Hellas Rally May 2014

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In May 2014 Aviv and I participated in the Hellas Rally, a 6 days race in central Greece, centered around the beautiful coastal town of Nafpaktos. We shipped the car from England to Israel a year earlier and tried to make it race-worthy. On days that the car worked, we did quite well and came in 2nd place on 3 out of the 7 stages we were able to finish. But we could not finish 3 stages due to a failed alternator, a broken differential and a series of broken driveshafts. All in all we had a ton of fun, worked well together, and learned some good lessons for future races.

Just a few pics and videos and keeping the comments short. Enjoy!

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Town of Nafpaktos, in central-western Greece.  This is the old Venetian port.  The mountains shoot straight out from the Mediterranean, to altitude of 7,000-10,000 feet.  Very steep, narrow, rocky mountain dirt roads.  So slower pace but tough navigation, as you need to turn every few hundreds and even tens of meters, not thousands.

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Day 1 is a short 60 km stage, we are getting used to the new terrain and to working together again as a team.  Did OK not great. Broke the power steering towards the end of the race, so it was painful to bring the car back home.

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Day 2 was better.  But we made a mistake and ran out of diesel just 10 km from the end… then this fine gentleman arrived, an Italian driver, and towed us to the nearest road.  Turned out there was a remote village near by. we don’t speak Greek, they don’t speak English, but the situation was obvious… a gallon of diesel appears from somewhere, and we’re back in the game..

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Day 3 started very tough for many competitors, a narrow mountain road that really was more of a goats path; lots of people got stuck:

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By now we were shooting on all cylinders and did well, came in 2nd overall in the stage.

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But, this is rally racing…. half way through the second stage of Day 3, we hear the frightful grinding sound we already know from past experience: a destroyed rear differential… this sucks, as all the cars we worked so heard to pass, are overtaking us one by one now… not much choice, you continue to drive while the car grinds the differential and breaks all the “teeth”; when it doesn’t make that awful noise anymore,  the differential it not delivering power to the rear excel and we drive on front wheels only; a few kilometers after that, we break a drive shaft to a front wheel… we lock the front diff so at least we can deliver power to the one single front wheel, until it, too, breaks.  that’s it, car is immobile.  An hour or so of “what to do next”. then the organizers show up with a Jeep that give us a tow to a road.  There is an OK cell reception, so we call our mechanics and in a few hours they show up and fix everything.

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Day 4 we start early and drive very high into the mountains; it’s so high up that it is freezing, even in late May.  Today the car had no problems, Aviv and I work well as a team by now. During two long stages, each about 150 km, we pass many cars and come in 2nd in both stages.  The yellow car belongs to Raz Heiman and Hillel Segal, a fantastic Israeli team who made it to the podium in many of the Hellas and Greek events.

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Day 5: encouraged by out performance on Day 4, we have high expectations and start 2nd, just behind the lead car.  After crossing a stream we climb a high ridge dotted with wind turbines, overtake the lead car, and we are now at the head of the race! everything just clicks and works well…

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Until, the car just dies on us. Suddenly.  it takes time to diagnose the problem: a failed alternator (so battery didn’t charge, no electricity to all the systems).  it takes time to the rest of the field to pass us, which is even more frustrating now that we understand how big our lead was.  An Italian team passes by and offers to help, they tow us to the bottom of a creak but cannot do more than that; anther Israeli team arrives and they give us a tow over very difficult terrain while risking their own vehicle:

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We arrive to a checkpoint, manned by the local 4×4 club from Petra; they diagnose the problem and try to clean the alternator but no luck.  we get another tow to the nearest village (it’s amazing how many GOOD people you meet on races like this in the most remote places on earth…).  Our mechanics meet us after several hours and it is a quick fix, but too late to start the 2nd stage of the day, a lost day…back to Nafpaktos.

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Day 5 is another good day, with a short detour that lands us deep in the thick brush; a nice Greek team helps pull us out of the brush and back on track.  Then we came across this poor guy, who just rolled his car over and is a bit shocked.  what do you know, that’s the same Italian driver how helped us when we ran out of diesel on Day 2… happy to help, bro!

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That’s it!  it was a lot of fun, great to be driving with my pal Aviv again and even to go through all the miss-haps.  Until next time….

Aviv and Izhar end of rally crew

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