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Hank en Nicole Melse winnen (weer) de Winter Trial 2020

 

Hank en Nicole Melse hebben evenals afgelopen jaar de Trial class van de Winter Trial gewonnen met slechts 56 seconden voorsprong op de runner up de equipe Erwin Doctor - Remco Luksemburg. In de Challenge class ging de overwinning naar de equipe Diederik Nolten - Tom Hendriks.

wintour

 

Klik hier voor de volledige uitslag.

 


Onderstaand de dagelijkse berichten van uitzetter Mark Appleton.

 

Day ReportsThis is what happened today

Marks Mutterings   Leg 8 - Linz  to Salzburg

The final Leg of the event will start easily enough with a gentle run down the motorway, with the minimum of paperwork to contend with, before a quick coffee in the welcoming and sprawling Gasthof Danzers in Aspach.  From there it is a quick run out to the only Regularity Section of the day around the maze of roads to the south of town that has become a favourite of the Winter Trial.

After you've finished this final Regularity section and ceremonially burned your speed tables, there is a long but pleasant link section passing around the shores of the Zeller See and Mondsee to the second TC of the morning in the elegant Landgasthof Fischerwirt in the village of Vordersee.   And then it's on to the final Test of the event at the winter driving school on the edges of the Hintersee lake. 

When you've negotiated the final Test of the event all that remains is a scenic run past the strangely understated Global Headquarters of the Red Bull dynasty overlooking the Fuschlsee then 3/4 of a lap of the Wolfgangsee  into the finish in Sankt Wolfgang in Salzkammergut. 

The town is named after Saint Wolfgang of Regensburg who erected the first church here around 976.  Apparently he threw an axe down the mountain to select the site and even persuaded the Devil himself to contribute to the construction by promising him the soul of the first living being to enter the completed building.  As luck would have it, the first across the threshold was a wolf (appropriately enough) and the Devil left sorely disappointed.

So why does the Winter Trial come to Sankt Wolfgang?  Well aside from the fact that it is a remarkably pretty town that is easy to get to and from, and located close to some good rallying areas, it is also the home of the Scalaria Event Hotel.  If this is your first visit to the Scalaria, you will shortly be impressed with the rooms and communal areas that make up the “Hotel” part of the name; however you will not yet have experienced the incredible “Event” facilities.  The prizegiving dinner tonight will be your opportunity to see the really spectacular stuff they are able to put together – make sure you are there!

Elliot Dale wnts to be sure on the icy roads.

Leg 7 – Ceske Krumlov evening loop.
Oh what a night. Five potential winners went in en two came out. Ivo Nijs described it as a real real Winter Trial in spite of the lack of snow. Oh ya it was. Hank Melse kissed a tree without any time damage but a dented back light. Van de Leeuw / Kraal kissed a ditch and had to be town out by Classic Job. Harm Lamberigts had to change wheel. Mark Godfrey unfortunately hit a deer. Doctor /Luksemburg (and quite a few others) oversaw the first little trick of Marks instructions and dropped some 20 seconds. But never the less they won by seconds over Melse, with an amazing time of 2 minutes 59. Apart from these first two the rest of the field dropped between 7 and 40 minutes. One more day and we know which of the two crews may call themselves the winner.

Leg 6 /7 Karlovy Vary (CZ) – Linz (A)

Again drama at the start. The DAF from Jo Heesakkers is making funny noises and could fail any moment. They give it a try, very gently and we have seen them on the way to Linz. Elliot Dale in the Bentley had an off, damaged the front brakes, but again it was Classic Job himself who got him going again. Not so good the BMW of   has worn out front wheel bearings and has to withdraw. So quit a bit of mechanical damage again.

Just imagine that the mayor of a town decides to close the town for traffic and invites the rally to pass through, just to please the inhabitants. Well the competitors loved it even more showing off around the town square.
Father and son Hendriks are the Challenge class winners of the day, well done. The Trial class shows 5 potentials winners of the event. Before we start the often deciding evening loop. Melse/Melse claim the day victory very closely followed by Doctor / Luksemburg 2nd and Lamberigts / van der Palen 3rd.. Yet another day without to much snow but still great smiles.

Leg 6 /7 Karlovy Vary (CZ) – Linz (A)

Again drama at the start. The DAF from Jo Heesakkers is making funny noises and could fail any moment. They give it a try, very gently and we have seen them on the way to Linz. Elliot Dale in the Bentley had an off, damaged the front brakes, but again it was Classic Job himself who got him going again. Not so good the BMW of   has worn out front wheel bearings and has to withdraw. So quit a bit of mechanical damage again.

