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Hot times in Hannover

We very much work on the basis, that if we have the opportunity, then we take it, in case and for whatever reasons that it might be the last chance. Certainly, this has turned out to be only too true for some events, so when it was announced that the 67th European Championships were to be held at the ‘Heidring’ in Hannover, it was down to a quick discussion of logistics and then booking ferries, hotel etc. What we had not quite bargained on was the heat wave that was affecting all of Europe and would lead to record temperatures for Hannover during the Championship week.

Ironic in a way then that we left the Hook of Holland in a torrential downpour before watching the thermometer in the car climbing inexorably upwards as we headed east. Apart from the bizarre experience of a six-lane motorway suddenly going into the middle of a town with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings and avoiding the odd comings together, we made it to the track. Luckily we were headed in the right direction as the traffic on the westbound side was stopped for more than 30 miles and on past our turning. The track is in a delightful location, in the middle of a forest, which was to be a godsend for many during the week as we could retreat for some shade and (relative) cool.

From the start it was obvious that this was to be a huge event, with 215 cars entered, which would require incredible amounts of work from the very small core of HMC members. It has to be said, that the tethered car community rallied round magnificently to provide help and assistance in all manner of ways. From the Club there were sons of, daughters of, friends of, wives of, partners of, and girlfriends of, all working tirelessly all week. In addition the same combinations from other Clubs took on various responsibilities throughout the week, and that is without the competitors who doubled up along the way. It was a wonderful display of camaraderie throughout that contributed to making this what was described as one of the most ‘enjoyable Championships ever’.

Registration, car inspection and the bar were all in full swing by the time we arrived, despite the already incredible heat. The bulk of the work initially fell to Hannelore Roeder and her helpers in registering people and sorting out catering, along with the scrutineering and car registration team. Horst Denneler and Dieter Hecht had the mammoth task of checking every single car and filling in a data sheet for each, before Fred Kirschner relived us of 25 euros entry for each car. This is the first Championships where this has been a requirement and it can be appreciated how this must help the financial burden on the organising clubs. That the checking and measuring was thorough was illustrated clearly by Horst not passing either his or Dieter’s cars. Along with many others, the sticking point was that knock-offs were not long enough, having to be at least 20mm higher than the HIGHEST part of the body. That this had not been picked up in the annual inspections did give cause for concern, although it has to be said that all the British cars sailed through, thanks to Oliver Monk’s rigorous checking. Many were those searching for brazing, silver or soft soldering facilities to extend the arms.

Horst, Dieter, Volker and Fred Long queue for inspection Registration and payment for food and drink

Having managed to get all our cars checked on Tuesday, we could settle down to a long session of punditry and watch the various training sessions unfold. There seem to be three schools of thought on training, don’t, if you are supremely confident and with all the risks that entails, run the car up to speed and then stop it and only make changes if necessary, or wear things out and run at every opportunity. Even at this stage there were a few ominous and expensive silences as parts gave up the unequal struggle, one person getting through two engines on the first day alone. Mind you, when you have six spares lined up in your box, that is expensive but not terminal, unlike those of us that can just about muster a spare plug and a spare tyre. The official business of the day was the FEMA delegates meeting, primarily to approve the new and amended rules, to be published in English. The only major change that needs to be taken note of is that the minimum thickness of the Class 5 bridle has been increased from 3.0mm to 4.0mm to ensure the safety factor is maintained.

Thursday was more of the same, although the British contingent did put their cars on the track to make sure that everything was going up and down and round and round, as it should do. Steve Turley though saw numbers on the screen that gave him great hopes if it could be repeated during the race, otherwise we were all content to wait for the morrow, even if Class 1 was on at 7.30 in the morning. Luckily, this was moved back, allowing us all a chance to get some brekkies before heading to the track. One of the great joys of an EC is the ‘sale table’, where anyone can put items that they want to sell, ranging from a bag of fuel tubing, through tools, engines, spares and pipes up to complete cars and kits, amazing. Most of a new Class 5 car, less pipe and engine for 600 euros has to be attractive. Most popular and successful vendor was Endre Bogden from Hungary. He is well known for moulding a huge range of useable retro tyres, from small Raylites up to large semi pneumatics. He had brought along all his old stock, several hundred assorted tyres at five euros a pair. Needless to say he did not have them for long, especially when someone did a deal for the entire remaining stock, over 6kg in all.

