Every picture tells a story – Vintage Rallycross photo of the week 43/2011
The above picture is not straight related to the below story, but at least gives an impression of what I’m talking about. Between the image and my story there is a time gap of about one decade, but I do not remember the exact year of the here to be confessed ‘night shift’ incident anyway. It must have been in either 1985 or 1987, as I had my Nothelle Audi 80 quattro by then. The one with the VW Jetta wheel-arches and the Ford Capri 7×13 RS programme alloy wheels fitted with 195/50 Pirelli P7s that made the thing looking like a Group 2 racer gone astray from circuits to open roads.
At the by then called Leruring at Melk in Austria the first ever ERC round in history took place on May 15 1973. Ever since that day the chicane with the huge monastery in the background had become the most picturesque photo spot in Rallycross all over Europe. Going there to take pics during an event was a must before the year 2003, when the venue was completely changed and the old chicane was removed. In the early 1980s I noticed some small birch trees on the track banking that started to disturb the view down the Danube river valley and ‘Stift Melk’, the bespoken world famous monastery. After checking my pictures taken during the previous ERC round I decided that action was needed before the wonderful building became more and more hidden by trees.
I told my Belgian friend/colleague Johnny Loix about my plans to cut ‘some little birch trees’ at Melk and he immediately agreed to give me a helping hand. Although Austrian Citizen distributor Paul Gindl, who was running the venue by then, was a friend of mine I know it would be difficult asking him to remove the trees. He would possibly claim that it could become a question of nature conservancy or that he needed the permission of the monastery who owns the so-called ‘Stiftswiesn’ ground on which the circuit was built. And as I did not wanted to become the ‘Suspect Number One’ I kept my mouth shut and agreed a dead of night action with Belgian counterpart Johnny.
Packing my car for Melk I took my big bow-saw with me, one that had always been pretty helpful for gardening. A chain-saw would have been much better, but we were set for a secret night shift mission and making lots of noise just a stone throw away from the Leruring paddock would have been the least we were interested in. However, the year before we had been to Fuglau with the ERC circus and two years had passed by since our last visit at Melk. Checking the situation I found out that the birch trees must have had a very unusual burst of growth, the tree-trunks had the size of my waist already. Nevertheless, we were still optimistic to manage the job with that now rather small looking bow-saw.
Okay, after our Saturday’s dinner, where the objections of my wife Hilde and Johnny’s wife Frieda were washed down the throads by two or three small glasses of Austrian ‘Marillenbrand’ [Apricot Brandy], we went with my 80 quattro back to the track at eleven-ish in the night. When we arrived we agreed to flatten three of the trees to give us the right view back, but while Johnny wanted to do them in a row I had something like the sixth sense coming over me and decided to start with the one in the middle. With Frieda to keep cave at our left and Hilde to the right Johnny and me starting to saw like nutters. Every now and then some people were having a night walk over the track and we all four needed to duck and cover. While men start to sweat during hard work women need to pee under stress every quarter-of-an-hour, not to forget those breaks when we all were laughing like idiots. That f…ing Austrian tree was something I’ll never forget about, it took the whole power out of our bodies before we managed to break its resistance. If I remember well it took us, including all breaks, nearly two hours before that birch gave in. The saw angle we had chosen for was perfect to let the tree drop between the track banking and the spectator’s fence, but the malicious tree was up for revenge. While falling down during the last fractions of a second it turned around – and the wooden giant flattened at least two dozen metres of the wire-netting fence. There was not even thinking about cutting another one, Johnny and I were so exhausted that the only thing we could do was driving back to our guest house, getting there at about 2 a.m. and going to bed immediately.
PS: The gap we had produced between the trees was just wide enough to get some decent pictures with ‘Stift Melk’ in the back, but only when the car(s) followed a ‘perfect line’ through the chicane. A few years later I was told during another ERC event at the venue that some stupid TV people had produced a huge mess with a big tree and the track fencing some time ago, but none of the organisers have ever been able to find out about the identity of these “bloody arseholes”… ;o)))
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