After the organisation managed to re arrange a software issue, we had our timing system back in order.
Father and son Hendriks are the Challenge class winners of the day, well done. The Trial class shows 5 potentials winners of the event. Before we start the often deciding evening loop. Melse/Melse claim the day victory very closely followed by Doctor / Luksemburg 2nd and Lamberigts / van der Palen 3rd..

48 Hour Report for Leg 6/7

No winter conditions for us this morning with the temperature rising as high as 6.5 degrees. But an enjoyable route nonetheless. The third regularity is in an area with many small roads with difficult to find junctions. You will find it great fun.

The weather deteriorated during the day so by the time we checked the navigation section the temperature was down to freezing with a strong wind, and ice was appearing.

Winter was back when we checked the evening route for the Trial crews. The three regularities all had some slushy snow – of course it was on downhill sections! There was a little fresh snow on the navigation section, particularly in wooded areas, but the main challenge was that with the temperature hovering around freezing, there was both ice and water overlying ice, both resulting in very little grip. As we finished the section and started towards Linz, there was a short, but heavy, snowstorm.
Things to look out for today along the route are: a mining rail cart; a typewriter museum, a carved Charlie Chaplin mural. We had some long-distance views on the afternoon navigation section, and at its end the Temelín Nuclear Power Station can be seen. About 1,000 workers are employed at the Temelín plant. In spring 2003, the power plant, with its 2,000 MW of installed capacity, became the largest power resource in the Czech Republic.

Dick and Chris

Marks Mutterings  Legs 6 + 7 - Karlovy Vary to Linz

Heading into the final full day of the rally we have an early start and, with help from some Tulips, the route out of Karlovy Vary is very straight forward.  Getting through the small town of Becov nad Teplou is a bit trickier, but as soon as you find the correct tight turning off the main road it all falls into place.  Hopefully that will be the same for the first Regularity which starts in the shadow of the expansive Tepla Abbey which is one of the oldest churches in Bohemia, dating as it does from 1193.

Despite being early in the day, we are soon at the coffee halt in the delightful Kavarna Srdicko  in the small spa town of Konstantinovy Lazne.  This cafe is part of the main spa building and the enthusiastic owners have offered to remove some heavy flower pots out of the way to allow us access to a normally pedestrianised area in which to park so look out for orange arrows.  The reason for such an early coffee halt is that this is the perfect spot to start the next Regularity Section which is an intricate affair through the local network of roads.

After this early flurry of activity, the next link section will give you a chance to settle down a bit.  We take an interesting and generally quite quick cross-country route as we head south past the city of Plzen.  We pass another vast Abbey at Kladruby, this one run by the Benedictine Order, and later in the town of Horsovsky Tyn we take an unlikely looking cobbled road in order to pass through the town square with its imposing castle.

By the time we get to the third Regularity of the day we are in the foothills of the Sumava mountains.  This high plateau forms the natural border between the Czech Republic and Germany (where it is the Bayerischer Wald) and Austria (where the range is known as the Bohmerwald).  It is also the dividing range between the watersheds of the North Sea and the Black Sea, and the high peat bogs together with the Lipno reservoir form an important reservoir for central Europe.

The Sumava also lend their name to the oldest stage rally in the Czech Republic that runs in this area each April.  You won't be surprised to learn that we'll be using some of the roads used by the Rallye Sumava during the next few Regularities although as you'd expect we put them together a bit differently to provide you with a good navigational challenge...

There is little opportunity for competitive sections within the Sumava National Park itself, and in any case the Park Authorities tend to object, so we skirt around the edge of the Park on the way to lunch.  As it did last year, Kasperske Hory plays host to the lunch halt and you're certain of a good feed in the Hotel Kasperk.  There is little dedicated parking for the Hotel but thanks to our local friends the town square will be available for our use and should even be clear of snow.

As ever, the Handouts for the afternoon Regularities will be issued as you leave lunch so you have 25 minutes to prepare yourselves for RS 6.4 which should be quite straight forward to plot and there should be no problems driving the route as we have already ordered the correct size snow plough!