Thursday evening was the opening ceremony, led by President, Michael Schmutz. Hannover first hosted the EC in 1966, where Michael pointed out that six competitors from that event were still running fifty two years on, including Jan-Erik Falk and Lothar Runkehl who finished first and second in Class 1, along with Horst Denneler, Dieter Hecht, Nils Bjork and Michel Duran.

Car and motor built entirely by Torbjoern Nils Bjork's home constructed motor How complex can it get?

Friday morning, and now everything is for real, everyone with their own personal goals, whether it is the podium, a win, a PB or in some cases, just a run. Although it was still exceedingly hot, with the exception of the 3.5cc classes, fifty percent of the fastest runs were recorded on the first day. As it transpired, the Class 1 finishing order was decided on the first round, Andrii Yakimiv topping the list at 263kph with Rain Teder and Lembit Vaher taking the other medals. Lembit did improve his speed in round two but did not break into the 260s. Only four other competitors made it into the 250s, including Volker Besang. At the other end of the list, our own ‘fast lady’ rueing the absence of her mentor Philipp Meier had acquired another Swiss helper in the form of Christoph Zaugg and promptly broke into the 230s for the first time ever, going well for team GB so far.

Class 2 followed a similar pattern with round 1 providing four of the top five speeds. Torbjoern Johannessen, the lone Norwegian entry put down a marker that was five kph faster than anyone else could manage, not withstanding that he is the world record holder, and with a car and engine built entirely by himself, what an achievement. It was Gabor Dobrocsi that shuffled the medal positions with his only run of the competition on day three, which relegated Lembit Vaher to third Oddly though, both Lothar Runkehl’s and Peter Arlautzki’s Class 1 and Class 2 track records stayed intact, Peter’s now seventeen years old. There were national records being broken though including the long-standing British one. Oliver Monk has been working tirelessly over the last few years to try and wrest this from the late Stan Barrett, experiencing numerous breakdowns, mechanical disasters and disappointments along the way. After a great deal of effort he managed to source a couple of Stelling 2.5cc motors that have caused him all sorts of problems up until this day. Finally, there it was, a new British record and drinks all round. Congratulations to Oliver for his persistence and achievement. The only downer was that the run did for the plug element, which was lurking inside the motor, so the car was retired for the rest of the meeting.

Torbjoern Johannessen Oliver Monk David Lundegaard Evgueni Soloviev

Even with a few no shows and cars already consigned to the repair shop there were still too many to accommodate a lunch break, so bratwursts and beers were taken on the hoof by one and all. It is the competitors that have by far the easiest time of it, whilst the people running the meeting are at it from eight in the morning until six at night, and that is without the organisation of the social side and evenings. Some of the tasks were shared on a class by class basis, whilst others were constant and full on, especially processing the models where Natalia Bach did a sterling job, the announcing shared by Carmine and Anette and all the timing by Wolfgang Doering. Stars of the week though, especially in the extreme heat, were Manu Finn and Raphael Zaugg who shared the lion’s share of the horsing for five days. Yes, there were other teams that provided their own horsers, but the two of them horsed the vast majority of the entries and sometimes two or three times during a run. Gentlemen, we salute you, without the horsers, we would be stumped.

Natalia Bach checking Oliver's car Raphael and Manu, horsers extraordinaire Carmine and Fanny

The two 3.5cc classes are possibly where the most advances have been made, as neither of them were run back in 1966. How far the 3b Class has progressed was clear from the original Stelling Monza car that was on the ‘sale bench’. Class 3 is the newest of all, so it was no surprise that the track record was broken in both these. These two classes also proved the exception to the rule as it was only the eventual winner in 3b, Evgueni Soloviev who was amongst the front runners on the first day, the other podium positions not being decided until runs two and three. Soloviev did record the fastest two speeds, breaking Mart Sepp’s track record in the final run.

