Halftime review – The Transsyberia Rally 2008 means a lot of work for the drivers and their vehicles
All the teams of the Transsyberia Rally 2008 powered by Sony Ericsson have the goal to arrive in Ulaanbaatar. Safe and sound. Already in the first part of the Transsyberia 2008, the participants got the sense that this isn’t an easy undertaking. During the 5000 kilometers through Russia and the five special stages off-road, various problems occured with the participant’s cars, as well as the service vehicles. Ranking first, were difficulties with the coolers. Besides those, the list also featured broken power steering pumps, automatic transmission failures, and damage to drive shafts. A lot of work for the service teams or, as the case may be, the drivers themselves, who slipped into their overalls after the daily stages, in order to check, prepare and repair their cars. Whoever wasn’t able to succeed that same day, or in the evening, could bridge over, by leaving out the next special stage, as long as they reached the upcoming stage destination somehow. .
“That’s one of the special things here. No one has to retire from the rally because of a malfunction, or because he has to repair his car and can’t start on one day. With us, you can continue the rally. Of course you get a time penalty for this, but you don’t have to drop out. You can still reach the destination“, explains the organizer Richard Schalber during the day of rest in the camp near the Mongolian village Oelgy .
Every team of the Transsyberia Rally 2008 powered by Sony Ericsson has already experienced ups and downs during the fiirst week. That requires pulling yourself out of the tailspin, or the mud as is the case here, finding new motivation and continuing on. Four teams have nevertheless not made it, and won’t be participating in the first stage in Mongolia tomorrow. Team Porsche Cars Great Britain, whose car burned out in the third special stage, Team Italia, who had to fly home due to an injury pilot Tognan had suffered, as well as Team Canada and Team STT/Racing Poland 1, who weren’t able to restart their cars. One of the media cars was also affected. The broken turbocharger can’t be fixed in the steppe, so the route to Ulaanbaatar will have to be continued on a truck. .
Tomorrow, the teams will proceed into Mongolia. A total of 429 kilometers, 282 of which are dedicated to the special stage, are scheduled for the 9th stage from Oelgy to Mankhan. 29 teams will set out in eastward direction in the morning and challenge themselves and their cars once more.
Alexandra Hahn from Team Suzuki/Maxi, 28-year officer candidate from Linsenhofen, performs the task to navigate her pilot, 26-year old Melina Frey from Capetown, from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. For both the Transsyberia 2008 powered by Sony Ericsson is their rally premiere. On the day off, they take stock:
Did you prepare yourselves with a special training and tested your Suzuki Grand Vitara?
Hahn: I participated in a Suzuki-Off-Road-Camp in Spain and took away some very useful tips and tricks.
Frey: We got to know our car during the journey towards the start of the Transsyberia and we got used to eachother a little.
The Transsyberia Rally 2008 has been underway for a week. How are you doing?
Hahn: Until now, we’ve coped well with everything. Physically I have no problems, but it’s exhausting. Drive, navigate, screw, enter the GPS-data for the next stage. The big challenge is to manage everything. More often than not, we’re the last at dinner, and one envies the others for having showered and changed into fresh clothes already. The teams just have different conditions.
After over 5000 kilometers and six special stages, you’re in 16th place with just under 5 hours behind the leading Team Middle East, who have years of rally experience and are a well-rehearsed team. How does the communication between you work out during the special stages?
Hahn: The understanding between us is good. We had mutual trust from the beginning on. I’m proud of us, we’re doing well, and that makes me happy. I realize that I thrive on the tasks, but also on the problems.
What was the most trying for you up to now?
Hahn: The first stage. Not the special stage, that was good. A give and take, sometimes we pulled someone out of the mud, then someone had to help us. The worst were the repairs in the rain afterwards in Vladimir.
In Russia you had a few tricky things to take care of on the car. Your colleagues Andreas Karmer and Kurt Ettenberger from Team Suzuki/Spox.com were very committed to your car. Was that agreed on in advance?
Hahn: Yes, we all are the Suzuki Team. We get along well, even if we disagree sometimes. The four of us are a superb team. That the two guys are present, is a safety net for us. They’ve already taught us a lot.