Assuming that you get through the Regularity correctly, you'll soon be skirting the city of Strakonice on the way to the afternoon coffee halt in the historical town of Volyne.  We have made arrangements with the Mayor to park just off of the square so there is a short walk to the Coffee Bar Radnice.  Don't be tempted to park on the actual square even if there is space as, in addition to upsetting the Mayor, you might find it hard to navigate the beginning of the next section which is the only designated Navigation Section this year.

The route information for the Navigation Section will be issued as you leave the TC, giving you an opportunity to test your Plot 'n' Bash skills (as we call it in the UK).  If you drive the correct route of the Navigation Section you will pass a number of Route Checks.  Although some of these may be manned, most will be checked remotely using the RallySafe system.  There will be code boards (letters on an orange background) at the road side so you know that you are on the correct route, but these will not be used to calculate your results.  The overall average speed for the section is relatively low, so unless you get badly lost you should have time to comfortably get to the final TC near Lekarova Lhota. 

Leaving TC 6.5 navigators can start to breathe again as we head into the edge of Ceske Budejovice for a blast around the small but fun driver training area, then back to the main road south.  One of the features of the history of the Czech Republic is that most towns have at least two names – one in Czech, and one in German as a result of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Ceske Budejovice’s German name is Budweis and in 1882 the local brewers registered the name Budweiser for one of their beers.  And there started a history of litigious skirmishes between these brewers and the American brewers who, under the leadership of a German named Adolphus Busch, had used the name for one of their beers 6 years earlier.  Nowadays the local Budweiser is available under its own name in the Czech Republic but everywhere else it is called Budvar.

Regular Winter Trial competitors may have noticed that we are not running a Test through the streets of the village of Svaty Jan as has become a bit of a habit over the years, and after you have completed the final Regularity of the day you might understand why.  Without giving too much away, the local motor club have refocused their efforts this year to bring you something a bit different.  We are all hoping that the Skoda 130RS of Karel Mach and Jan Blaha will make it this far as they are Kaplice residents and are welcome to any local advantage this may give them in return for the amount of effort and enthusiasm they have put into the Winter Trial over the years.

From the end of the Regularity, Challenge crews head south on a simple route using main roads to the Austrian border and then the newly completed motorway to arrive at the comforts of the hotel in Linz, a leisurely dinner and a soft bed.  Trial crews have no such luxuries as they head back to the north to Cesky Krumlov.

This amazing historical city is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite in the Czech Republic.  The whole city is a UNESCO designated site and is kept traffic free.  The town is dominated by the chateau perched high above the Vltava that until 1945 was the seat of the Schwarzenburg family who had the special privilege of being permitted to keep a private army of 12 soldiers who doubled as the castle’s private orchestra – handy for when those troublesome Rozmberks gatecrashed the cosy soirees I suppose…

I don't suppose any of this will interest the Trial crews whilst they have a nervous dinner in the local Brewery before discovering the best and the worst that the Czech hills can throw at them during the final night section.  It is always this Leg that decides the winner of the Winter Trial, and anyone that completes the whole route tonight is certainly made of tough stuff.

The only other thing that I will say about this section is to acknowledge all of the help that we’ve had from the Automotoklub Rallye Cesky Krumlov and Pavel Kacerovsky in particular, to

set up and run not only this section but the entire route in the Czech Republic.  Some of the roads you use are private and they have gained permission for them along with warning all the residents on route to lock up their pets and children for the night!  Oh and they’ll also be providing marshals to supplement our team to ensure that at as many controls as possible you will be greeted by a smiling (if cold) face.

Leg 5 Bad Schandau – Karlovy Vary

Only a short distance after the start Rinald and Daan Kloppenberg had a serious mechanical problem. One of the rear wheels decided to go its own way, away from the car. The rear axle had broken so the only manner of making it to the end of the day was on a trailer. A new axle was quickly organised from Holland by Classic Job. The second victim is Werner Budding. The electronics (????) on his Escort were the reason that the car failed to proceed. We are told that a computer is needed to make it work again..

The top crew Angela and Onno de Boer had another interesting way of starting the self start regularity. Probably a bit over relax they did not note that the direction of departure from the control was, as per the road book, opposite from were they came from. So a few K down the road they realized to have taken the wrong direction, than they also realised it is a self start.  Next instruction says fuel station on the left. They go left (????) come back and lost some minutes again. This explains the 4 minutes lost on the first regularity. In fact not bad but a los of places lost in the overall standings.

