight, while some others dictated a calmer tempo. At the Eifel Rallye Festival, these two styles coexist hand in hand, but there is no fight down to the milisecond: this is the place to honor memories and emotions. 

Ok, the much-discussed Röhrl was a different story, with his brutal Porsche 911 RSR, but nobody could complain either about the speed of the silent Swede, Stig Blomqvist, with the 1988 Ford Sierra Cosworth.

Arriving to the service park called Rallye Mile in the city center, a group of green-jacketed people caught my attention. You can sometimes quickly recognize a group of Italians due to their unique gestures and laughter, in this case, three older guys were shooting pictures about the fourth man of the group, who held a Lancia-badged racing overall in front of him and told some funny stories with a cigar in his mouth.

Here was Sandro Munari, his cigar-smoking co-driver Piero Sodano, and two of the former works mechanics of the Stratos. Similar moments repeated continuously during the three days of the festival, from the first shakedown to the last special stage.

The sight and mood is perfectly presented, and cars have both a jump and a water splash to contend with in the impressive Bosch Super Stage, and for the following days there were stages that crossed small villages and vibrant green forests.

Everything was well-organized, and the only thing that was not under their control is the Eifel region’s rapidly shifting weather, but honestly: who cares about a few drops when a spitting, clashing Group B rally car comes charging into view during the first rays of the morning sun?

The Eifel Rallye Festival is a must for all fans of the history of rallying, where you not only have a chance to see the cars and the heroes, but you can get up close and possibly even say a friendly, “Hello!” It is one of the nicest events I’ve ever visited—I will be letting my boss know I’m vacationing in Daun next year, too. 

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Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa

Great set of pics. And seems like a rally to enjoy without crowds of people and difficult access to what happens between the roar of the engines!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

I’ve been reading and hearing about the Eifel since its inception from several ‘ acquaintances ‘ and associates who participate and from all they’ve said and all you’re showing here it truly is Classic Rally Nirvana . Between the cars , the drivers involved , the odd team principals that suddenly appear etc it is the place to go for a reminder of how things once were . And as far as the weather ? When it comes to rally , classic or otherwise rain should be perceived as an added bonus . The good thing about classic rally car… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

FYI ; Make that five world champions seeing as how Sandro Munari grabbed one himself in 1977 .. such as it was .

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Actually I’m completely correct . Yes I know that ‘technically’ the drivers world championship did not exist back in 1977 … hence the … ” such as it was “… addendum/qualifier in my comment . FYI ; I’ve been following rally since the early 70’s , participating in the 70’s -80’s including a stint with TTS . But ! Over the last ten years everyone thru out the rally world has come to recognize that though the championship was not ‘ official ‘ it did in fact exist with all those who would of won the drivers world championship had… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Mr Boer : My final word on the subject ; Trust me ! I get it ! Not only do I ‘ get it ‘ but I lived thru it as well .. got the T-Shirt and all . Suffice it to say opinions and attitudes have changed over the years with Herr Klein’s books [ e.g. ” The Rally ” ” Rally Cars ” etc ] since 2000 crediting Munari etc with being world championship … albeit unofficially . So I’ll maintain ultimately that Munari was WC in 1977 regardless of the FIA/WRC’s inability to come to grips with… Read more »