Original Stelling 'Monza' car with the cast in tuned pipe, where Class 3b began

In Class 3, Friday’s leader Mikael Sundgren from Sweden would find himself relegated to ninth place. Remarkably, the top twenty two runners all exceeded the existing track record, with Andrii Yakimiv adding a second European Championship to his tally for the week. Back in amongst it was Jan-Erik Falk who has had a lean time recently, adding yet another medal to his amazing collection that now goes back some sixty years. Oliver Monk was running close on his record speeds, which also showed one of the foibles of the timing system. The readout for the driver always rounded the speed up, which gave a few moments of excitement as that indicated another possible record for Oliver, in the end though it was announced just under 1kph short. The Smolnikovs had been in Bulgaria the previous week at the European hydroplane championships, where they had set a new, outright, world record for tethered hydros, but with an electric boat. Volodymyr was just off the pace in Class 2 missing a medal by the narrowest of margins, 0.012kph. Andrii only managed one run after wrecking an engine, again missing out on a medal, but beating Leonid Roibu into fourth place by 0.02kph, tiny margins only. There were some very secondhand engines by this stage, one Nova Rossi missing the entire bottom of the crankcase up to the level of the mounting lugs.

Spending the thick end of a week at a track or lake, one is so dependent on the facilities and hospitality on offer, and considering the difficulties that the HMC face at the track, they did an exceptional job. That they have no running water or electricity put them at a serious disadvantage, but a large generator and a campervan carrying an equally large water tank saw to that. Five tardis’ supported the ‘usual facilities’, but suffice to say, they probably did miscalculate slightly here, especially with the temperature and constant sun?

A mobile bar did serious business all week as did the canteen and Sabine’s super bratwurst stall, seen here nestling in the shade of the forest.

Like events we have been to before, pre-payment cards avoid the need for cash and change, although a fifty euro card soon gets crossed off in the temperatures we were experiencing. Outside caterers provided a cooked midday meal for those that wanted and the Saturday banquet. Now, it has to be said that we have attended a lot of evening banquets at various events and they can range from dire in the extreme to an absolute delight. Putting on a sit down meal in a field is never easy, yet some clubs come up trumps, as did the HMC. Hot or cold choices and a decent helping of chicken or pork with herb suffused new potatoes was just the job.

Class 4 was probably the most exciting as five of the top speeds were set on the first day, with current track record holder Jan-Erik Falk leading Tonu Sepp by the slenderest of margins, but both of them 8kph faster than Thomas Finn in third. 300kph was never going to be enough, just a question as to whether Tonu or Tiit Luman could overtake Jan-Erik, or even if he could improve further. Tonu was 1kph slower in his second run, while Jan-Erik was only just into the 300s. Tiit pushed the button at the right time for a 307, leaving it all down to the last round. The tension was notable as the third run worked up the speed rankings. In the end it was sooo close as Tiit did not record a time and Tonu was little more than 0.4kph short of Jan-Erik’s 309.676kph meaning that he was again European Champion at the Heidring, fifty-two years after achieving it there in Class 1. Steve Turley was frustrated in two of his rounds as he pressed the button at 291, only to have a plug come loose each time, slowing the car. A best of 287 was not far off his record though. Like most of the classes, there were those who had expected to go much better yet were way off the pace with several prominent names well down the lists, and those that found something out of no-where and surprised themselves.

Saturday saw the most remarkable collection of items put on the ‘sale table’. The complete and original Monza car already mentioned, a Denneler Class 5, a similar Class 4 and most of another, along with boxes and boxes of spares, motors and numerous MAC, MDS variants still new and in their boxes. The most intriguing item was an electric powered jig for setting gear clearances in gearboxes. A quick chat with the vendor revealed that it was a clearout by D 80, Ronald Girnth, who had last competed some twenty years previously.