Leg 4 Hradec Krolovice   - Bad Schandau

 Quite a full day with 5 regularity sections and a great test at the Rallycross circuit in Ceske Lipa. Challenge class leading team Hof/Hof lost the way completely and lost over 9 minutes in one of the regularities.

A team secretly climbing to the better positions is the wonderful Triumph Stag of Phill Garratt / Kieron Brown. Trial class leaders Kuipers Hartog managed to perform a novelty. Navigator Bart den Hartog drove regularity 2 on the speed tables of leg 3 and than drove regularity 3 on the tables of nr 2. So they dropped 2 minutes and lost position nr 1 to Mark Godfrey / Martin Tayler. But the differences are only seconds. Day winner Trial is Melse Melse and in the Challenge class Wim van Soest / Peter van Egmond. So mr Kappa is also the winner of the KAPPA sponsored rally day. See todays results

Marks Mutterings for Leg 5 - Bad Schandau to Karlovy Vary

Leaving Bad Schandau we first cross the River Elbe before making a brief foray into the southern reaches of the Sachsiche Schweiz, which is the German equivalent of the Ceske Svycarsko, and then on to cross the border back into the Czech Republic.  The first Regularity is short but surprising, before you carefully pick your way between the cities of Teplice and Usti nad Labem to get to an early coffee halt in the unpronounceable village of Rtyne

The day's second Regularity is around more well-used Winter Trial roads that we first visited in 2006.  Back then the roads were potholed and the villages run down, but since then there have been steady improvements on all fronts including most notably the accuracy of the maps! 

As the main road around Most is closed for construction, we have to take a trip through the centre of the new town on our way to another survivor from the 2006 event in the shape of a Test at the Most Autodrom.  Back then it was a Lap Consistency test around the main circuit which was spiced up by the sheet ice that covered over half of the lap.   In the intervening years an extensive driver training area has been built and a couple of laps of that facility hosts the longest Test of this year's event.

Today's lunch is fairly early and is hosted in the notable castle at Cerveny Hradek. The original Borek Castle was founded back in 1415 but was short lived as it burnt down in 1421.  The basis for the current castle was built in the 1520's and gradually updated, renovated and redesigned over the centuries.  The castle served as a family home up until World War II after which, due to the family's German connections, it was confiscated by the State.  Since then it has variously served as a home of Greek children, a college for miners, and a training centre for a local chemical factory. From 1967 the castle was used by the Chomutov Hospital (sanatorium) and, finally, it became a nursing home and a detached rehabilitation centre.  In 1996 it was taken over by the City of Jirkov and underwent a 10 year restoration to become the part hotel / part tourist attraction that it is today.  The castle car park is at the bottom of a series of uneven stairways up to the Castle, so please take car when walking up and down - especially if it happens to be icy.

After lunch we return to the main road to painlessly traverse the city of Chomutov.  This area in the north west of the country is heavily industrialised and the so called "black triangle" is situated to the south of the city.  The huge open coal mines produce the majority of the country’s coal from about 10 metres below ground level.  This low grade lignite is among the most polluting of fossil fuels and fires two large power stations.  Before the Czech government installed filters on the chimneys the yellow clouds of smoke would billow out of the stations affecting the surrounding areas.  In total 240 square km of countryside have been destroyed since 1950 and the annual coal output peaked in 1984 at 75 million tonnes.  Worryingly life expectancy in the region was 7 years lower than the European average.  If the weather conditions are wrong, you may have smog to contend with as the exhaust from the power stations and factories lingers in the valley.

Indeed, during our final recce at the end of November we drove both of the next two Regularity Sections in thick fog, although I think this was naturally formed and not related to industrial exhaust.  Finding the correct route through the village of Perstejn at the end of the second Regularity is a bit tricky, but if you cross the River Ohre you should be on the right road and will shortly be rewarded with the sight of a Passage Control.  Getting back across the Ohre is also not clear on the map, but the instructions in the Route Details will hopefully make sense when you get there.

A fairly long link section now takes us to the north of our overnight halt in Karlovy Vary as we climb into the hills of the Krusne Hory that through the years have seen a number of Winter Trial re-routes as drifting snow blocks the quiet roads across these high plateaus.  If we have bad weather, it might therefore be a bit of a battle to get to the afternoon coffee halt on the edge of the tiny village of Sindelova.  Once there you will be welcomed in the Restaurace na Tajchu but don't be surprised if it is a little chilly inside as the place is normally closed in the winter, but is opening just for us.

