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Editor's Diary archive

Andy and Graham's Hungarian Rhapsody
Report and pictures by Bob Roberts

Seven days seven hours away, 2500 miles, 250 Euros in toll charges and all for four runs! But was it worth it? It certainly was. Did we enjoy it? We certainly did.

Click on any picture for large version, and scroll down for additional photographs

It all started at around 5.00 pm on Tuesday April 27th when we set off from the Andy Robinson Race Cars Workshop to meet Graham Ellis and his team at Dover. Of course we had spent most of the day loading the trailer and motor home and generally making sure we had all we needed with us. This was a bit of journey into the unknown so we tried to make sure we were self sufficient with spares and materials to cover the most likely possible problems. True to form the ferry was late so we landed in Calais two hours later than we hoped so we decided to stop as soon as we could to sleep and get an early start next day. We then encountered a problem which was to affect the whole of the journey, there was nowhere to stop or rather all the stopping places were full. So full in fact that you could hardly thread a truck through the rest areas let alone find a space. This was compounded by the fact that Graham's trailer didn't want to ride level so we had to keep adjusting that. Eventually, at the fifth or sixth spot, we found a couple of spaces so at 3.00 am we settled down.

This brought a new factor into play, the Ellis Motorsport rig is subject to all the usual commercial driver restrictions on hours, breaks and rests so we could not leave until mid day. The good news was that this gave us enough time to fix the trailer problem before we got on the road. Then the slog across Belgium and down into southern Germany where we once again struggled to find a resting place; eventually finding a spot on the side of the road by an Autohof (truck stop). Next morning we had enough time for a leisurely shower and breakfast before trying to get to Kunmadaras in one final leg. Foreign vehicles driving in Austria are required to pay; cars and other vehicles under 3.5 tonnes just buy a pass, other have to use a “go-box” transceiver which tracks their use of the roads. A series of language and fiscal confusions meant that it took us an hour to get fixed up before we could get underway again. Our motor home struggled pretty severely on the hills in Austria so Graham was able to get quite a long way ahead although we often caught up when he had to take the tacho-induced rest periods. Into Hungary and once again we had to pay for a vignette to use their roads. We had so far navigated using maps and sat nav but had come to rely on the electronics for directions. Unfortunately the sat nav didn't know about the weight restrictions in Budapest and there weren't any signs so we ended up taking a city tour...not so easy in a fifty-foot rig.

We found the motorway on the far side of the city and 120 km later we turned off the motorway to find our way to the track. This involved 70 km of poorer roads to the local town, we were then able to use a view from Google Earth to get on the right road but it was difficult to spot the entrance. Once that was found it was difficult to see our way through the disused buildings to the pit area and track. By now it was the early hours again and the whole site looked a little bleak in the dark. Graham was behind us because he had followed a different route and so we talked him into the site and settled down for the night.

Next morning things looked much brighter, we could see all the facilities which were excellent for a temporary track, we were on good solid concrete, we had enough pit space and the sun was shining. This day (Friday) was a set up day to get ready for runs on Saturday and Sunday. The track looked good with concrete barriers the whole length and a fair amount of rubber down but it was clear from Danny Bellio's test run in the afternoon that there wasn't a lot of grip.

On Friday evening the visitors were treated to a reception hosted by the promoters of the event, Jozsef and Judit Hadnagy. Traditional Hungarian gulyas and local wine were on offer but of course we dedicated professionals didn't drink...much.

Sometime during the night the other half of our team arrived having flown into Bratislava and driven to the track. They also had a magical mystery tour of Budapest on the way.

Saturday morning was sunnier and much more crowded and it was time for all the FIA demo cars to run. Graham was the first to burnout and as he braked after lighting the tyres one of the left hand rear brake pads slipped forward jamming the disc and causing the car to veer sharp left. Graham did a great job to avoid hitting the wall but the car was very solidly jammed up and could only be moved when the brake disc broke up. Then it was our turn and we managed to damage the reverse sprag so couldn't run after the burnout; not a particularly stellar display by the Brits. The Swedish Pro Mod contingent, Mats Eriksson and Freddy Fagerström, ran pretty well but still no grip. It became clear that although the track had been prepped it wasn't going to allow any fast times so we decided that big burnouts were the order of the day and all the Pro Mods duly obliged in the next three runs. In fact Mats did such a big burnout that he couldn't see where he was going for smoke and drove into the other lane. He then calmly drove back into his own lane and reversed back to the start line with the help of the track officials. Freddy did manage a 6.902 et but that was the best of the Pro Mods. The top fuel crew managed to use their superior clutch management system to get down to a 5.9 ET but that was only on one run.

Sunday saw the arrival of some local cars including a hot Honda Civic and a twin diesel engined VW Polo. Throughout the weekend the crowd was appreciative of all the racers and there were always a lot of people around the pit areas as well as in the grandstands. I don't think they had ever seen race teams strip down and rebuild engines in the way that is quite normal in the Pro classes.

All too soon it was all over, time to pack up and go home. Four of us in the truck and four in the Fiat Panda back to Bratislava. Another two long days on the road, nights searching for place to stop and hoping that our pre-paid go-box would get us through Austria. Eventually we got back to ARRC Headquarters at Midnight on Tuesday after an eighteen-hour day. Tired as we were we still agreed that it had been a great trip and that we would go again; better-prepared of course but it's still a long way to go by any standards and costly in both time and money.

Thanks go to Andy for inviting me on the trip; to Luke, Andrew and Rob for being excellent companions on the journey; to Stefani, Becky, Ryan and Ricky who flew in; and to Graham, Gareth and Graham for leading our way in the newly decal'd up Ellis Motorsports rig.

Text and photographs are ©Bob Roberts and must not be taken, copied or used in any way without written permission. Unauthorised use may result in legal action. To enquire about purchasing photographs please see the FAQ or E-Mail

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