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72nd European Championships.
Witterswill Switzerland

Well, after a postponement of three years because of Covid we were finally on our second trip of the year to the home of the SMCC at Witterswill in Switzerland. A mere 635 miles for us, which paled into insignificance compared with the nearly 1500 miles that the Baltic states and Ukrainians drove. Charlie Murphy and Rob Buckley can claim the furthest distance, from the USA and Australia respectively, but the plane took the strain for them. Never say Buckminster is too far? The forecast for the week was dire though, with the expectation that if we got one run that would be about it, and the trip down to LeShuttle did nothing to dispel this. Little can explain the true level of traffic chaos that British roads can produce on the first weekend of the school hols, but we did experience quite a bit of it. The French autoroutes are a delight by comparison.

We have already detailed the huge amount of work that the club put in with the new safety fence but the work did not stop there as the preparation, running of the meeting and all the catering was undertaken by members of the SMCC and EiWi, a real family affair in the case of the Schmutz and Meier's who all worked tirelessly throughout. The ladies and gents that ran the canteen and did all the cooking and food preparation deserve an extra special mention as they kept us all fed and watered all day, every day, through to 10.00 on the evening of the banquet, what an undertaking?

Age, distance, cost, the political situation and the sad loss of established competitors reduced the entry list somewhat, with a lone entry from Norway as always, four of us from the UK as against the huge teams from Estonia, Ukraine and the host nation. 106 entries, 149 cars and great to see an entire team of young enthusiast from Lithuania who arrived by minibus.

With a day to spare, before the event got underway, we had a chance to engage in my favourite pastime, rooting through a fellow enthusiasts workshop and collection, with a plethora of rare cars and engines to drool over. A German collector was also due to arrive later in the week with a bag of goodies to pore over. That was not all that emerged during the week, but more of that later.

Tuesday and Wednesday are given over to the inspection of cars, registration and training. Peter Arlautzki and Daniella Schmutz looked after all the registrations and the lightening of wallets whilst Florian Baumann and Andreas Kestenholz had the invidious task of inspecting and recording around 150 cars over the two days. It never ceases to amaze me that all cars are supposed to be inspected before the season starts, yet some still do not pass when presented at a championship. One car was condemned instantly with the pan having two cracks that almost met. Thanks to Oliver Monk's careful inspection earlier in the year, all our cars sailed through. Just a question of parting with large amounts of Swiss Francs and we were good to go.

Peter Arlautzki, Urs Bach, Daniella Schmutz Andreas Kestenholz, Florian Baumann The calm before the storm

Given the forecast it was decided to get straight on the track so Lynn was on with none other than Lembit Vaher who kindly agreed to horse her car. He immediately had problems so volunteered Arco Aria, and seeing 244 on the clock she shut it down with grounds for optimism, oh dear? The other half's Wegera Car that had performed faultlessly last time out had a fit of the vapours and refused to run at anything over 180 resulting in a great deal of work from Augustyn who declared much of the mechanicals as garbage. This set the tone for my week.

Training brought equal measures of frustration, head scratching, smiles and the occasional 'oh dear' moment as the sudden silence results in flattened wheels and a very big hole in next week's housekeeping budget. Thursday concluded with the official opening ceremony and a delight for ourselves as one of the guests was Roland Salomon whose first championship was in the UK in 1954 before winning four championships in the late 50s. He was also one of those responsible for building the Witterswill track in the mid 1950s. An hour's chat with him and Werner Metzger produced untold snippets and gems of information about European racing post GB involvement. It is something of a surprise how many English people live in Switzerland including Roland's brother in law? In talking about his cars, Roland recalled his most famous design, the 'Killer Car' and how in Turin in 1959 he was beaten by four other 'Killer Cars'.

The opening ceremony was hosted by Michael Schmutz as FEMA President and Urs Bach as SMCC President. Guest of honour was Roland Salomon and from the local community Doris, who gave a wonderful speech, almost entirely from memory in both Swiss/German and English. The FEMA flag was hoisted to the European anthem after which we repaired to the hospitality area for a superb 'Gruezi Apero'.

Urs, Doris, Michael, Roland Championships open Birthday boy Lembit Vaher

I had been asked who I thought might win each class and with the absence of Andrii Yakimiv pencilled in Rain Teder for 1.5s who has been largely invincible in the class recently. Torbjorn Johannessen is pretty much a given in Class 2 if he gets a run. Class 3 was more open with Andrii absent and now Tonu Sepp has retired from Class 4, who would bet against Jan-Erik Falk, with Tonu a shoe in for Class 5 given his recent performances. That is not to say that there were not several others waiting in the wings, well able to take advantage of any slip ups, as will unfold.