We pass through the down-at-heel border town of Kraslice before a fairly high Regularity Section practically in sight of Germany, then turn south through the bustling town of Kynsperk nad Ohri where you will need to be alert to find the correct route first time.  The final Regularity for the day crosses the Slavkovsky Les hills before dropping into the Tepla river valley that we follow to our hotel for the night.

The Grand Hotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary truly lives up to its name.  At the end of the nineteenth century, this hotel was THE place to be seen in this highly fashionable spa town.  An evening wander through the streets alongside the river Tepla will reveal the grandeur of this town - and you may recognise some of the buildings from various films including the recent version of James Bond's Casino Royale.

Leg 3  Hradec Krolovice
The dry weather and the good road conditions with snow in places made it a close call for all the leaders till that point. An excellent performance of Rob de Leeuw / Roanald Kraal finishing only 5 seconds after winners Dennis Kuipers / Bart den Hartog.
See the results  

Day 2  Leg 2 Oloumouce – Hradec Krolovice

All teams were surprised to find so much more snow/ice on the roads on leg 1. But in fact leg 2, on Monday had even more than expected. It made the regularities let me say interesting. There was no way to escape from the small hidden tricks of our route masters  master minds route construction.  Al master crews from Ireland, England, Holland, USA, Germany and even the Czech Republic made the minor or major mistake resulting in an ever growing number of penalties. But all enjoyed there tasks tremandiously.  No harm done. A few penalties here and a few there and secrectly building up to minutes and seconds.

New leaders in all classes. Father and daughter team Ronald and Iris Hof changed first place with father and son team Dick and Bas de Regt in the Challenge class. In the trial class there was also an interesting change. Father Rene Kuipers /Willem van Leeuwen,  to over the lead from son Dennis Kuipers and Bart den Hartog. Another ouch.

Chris Westland / Michel Bout ‘s Opel started to consume lots of litres of oil and unfortunately they had to give up. Another miss fortune for the leaders after leg 2.  The front screen of the BMW shattered and took away any visibility. Quite a disaster for the crew that had just worked itself up to first overall  and now another retirement.

Day 1 Prague - Oloumouc   Breaking news.

Breaking seemed to be the biggest problem of the day. Not less than 3 cars had problems with their brakes. Yvo Noteboom / John Temming and Philip Armstong all had to manage the same brake oil leaking problem. Quick service from Reco autoschade fixed the Irish Volvo and Classic Job managed to repair the other two cars. No time lost for any of them fortunately.

Les fortunate is the father son team Gerrit and Erik Baljet. Only 200 kilometre away from Prague, the engine of the Mercedes blew up. So the car hire team got its first entree.

The rally was flagged away by the FIA vice president Oldrich Vanicec for the first leg to Oloumouc. The first test of the day gave a few crews a hard lesson. They got a 10 minute penalty for a wrong test. Ouch. Quite happy with the results are Dick and Bas de Regt in the Volkswagen. Leading the Challenge Class is much more than they expected.

The leaders in the Trial class are Dennis Kuipers / Bart den Hartog in the Porsche. Read the full results

Legs 2 + 3 - Olomouc to Hradec Kralove - 48 hour report.

Leaving the hotel in Olomouc we have a slightly diverted route through the city as one of the main river bridges is currently closed for construction.  This diversion includes driving along a road that is normally one-way in the other direction, so I hope that nothing has changed since our last recce or we could cause chaos in the city!  That said, any changes here will be noted by our 48 Hour Crew of Chris Mills and Dick Appleton who are checking the entire route 2 days before we arrive.

Leaving the Olomouc road works behind we head north towards the city of Sternberk.  The day's action starts with a nice Regularity Section to the east of the city before we pass through the edge of it to get to the morning's Special Test.  The Ecce Homo hillclimb is one of the oldest competitive motorsport venues in the world and recently celebrated its centenary.  The full course is just a little under 8km long, but we only use the middle section which is just under 3km of closed public road.  This is all arranged for us by the local motor club who will also be keeping an eagle eye on the chicanes as you make your way up the hill so don't be tempted to miss any out!

From the end of the Test we loop back past the RP then take a different route through Sternberk to continue on our way.  You should be more relaxed during this second pass through the city so may be interested to learn that it has an imposing church and a small castle, and has the unlikely distinction of being held by Sweden between 1645 and 1650!

