WRC Alsace 2013 – the trip on a very short notice.

The crazy WRC experience.
Another very last moment decision implementing YOLO lifestyle 😉
Funny thing is that in spite of being really short of money I decided to see the last rally of Sebastien Loeb. On an extremely short notice.
How did it happen?
On Thursday I was browsing my favorite blog, the one I was looking at since being in China. Week before I was on the meeting where all the petrol heads were, and since then was browsing that blog daily.
There were also links to another blogs. Out of boredom I clicked on one of them and the was an article about Subaru Impreza car. Nice reading, and in the comments section there was a note from the guy I used to know and we even raced many years ago.
I added him on Facebook, and saw on his wall that he was organizing trip to the round of WRC France. Leaving in less than 24 hours.
I dropped him a line asking about the plan.
No response within 3 hours, and I went for training as every Thursday. In the meantime a buddy of mine gave me a Volvo that he wants to get rid of. So I took it over.
Came back from training at 10 pm, and there was a message. Before dinner I called Waszka, and he explained the idea. It was as low cost as can be, so 7 people going in a minivan with LPG (minimal cost of gasoline), 1 night near the rally stage for 7 Euro per person, and bringing the food with us, so the overall spending is supposed to be minimal. Plus this is the only european round which can be watched free of charge, so the total cost should be below 100 Eur.
I took my decision. I’m in. I don’t have the work I have to physically be in, no relationship I would have to report, and no other bullshit. Also, got a bit of money in my pocket. Money is important, since it allows being spontaneous and reactive. Cash is king, the old truth that is always applicable.
So I started packing my things – I’m always ready and everything is in order which allows me to leave the country within 24 hours notice, and anything I can’t take on the plane I see as unnecessary. Of course, nice things like high quality stereo set, LCD, car are pleasures, but I won’t suffer if I have to leave them.

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Anyways, before midnight I was already packed, organized the transport (since the team is leaving from Kielce, which is 170 km away from Warsaw).
I had 3 options. Take the old Volvo (most convenient, but expensive), take the train (expensive too), or… Carpooling! In 10 minutes I found the driver going exactly at the time when it was convenient, for less than half of the cost of the train.
Went to bed before 1 and slept until 7, couldn’t sleep any longer.
Did sandwiches, cleaned the crib and was ready to go shopping. And in the meantime I decided to go to the bank and withdraw Euros to possibly buy the BMW.
Visit in the bank took mere 40 minutes, but I managed to get the stash.
Went to fill up Volvo, but a gas station on the way was out of order. Went to my parents place, grabbed the waterproof coat, and checked out another gas station. The computer was showing 20 kilometers before I run out of gas. That distributor didn’t work as well. Went to another one and it finally worked. I was running late, and still didn’t do my shopping.
Grabbed the subway, and went to meet the guy with whom I was car sharing.
On the way, keep going to Kielce and then to Strasbourg in France.
I meet Waszka in Kielce. I have to admit, he is as efficient as can be. During 3 hours together he managed to do the things other people would not be able to do in one full day – we picked up the posters to have them signed by Loeb while being on the rally, Went to the workshop specialized in BMW upgrades (my possible heaven on earth once I buy my own) where he was having his Lancer EVO built, ate lunch, visited other car garage… the list could go on.
The car came, it was a 7 seater Toyota Sequoia, a massive american SUV, but it proved to me that last row is not big enough to travel 1200 kms.

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I was pretty smashed after last night with minimum sleep, so slept most of the way. We crossed Wroclaw, Gorlitz and off to France via Germany.
Arrived 12 hours later in Strasbourg, just in time to watch the third stage this day.
We tailed a Ford Focus RS, not a rally one, but still looked like the driver knew exactly where he was going. Soon after quitting the main road, we got into the mountain curves, climbing. These are always tons of fun, even if you are driving huge american SUV – Toyota Sequoia with 7 people onboard. It had a V8 engine, so the sound was awesome, and it could catch up on straight lines pretty quick too in spite of not being too quick on the turns.