Frey: It had to be like this. I love to drive cars, but I know nothing about them.
Yesterday the border crossing, today the day off, that everyone deserves. The camp above Oelgy offers a spectacular setting. Do you like it?
Frey: I’m glad to be here in the expanses of Mongolia now. It was already like that at the last stage in Russia. The city was too hectic for me. I feel more comfortable here.
Hahn: There’re friendly people here, especially since the Altai Mountains. The waves, greetings and smiles feel good. We’re definitely experiencing something extraordinary here.
What’s your goal for the second part of the rally?
Hahn: My goal is: Please let us arrive! I really want to arrive. Right now I’m a little jittery about whether that’ll go over. Our service truck is gone. We have exactly two more spare tires and water to refill. We can buy motor oil from someone if necessary. So nothing can happen to us anymore.
Frey: The last three days were really good, it worked like clockwork. We blasted through. We overtook, didn’t lose our way. Far-out. And that’s how we’ll continue!
Hahn: Yes, I know I always tend to underestimate myself, and then I’m happy when something works out better. I’m abandoning this now, we can do it. I trust in instinct and intuition. And in hope, because one always has to have a little luck.
After 8 stages and more than 5000 kilometers, the Transsyberia Rally 2008 powered by Sony Ericsson is taking a day off today. Here are some voices during halftime. In three keywords the parties had to explain how they experienced the first week of the rally:
Melina Frey (Suzuki/Maxi), South Africa
Positively exciting, grows on you, lots of different and nice people.
Birger Veit (JoeVito), Germany
Exhausting, dusty, amusing. A little bit like a scavenger hunt and not as spectacular as expected. We’re having fun and don’t regret to be part of it.
Klaus Binder (Team Pro), Germany
Dirt, little sleep, lots of kilometers.
Matthias Wetzel (Team Shosolosa), German
Excellent event, awesome landscapes, loads of fun.
Andreas Kramer und Kurt Ettenberger (Suzuki/Spox.com), Germany
Difficult terrain, which is a big challenge for our small car. Sophisticated navigation. Adventure.
Lukasz Komornicki (STT Racing/Porsche Poland 1), Poland
No phone calls, aquarium, beach. The missing phone calls are extremely positive. And for further explaination: at first we had an aquarium in our car, but now we’ve transfered to beach.
Tommy Steuer (Colombian Arrow), Colombia
Being part of it, doing what has to get done, don’t come again
Katrin and Ute (Medicalteam), Germany
Lots of dirt. Plenty of weather. Beautiful landscapes.
Mario Steinbring (Teambuctou), Germany
Long liaisons. No time for Russia that has so much to offer. Suspense how it’ll continue.
Matthias Wetzel (Team Shosolosa) is part of an off-road rally for the first time and is thrilled: "It’s been simply amazing, especially for the last three days. To drive through the Altai Mountains and then the Mongolian border. Within 30 meters the first pothole, the border guards, who greet you with a laugh and a “Welcome to Mongolia“, and then freedom. I envy the people here for the informality and the freedom they have. At home everything is predetermined and prescribed. I’m much more aware of that here. The people here in the camp are also moving closer together. Suddenly people, who hadn’t even noticed you before, talk to you. Now all luxury goods are gone, no TV to distract you, no bar to hang out at. Now we’re doing what mankind is actually here to do: communicate.“
For Norbert Lutteri, who already took part in the Transsyberia 2007 as part of Team Qatar together with Adel Abdulla and finished in third place in the overall standings, the rally is just starting: “Until now it was rather boring. And this argy bargy about the times. We’re much too hot-headed, and I’m no exception. Maybe we’re only slugging it out because we’re chicken about what’s coming now. Maybe the child within needed these set-tos about minutes in Russia. But what are minutes! They’re so unimportant. In six days, in Ulaanbaatar nobody will ask about that. Different times are ahead. What’ll count is if you manage to cross the river without drifting away. The smile on the faces of those who reach the destination, is always big. We’ve been third already, we want to finish the rally in second place at least.“