It's then a pleasant cross-country route to the morning's coffee halt in the simple Hostinska Cinnost in Novy Malin, which is immediately followed by a Regularity which has a distinct resemblance to one that we used the first time that the Winter Trial came to the Czech Republic back in 2006.  From the end of the section though, it is new territory as we steadily climb into the mountains and ski resorts of the Chko Jeseniky.

Lunch is in the historic spa town of Karlova Studanka that dates back to 1803 when it was named after Karl Ludwig.  The enchanting timber fronted buildings date back to the 19th Century and today offer a range of accommodations and treatments based on the claim that central Europe's cleanest air is to be found here.  This claim seems to stem from a side effect of the surrounding peat bogs.  In any case, you will have a chance to sample the air as you walk the 150m from the car park to the Restaurace Letni Lazne in the bath house.

So with lungs suitably refreshed, navigators can get down to plotting the afternoon's Regularity Sections that will be issued as you leave lunch, whilst drivers find their way to the first start in the village of Harmanovice.  The afternoon's other Regularities come in fairly short succession punctuated by some good driving roads and a quick coffee halt in the very welcoming Farma Morava Bar.

After completing the afternoon's third regularity we head cross country to a second coffee halt in the folk musuem in Letohrad.  We have used this location many times over the years and regular competitors will recognise the route into the courtyard parking area - others will have to rely on following the orange arrows.  If you find that you have five minutes to spare here, you could do worse than wander around the museum – exhibits range from the blacksmith’s art, through that of the cobbler, and culminating with the wigs maker.

The final action of the day is a Test on a combination of the race track and driver training centre at Vysoke Myto Autodrom, then the Challenge crews have a main road run to the smart new Hotel Tereziansky Dvur in the overnight halt of Hradec Kralove.

Trial Crews on the other hand will be heading to Rychnov nad Kneznou for a quick dinner halt before heading out into the dark and the event's first evening sections.  Some navigators will also have worked out that the area seems to have a lot of ski lifts, and features a number of roads that climb to over 1000m.  Only three Regularity Sections and a few TCs might seem straight forward enough, but they will certainly offer you all a challenge, especially if there is snow and ice in the mix!  If they are on time, the first cars should be in the Hotel Alessandria in Hradec Kralove at about 22:00 to exchange tales of near misses and minutes lost.

The final countdown.

Marks Mutterings.
Anybody who has competed on any of the longer rallies run by Classic Events will be familiar with this collection of random ramblings that Mark put together to ease you on your way around the route.  Some of the facts and figures have come from guidebooks, many have been Googled from the interweb and some I’ve picked up during the various survey trips that I’ve undertaken.  I hope that in places they give you some historical context of the towns you’re seeing, or give you a deeper insight into the communities that you are passing through, or at least serve to keep you awake when there is nothing else to talk about in the car. Day 1 will be published Saturday afternoon. DONOT miss these.

This is what the 48 hr car had to report for Leg 1

No snow to be seen close to Prague as we set off two days before competitors.  An easy run out to the first regularity.  As you approach it we did see some snow – but only on distant hills.  Hopefully you will see more on Sunday.

The oddest sight you are likely on the way to the first regularity is the golf resort or restaurant on the left near Kamenice. You can’t miss it!

You will be happy to hear that we found a little snow on the first regularity, then more on the roads near Havlickova Borova.  So you will get a chance to remember how to drive on it!  Then in a number of places there was snow on higher ground.  And we found one ski resort with a lot of after-school skiers.

If you keep alert you will see, on the right, a tram in a field.  No, we have not lost our minds. A tram. In a field.  Shrink-wrapped too!  No tram lines, just a relatively new tram.  In a field.

You will find that Bart and Mark have not eased you in gently to The Winter Trial 2020!  This is a busy day. But enjoyable. We were a little worried when we got to the hotel in Olomouc as there was a gala celebration in progress and it seemed like we had reached the celebration that Bart has in store for you at the end of the event.  But, no, we have more days to check for you.   Dick and Chris


Marks Mutterings  Leg 1 - Prague to Olomouc

Everybody should see the centre of Prague.  It is a truly beautiful historic city.  If you are sat in the Hilton reading these notes and you’ve never seen the Charles Bridge, Staromestske Namesti or the view across the Vltava to the castle, put these notes down now and either take a 20 minute stroll along the river or get the concierge to call you a taxi. 