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We got into the place, left the car way below the point of the rally, and started mountain trekking. Regardless of the fact that my adidas were designed to be drivers shoes, they already proved many time to be good allrounders, and this time didn’t fail as well.
30 minutes later we reached the top. Got a view on exiting the left one, and then sharp left corners. dsc04246The fog would reduce the visibility below 30 meters, so we could only hear the sound, then see the light, and then the silhouette of the race car when it was emerging out of the fog. Rain from time to time which luckily would make fog go away, safety zones that were put way too far from the track (yeah, safety is the most important, even if it kills the joy, say hello to Europe PC thinking). The above was true for the rest of the rally.

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I’m missing the moments I only know from the videos, for example in Greece and Sweden when B group rally cars were passing with crazy (even for today standards) speeds, and drivers asked how they navigated the correct route would respond would usually answer – aim where the biggest crowd is. That was a pure joy and adrenaline to watch, unlike today where the herds of spectators are kept in the distance. Here is a video example of what I’m talking about:

But well, these are the times we live in, so sterile, exactly controlled experience is all you can count on. Even within key figures regarding the rally there is a point, stating that 120,000 Euros was paid by FFSA (rally organizer) to finance carbon compensation. Jesus fuckin Christ, waiting till the marathon events will be taxed the same way, since runners keep emiting tons of CO2 into the atmosphere – simply ridiculous!
Fortunately there are still countries to which those rules don’t apply, and more often than not I look forward to come back to the ones I already know and explore some still unknown to me.
We watched the show, trekked down and got to another stage. The best part was views, treks, fresh air and driving on those tiny tricky roads with V8 roaring around us.
Not to go into much details here is the video summary of the stages.

After the second stage we watched this day was over, we headed to the super stage which was hold in the center of Strasbourg.
I was astonished how poorly the drivers of Lancers EVO and some other second tier cars were performing, and on the other hand the new Twingos were fast as hell.
We kept looking for the service park, but couldn’t find it. And the rain started pouring really heavy, so we had to look for the shelter.
After it stopped, we headed to the car and got, not without trouble since our GPS wasn’t working at all in France, to our hotel. I was expecting heavy drinking, since this is the way everybody in the rally environment celebrates the nights (unleashed), but instead there was a beer, dull conversations (since everyone seemed tired and some were already asleep). Finished my beer and went to sleep.
Few more stages next day, where we found out that Sebastien Loeb got a crash. In opinion of most, it was good that he kept pushing, and even though he didn’t finish the rally, it was better than finishing on 2nd or 3rd position. He was a world champion anyways, and it was the graceful way to quit the WRC in style in my opinion.
Headed to the post rally party – nice show but nothing spectacular. Got ourselves the cars models of Loeb, hoping we could get an autograph on them.

img_20131006_161238 Some lucky ones did. I wasn’t disappointed, since I don’t collect that stuff, but some from my crew were really pissed off.
I was also about to buy the polo shirt, but the only one I liked the design and material had a huge “powered by nokia” imprint. I decided to skip, since I promised myself some time ago to never again buy anything from that producer.
The show was over. The only thing remaining was to travel 1300 km back to Poland. We did that in 16 hours straight. It took so long not because of the heavy traffic, but because that V8 was consuming more gas than WRC cars we just watched. So going over 100 km/h would make a major dent in the wallet.
I still had to figure out the way of coming back to Warsaw, since the rest was left in Kielce, 170 km away from my city. It meant another 4+ hours of the journey. Tired as could be, and with dizziness made it home exactly 25 hours after we left Strasbourg. The headache wouldn’t leave me for another 2 days, this was too exhausting way of travelling. In the aftermath we did 3375 kilometers within 3 days, and for me it was 350 extra kilometers (including the distance from Kielce to Warsaw).
In the aftermath, I did what I wanted. To see the WRC rally, and renew my passion for racing, which I put away several years ago when travelling and budget planning.
The only other rally I would consider going as a spectator is Sweden/Finland. Will find out next year, but after I saw the sterility of organization in France, I’m not precisely keen on doing that.

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