Day 1 Started at the ridiculous hour of 8.00 for a briefing with round one starting at 8.30 and all over bar the shouting by 9-15. Rain, true to form at 261kph proved to be unbeatable but an amazing run of 258kph by Philipp Meier with Kapusikov 003 secured a new Swiss record and second place. No one else was within 10kph of Philipp. A slice of nostalgia was a beautiful Loru being run by Anette Besang in memory of the late Lothar Runkehl, one of the great 1.5cc exponents using his own cars and engines.

Lothar Runkehl's Loru run by Anette Besang Rob Buckley Charly Murphy and Mi Jee

As predicted, Torbjorn's first run at 279kph left everyone else trailing well behind with Gyorgyi Bondor the only other person to get into the 270s.

It is difficult to jump up and down on the horsing platform, but Michael Schmutz did a dance of joy as 'Mamas' Class 3 Profi hit 294kph for first place with Kenth Jansson close behind at 293kph and Serhil Khasanov 2kph further back.

Philipp Meier, Swiss record Superb Porsche from Josef Krasznai Only four cylinders?

Class 4 was also done and dusted after the first round with Jan-Erik Falk setting a new track record at 313kph and totally marmalising the opposition. Only Tiit Luman could get into the 300s but still 8kph adrift with Alberto Adreani next up at 299kph.

As so often happens, Class 5 was also a done job after round 1, with Tonu Sepp producing the expected storming run a tad under 340kph although at the expense of a seized motor when he shut it off. Michael Schmutz at 333 and the ever present Michel Duran at 332 locking out the podium. It was lovely to see that Janis Meier, as well as running in two classes and horsing his own cars, was also now horsing the 10cc cars, not an easy task.

Having just one run a day allows plenty of time to wander round and marvel at the new cars and engines that are being produced as well as some of the older ones being dug out for the occasion. Cars 003, 007 and 014 all registered in the mid 80s were still performing. An entirely new 10cc car appeared from Marino Vavassori based on a shaped aluminium channel, open at both end with an integrated suspension and pipe mount unit that just bolts in to the back and a similar unit for the front wheels. Interestingly, and probably annoying for him, was that his newly created 3.5 car and engine and his 10cc car both recorded similar speeds.

10cc from Marino Vavassori Removable suspension from 3.5 car In place on 10cc car

Werner Metzger had a long career in tethered cars, but has now joined ex champion Christian Schmutz on the gauge 1 railway track with a selection of steam locos, but still has an impressive collection of important Swiss cars, engines and archive material. He was kind enough to bring some of these motors for us to look at and photograph, including Freddy Streun's AMRO on the left below and a 5cc version of an Oliver Tiger twinshaft built by none other that Roland Salomon who was there to explain why it never got completed in his ownership. Amadeus Kurz never ceases to amaze with the only HP 15s we have ever seen as the one at Christies was stolen before we arrived. Another gem to emerge from his bag was an original Adi Malik MOPS OPS 2.5cc special. Not a lot of the OPS is left by the time they were turned round had had a Zimmerman valve fitted and any trawl of past results will reveal untold successes for MOPS 2.5cc and 5cc engine.

Freddy Streun's AMRO

Salomon 5cc version of an Oliver 2.5cc MOPS by Adi Malik

The evening brought the delegates meeting, thankfully short and with nothing controversial. It was good to hear from the WMCRA President Rob Buckley that it was hoped to merge European and World rules for international competition. FEMA President Michael Schmutz issued a dire warning that reflects our experience in many other sports that if individuals, clubs and national authorities do not take positive steps to encourage people into the sport then we could be the last generation running cars. He also echoed one of our personal mantras that if you have retired or have usable equipment that you are not campaigning any more, pass it on, but not as one current competitor put it, to sit in vitrine ie a display cabinet.

Day 2 The third step of the 1.5cc podium was decided with Anette Besang using all her guile to gain 20kph from the Loru that would not be beaten, except by herself, although Anders Martinelle was close. The only other notable success of the round was from Aaron Monk with a run of 248kph ably assisted by Oliver, proving the value of the practice they had gained at Buckminster as they managed three starts and two adjustments in the three minutes. It did require a sharp sprint for Oliver from the far side of the track to time the run and it is surprising just how many laps a car can complete during that time?

Gyorgi saw her 2nd place and Lembit Vaher his 3rd place overtaken in Class 2 with a 5kph improvement from Manu Finn, which decided the final finishing order.

Rare, side exhaust Italian car Schools car with lots of spares Gearbox with outrigger bearing

Nothing changed in Class 3, which would lead to a very nervous day 3 for Daniella wondering if?

The only person to disturb the order in Class 4 was Anette Besang at 298kph. Tiit's back up run of 303 with his reserve car would also have secured 2nd place but of course does not count as it would have done in days gone by. A sharp storm with just three left to go brought a two hour delay, but with the track covered and an assortment of blowers and burners was dry enough to finish the round. It has to be said that the incredibly quick and efficient work by the members of the SMCC from youngest to oldest allowed the programme to be completed. Ever present for every imaginable task was Françoise Krasznai who worked tirelessly throughout.