The secret to Prague’s beauty is that it is one of the few European cities that in its 650 year history has never suffered whole scale destruction as a result of war, fire, flood or earthquake with the result that buildings constructed during the reign of Charles IV in the 14th Century rub shoulders with those built by the Hapsburgs in the 16th Century and Art Nouveau buildings from the First Republic in the first three decades of the 20th Century.  Even during the human devastation of World War II and the following 40 year long communist era the city remained structurally relatively unscathed.

Our ceremonial start is outside the hotel which means that it won’t be long before you are cruising down the motorway towards the first test of the event in the large car park of Konopiste Castle.  This Baroque castle is largely hidden from view, but if you look hard you may catch a few glimpses through the woodland.  Originally built in the 13th Century in a gothic style, it was later transformed into its current style.  Probably the most interesting period in the castle’s history started when it was purchased by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1887 the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It was his assassination in 1914 that precipitated the events that culminated in World War I.  The bullet that killed him is apparently on display in the castle museum.

The castle is a very popular tourist attraction during the summer, handling around 250,000 visitors each year.  To handle these visitors there is a huge car park which, in the months when the castle is closed, stands empty – perfect for a rally special test!  And even better if we’re lucky enough to get a covering of snow.

After the exertions of the test, we head to a hunting lodge in the castle grounds for a coffee halt.  Please note that new for this year, refreshments at coffee halts are included in the entry fee, so please tuck in.  Make sure that you don’t fall asleep in front of the open fires in the cosy lodge though, because immediately after the TC you have the first Regularity Section through the surrounding countryside.  This is a Self Start meaning that you have a set time in which to get from the TC to the Regularity Start.  For the Challenge crews, this first Regularity will not count towards the results of the event meaning that you can treat it as a practice.  Trial crews have no such luxury and all penalties will stay with them until the finish!

The second Regularity Section of the day leads most of the way to the lunch halt in Hostinec u Ceske Koruny in Lipnice nad Sazavou.  This small hilltop town boasts an imposing castle, but is most famous as the place where the author Jaroslav Hasek spent his final years.  Living in the very pub where we eat, Hasek penned the stories of “The Good Soldier Svejk” who quickly became the most famous (fictional) Czech of all time.  Hasek had originally planned six books about the adventures of the imbecilic soldier but sadly died of tuberculosis half way through the fourth, before his hapless hero had a chance to see active service in World War I.  These subversive stories have been translated into many different languages and have even formed the basis of an orchestral suite and an opera.  

The Hostinec is currently owned by Hasek’s charismatic grandson Martin who will be busy serving you the kind of rustic Czech fair that Svejk would have been all too ready to wolf down.  The only downside to this characterful lunch location is that the pub is fairly small and the parking is limited, so please park considerately along the main street, and leave your table as soon as you’ve finished eating to allow others to have their fill.

The afternoon’s run takes us a little higher than we have been during the morning with a Regularity section through the heart of Moravia where in previous years we have found some good snowy conditions.  If we get the same this year you'll be glad of the afternoon coffee halt in the small but tidy Hotel Vir before heading back into the hills for the day's final Regularity.  It is a fairly long section by our current standards but there are some nice little twists, and plenty of turns, to keep you on your toes.

We then start to work our way around the Brno hinterland as we head towards the final competitive action of the day at the brand new Brno Polygon.  Polygon is the word that the Czech's use for their driver training centres and this is a particularly smart one nestled within the confines of the international standard Brno Autodrom.  You may be grateful of the floodlights here as the sun will be setting just as the first car starts the Test.

From the Test Finish we join the D1 motorway for a long run around the Czech Republic's second city of Brno.  Although this is the simplest, and normally quickest, route to our hotel for the night in Olomouc, there is potential for significant traffic delays as with all motorways around big cities.  If we're unlucky enough to have a bad day on the motorway and there are significant delays, please be reassured that there is no need to drive anti-socially to get to the hotel in time.  We will make sure that nobody is penalised unfairly for delays due to traffic.

Olomouc is the Czech Republic's 6th largest city and has a very attractive central square including  an unusual astronomical clock.  After the original 15th century clock was destroyed in the second world war it was replaced in the 1950s and features a procession of Soviet proletarians in place of the usual litany of Saints.

We don't head into the centre, but instead make our way through the northern edges of the city to the smart new Nh Collections hotel.  Those of you who remember the Hotel Flora that we've previously used when visiting Olomouc may be disappointed to hear that the Nh hotel features none of the communist charm of the Flora - instead the beds are soft, the bathrooms clean and even the windows fit the frames!

 


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