Rubbing Shoulders With Driving Greats At The Eifel Rallye Festival
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.