After a long night drive and a border crossing to Romania we end up at the town of Baia Mare.
Beautiful sunny weather, the competitors are more relaxed and are ready for the second day of about 140 km specials in the hills above Baia Mare.
Here are some of the Rally Raid UK team members relaxing before the start (from left): Milly Jones (who is co-pilot for her husband Beady Jones), Paul Green who drives car #240, Mark Eland his co-pilot, and Chris Hammond who is co-pilot for Ian Rochelle.
As we are waiting for the special to start, Nadav is chatting with a Romanian farmer; Nadav speaks Italian, and apparently Italian and Romanian are quite similar; clue: this will prove extremely important as the day progresses..
We kick off and are immediately launched into a mountainous terrain with narrow twisty dirt roads, mostly logging trails, barely the width of a car; it rained last night so the route is muddy, slippery, with quite a lot of snow on the sides; the ground is rocky and the inclines and declines are very steep; the Dessert Warrior is not built for this kind of terrain, but we are having a lot of fun and slowly gaining confidence. A few cars pass us but then we are able to overtake a couple of others; there are already quite a few cars overturned by the roadside but we pay no attention and plow forward.
After about 40 km I find myself going a bit too fast on a narrow flat track with a river in a deep ravine running alongside. The car jumps with all 4 wheels in the air, lands a bit diagonally to the track, loses traction, spins, and stops on river the bank. The car is barely balanced, undecided whether it wants to stay on the track or fall 18 feet into the ravine, but the rear wheels still have some traction.
While we are scrambling out of the cabin and trying to think what to do, one of the competitors stops by and offers to pull us out of this risky situation with a towing rope. Bad decision… our car is perpendicular to the track, the other car has to stay on the track and pull along the track… had I paid more attention in physics 101 I could have guessed what’s next… before we know it, our car loses the little traction it still had, and plunged into the river head first….
By some miracle is stays vertical and doesn’t flip into the water… no way we can pull it out now. Hours pass by, and even Michel who drives our race support truck cannot offer much help given the narrow track. The last cars and trucks of the race pass by, and we are on our own, alone, in the middle of the Romanian forest. What to do?
We vaguely recall seeing some sort of a camp with workers up stream where we came from. Nadav volunteers to go talk to them. I am skeptical, this is a pretty problematic situation, probably needs some heavy machinery, not to mention the language barrier.. However, within an hour he returns victorious, with a bunch of Romanian loggers. Remember the old lady at the start of the day? Since Italian and Romanian are quite close, Nadav is able to explain to them our predicament, and they just happen to have a logging tractor. It is ancient but perfect for the job; before we know it they place it on the track above our poor car, hook up two winches for balance, and… we our out of the water and back in business!
The car won’t start (the battery was damaged in the fall) but other than that all systems seem functional. Luckily, Robby Gordon’s race support truck is still behind us, and the guys agree to tow us back to camp. Our crew replaces the battery, refills a little bit of engine oil and we are ready to go!
What a day! We had more luck than smarts, and many other competitors had to give up that day. Watch the day’s video, and if you pay close attention towards the end of the segment you will see us with the desert warrior that went for a swim…