Cars and port timing device A small selection of Endre's tyres CNC machined Class 5 car and parts

The ‘heavy metal brigade’ of Class 5 provided what was potentially the closest competition, yet did not quite pan out. 334kph had to be the aiming point to stand any chance so no runs from both Michel and Danielle Duran opened up the top of the order. Ando Rhotmets only managed one decent run from six starts leaving him in fifth place behind Walter Roeder at a tad under 340. Michael Schmutz saw a winning speed evaporate slowly during the eight laps, leading to a delightful, impromptu dance of annoyance and frustration on the horsing platform. Michael horses his own cars, so it was a pleasure to see dad, Christian, pushing off for him after a long absence from the action. Several of the cars shed parts of tyres during runs, including one where the whole tyre vanished, not the first time it had happened on that car, judging by the repairs to the top of the body.

David Lundegaard and Otto Stroebel Christoph Zaugg and Peter Arlautzki Tonu and Mart Sepp

A guest driver was David Lundegard from California. He was running a new Linus/Stroebel/Picco car although as a non European could not be considered in the results, which would have put the cat severely amongst the pigeons with his second run. After a null in round one, he made some changes and promptly put in a 335.386 that would have relegated Michael to fourth. Not only had he his fastest run ever, but had broken the twenty four year old American record, a very happy chappy. Another extremely happy runner was Mikhail Gorbuntsov from Russia who just nudged over 337 to go into the lead when Tonu Sepp stopped the clock at 335, although just short of Peter Arlautzki’s record. A succession of no runs in round two added to the tension for the following day, although Michael Schmutz did improve slightly, but not enough to alter any positions.

So to the final runs of the competition, 245 from Danielle and 326 from Michel put them out of the running. Another null and a 306 from Ando put him out of contention, getting very nervy. Walter could not improve and two nulls from Michael Schmutz left it down to Tonu and Mikhail, with Tonu throwing in the towel when the speed failed to get anywhere near where he needed. Great cheers of delight from the Russian contingent for Mikhail, and an immensely popular winner, still short of the track record and well below what might have been expected, given the calibre and past performances of those running?

Class 1
Andrii Yakimiv

Rain Teder      Lembit Vaher
Dimitriy Savinyh       Ihor Safiyanyk
Class 2
 Torbjoern Johannessen
Gabor Dobrocsi      Lembit Vaher
Volodymyr Smolnikov     Andrei Usanov
Class 3b
Evgueni Soloviev
Uelo Liimask      Vladimir Kiper
Taras Priadka           Dmytro Bilyk
Class 3
Andrii Yakymiv
Serhii Khasanov     Jan-Erik Falk
Andrii Smolnikov           Leonid Roibu
Class 4
Jan-Erik Falk
Tonu Sepp  Tiit Luman
Thomas Finn       Gianni Mattea (Alberto)
Class 5
Mikhail Gorbuntsov
Tonu Sepp    Michael Schmutz
Walter Roeder          Ando Rohtmets

Bang on six o’clock and silence, the 67th Championships were over. After the inevitable wait while the track was cleared and points worked out, we all assembled for the presentation of prizes by the Mayor of Langenhagen. The first three in each class received a FEMA medal, framed certificate and a cup, with fourth and fifth also receiving trophies. National pride was so evident on the podium as the respective national anthems were played, especially when the wrong one crept in. As the sun sank slowly across the proceedings, Michael Schmutz confirmed everyone’s thoughts that it had been a marvellous event, due in no small part to the incredible amount of work by all involved and the great spirit of sportsmanship. He did point out that since the 1966 Championships at the track, each class had added almost 100kph to the top speed, a remarkable statistic. All that remained was to lower the FEMA flag with the setting sun behind it and present it to the representatives of Hungary where the 68th edition will be held.

Lembit Vaher  EC Championship Cup HMC crew with Mayor of Langenhagen 67th European Championships over

For us, the small matter of navigating home via the ‘pretty route’, avoiding the motorways and humungous jams that we had seen on the way there. A British record, three PBs, cars and motors more or less in one piece and chance to reflect on what strange quirks of fate led to both the OTW staff competing in a  European tethered car championship? Thanks to all the the Heidring for making the event such a success and so enjoyable and especially to Christoph Zaugg for his unending encouragement and assistance to we 'innocents abroad' and to the Oliver and Steve for all their help and advice throughout the week.