Class 5 was able to go ahead after the delay but never produced the normal level of performance although Danielle Duran did get into the 330s to bump Horst Denneler down one place. Unusually there were only six runs in the 330s giving some idea of the less than helpful atmospheric conditions.

As well as the new cars there are always a wide selection of spares, parts, engines and even cars for sale, old and new. Edvard Stelling had arrived with a car full of pipes to sort through and a selection of new, CNC machined pans with carbon tops at a very reasonable 300 euros. Augustyn Wegera had everything from a complete car to hundreds of pistons, liners and Nova spares, otherwise unobtainable. The Ukrainians had a complete TMP car and loads of spares for those, as well as superb quality Allen drivers. Gabor Dobrocsi had examples of the range of repro tyres he is making having taken on production of these. The Moki S4 on his table also found a new owner quickly.

Cars from Stelling Tyres and motors from Gabor Pipes galore from Stelling

A Saturday evening Banquet is a staple of a championship and this time it was a Swiss barbecue at the track. That the entire three course meal was prepared and served entirely by the club team gives an clear indication of just how hard everyone was working to make this meeting a success. A most convivial evening was spent with Charlie Murphy and Mi Jee, Rob Buckley, Aaron and Oliver along with Anders Martinelle and Rickard Hellander and Paul Otto Stroebel swidged on the end. In three hours, with an entirely English speaking table, one can discover so much about people, their backgrounds, experiences and catch up on all sorts of tether car gossip. Given the raison d'etre for OTW it is always helpful to find out where certain cars and engines have ended up and who now owns what. The drive back across the hills and through the woods in the dark was somewhat interesting though.

Day 3 First on was herself and by a strange coincidence we had both woken up at 4.45 with the same realisation as to why the Kapusikov had not performed so far. It took a bit of negotiating to overcome the problem but for the first time it came up nicely, but with no time to make any needle adjustment tailed off, but nevertheless a run and more importantly, knowledge for the next time. Anette Besang got another good run from the Loru, increasing her speed slightly with Lembit in an unusual 6th place.

Manu Finn was one of the four that recorded three runs in Class 2 confirming his second place by adding another 1.3kph to his speed.

Class 3 was the only one where the leadership changed hands with Serhil Khasanov jumping from 4th to 1st with his final run, demoting Daniella Schmutz to 2nd.

The only change in Class 4 was Arco Aria knocking Anette Besang down one place with his best run of the meeting. It is an incredible statistic that Jan Erik Falk's first EC was in 1956, his first win at Gavle in 1961 and a total of 16 since then, an amazing career.

The Chefs Aaron Monk Jan Erik Falk, another championship gold medal

What was refreshing and unusual in the modern era is how many home built motors were represented on the podium, what a huge amount of time and effort that requires? The final comment must be down to Augustyn Wegera who declared that when he got back to Poland, all his cars were going in the garbage and he was taking up fishing?

Unusual sculptural trophies, individually engraved FEMA medals

The presentation ceremony takes a few minutes to prepare, giving us time to admire the 36 amazing glass sculptures that had been created for the event. A while was spent on thanking all the people who had contributed to making the event such a success with all the ladies being given bouquets and the men Swiss Army knives. The young Lithuanian team also went home with a knife each to recognise their contribution and youth. There is no question that the SMCC, EiWi and helpers had all done a fantastic job and were universally shattered, but exceedingly grateful that bad weather had not dealt the meeting a blow after the three year wait.

Two local dignitaries distributed the prizes for each class with Michael Schmutz adding his congratulations to everyone. It is heartening to see the range of age and experience represented on the podiums and the spread of nations. Estonia did win the team prize as usual but with Switzerland and Ukraine not far behind.

Philipp Rain Anette Anders Aaron Manu Torbjorn Gyorgi Lembit Andre Daniella Serhil Kenth Gabor Mart
Tiit Jan Erik Alberto Arco Anette Michael Tonu Michel Danielle Horst Ihor Oleksandr Roman Lauri Raimo

Full results are available on www.speedmodelcar.org now the official FEMA website. It is remarkable that everyone on the Class 5 podium were championship winners with twenty eight titles between them and that Lembit Vaher and Jan Erik Falk have around forty titles to their names. The top step of each podium alone represents over forty World and European Championships.

Just four days after it was hoisted to the sound of the European anthem, the FEMA flag was lowered and handed over to Gabor and Gyorgyi for the 73rd Championship in Pecs next year. A great event, superbly organised and just the matter of the return journey for us and clearing up for the organisation. Thank you to you all, especially the families involved.

The 'heroines' of the week rewarded It's all over Until Pecs 2024

Wiiterswill was the first European Championship we attended in 2004, the first we competed in in 2013 and probably the last in 2023 where we will be able to compete, a certain symmetry there (almost)?

For a video of the event go to our youtube channel www.youtube.com