Jim Smith and I, reunited on recce together for the first time since Ypres to Istanbul, back in the dark days of Covid, met up in Kronberg on the outskirts of Frankfurt. With our trusty Rally the Globe Hilux 02 and its wheel driven Monit trip at our disposal, we set a relatively long calibration route starting and finishing at the event hotel. Schloss Kronberg is a magnificent venue from which to start a Carrera event and is steeped in history. A fine Italian meal in town and an early night followed for the recce crew.
At 08:30 Saturday morning we hit the road. Using roads suggested to us by our German route advisor, Uwe Schmidt, and some of which we had recced back in May, we headed west and south through the Taunus Mountains. Roads were traffic free, and soon we were in the Rheinhessen wine region, the largest of Germany’s 13 top quality production areas. We crossed the Rhine, not for the last time, and late morning revisited the splendid lunch spot we discovered on the first recce. Boudier & Koeller is a beautiful hotel, restaurant and winery with beautiful gardens and inviting indoor spaces. There is always the temptation to linger but we had regularities to find and tests to design so we reluctantly headed south.
At 17km Waldleiningen is one of the longer sections on the event, although the scenic, mountain road’s single junction should ensure an easy introduction for the navigators. A second, shorter regularity soon followed before we left the hills in search of some action in the form of tests. Approaching the Speyer Technical Museum, the sight of a full-sized Lufthansa Boeing 747 seemingly suspended in the sky cannot fail to impress. The museum, for the most part outdoor, is a mix of aeroplanes, boats, cars and even a pair of submarines. Our first test of the event will be on the premises and there will be time for coffee and a cake, and a wander round the exhibits. From there it’s only 15km to Hockenheim where we are fortunate to have secured the Porsche Experience circuit for a test or two. This facility is truly impressive, and we felt honoured to be welcomed there. Historic Heidelberg is close by and our easily accessible, luxury, city centre hotel will be a fitting end to an action packed first day of competition.
Heidelberg is a compact city and within five kilometres of leaving our hotel we have our first regularity of Day 2. Then we continue south with a coffee stop in the pedestrian area of Bretten, surrounded by beautiful, half-timbered houses. Incidentally, Bretten was on the route taken by Bertha Benz in 1888 when she took her two sons on a 100km trip in her husband’s newly invented horseless carriage. Later in the morning we enter the Black Forest and tackle another short regularity before our midday stop. Lunch will be taken in Schloss Eberstein perched over the dramatic valley of the River Murg. Lunch digested, the next regularity starts literally on the hotel’s doorstep and is a 17km beauty. A pleasant afternoon’s drive takes us to the beautiful Hotel Traube Tonbach, our home for the next two nights, in the heart of the Black Forest.
Bearing in mind our fabulous hotel’s extensive leisure facilities, a conscious decision was made to have an early arrival on the third day of our event. Nevertheless, three challenging regularity sections will be run in quick succession during the morning before coffee is take in the middle of the forest. On recce we felt obliged to try the legendary Black Forest gateau and wandered contentedly back to our truck for the run to the rally hotel and our somewhat less glamorous recce accommodation in nearby Freudenstadt. We had a few questions regarding potential road closures, so Uwe Schmidt kindly drove down, and all the issues were resolved over a coffee in the sunshine in the historic town square.
On the fourth day of our adventure the scenery begins to change. To start with we are still in the heart of the Black Forest and a regularity is held amongst the pines on another twisty mountain road before we descend into Wolfach, another picture postcard perfect German town. We will take morning coffee in a large glass blowing centre which features a labyrinth of rooms selling every kind of glass imaginable, and some that aren’t! A new innovation before lunch will be a 10km untimed navigation section where the objective will be to get the Passage Control signatures and Code Boards in the correct order having followed the unambiguous road book. No tricks but hopefully lots of fun. A spectacular, deserted country road alongside a river takes us to an isolated restaurant in an old mill, where the owners are excited to see us and our cars. On our way to Konstanz and our overnight halt on the shores of that lake, we will take in a test or two at an extensive driver training area. Our hotel is full of history and beautifully located in the heart of the city.
We started the day with a cruise, or more realistically a half hour ferry ride to the north shore of the lake. A short drive from there the rally will regroup at a quirky tractor museum before heading to an equally quirky driving school were we will have a test amongst the trees and signposts. The town of Kissleg is looking forward to hosting us for lunch and as we left the hotel owner was seen cycling off to the Mayor’s office with a handful of Carrera Bavaria brochures. By now we were seeing signs of the Alps off to our right, and at our quaint afternoon stop typical Bavaria wear was much in evidence. From here it’s dirndls and lederhosen all the way to Berchtesgaden! After five days on the road we were delighted to arrive at the splendid Steigenberger hotel in the small spa town of Bad Worishofen, where Uwe has arranged for the main pedestrian shopping street to host our arrival under the RtG arch before our welcome rest day.
Fully refreshed after a day in luxurious surroundings, and with the various notes and maps tidied up, we headed east through some beautiful agricultural land with the distant Alps ever present on our right side. A short regularity led us to the charming Gasthof Graf run by the family of that name. Weather permitting, we will have coffee and local specialities in the garden. Not far from there we discovered an interesting regularity where we felt at times that we were going round in circles…… Lakes were becoming more and more frequent, and we chose an inn on the shores of the Kochelsee for lunch. In the afternoon we took in a regularity on a toll road which featured a covered bridge, something more usually seen in the United States. We crossed briefly into Austria before tackling a short hill climb at the summit of which we will regroup and take coffee. The day’s competition ended with an intriguing, toll road regularity featuring a rather narrow tunnel. Make sure you have a torch or a map light at hand. From there it was a short drive to our overnight hotel, a wooden, luxurious ski chalet style establishment with extensive views.
This day saw us doing the most extensive changes to the route we had chosen on the first recce. We started with an interesting regularity before stopping at an extraordinary museum complex where we will have a typical Bavarian brunch amongst the exhibits. We’ll be just behind the multi-coloured bus! The head of events at the museum suggested we should visit the town of Wasserburg and we were not disappointed. Surrounded on three sides by the River Inn it is not to be missed and time will be added to the schedule to allow competitors to explore the town on foot. A pair of short Regularities take us through increasingly dramatic scenery to Berchtesgaden and the fabulous Kempinski Hotel perched above the tow. This will be our home for the final three nights of the event.
This, the penultimate day of the event, was spent almost entirely in wonderful mountain scenery with traffic-free spectacular roads. Almost directly from the hotel we were on the famous Rossfeld hill climb course before crossing into Austria again. We climbed the hill to Gaisberg where there is a friendly café at the summit. The high afternoon roads were truly inspiring, and we had smiles on our faces as we descended back into Germany.
The short, final day has the most beautiful run out to a complex of driving centres and test tracks that we have rented for the day. There will be two Tests in the morning before a gourmet final lunch. Then revised versions of the Tests will be tackled before we return to Berchtesgaden for the traditional early afternoon finish ceremony. Jim and I both enjoyed the route enormously and it was a pleasure to discover this area, largely unknown to us.
We look forward to sharing our discoveries with you in June 2024.