For the 9th time the Hamburg-Berlin Classic Rallye took place in the last week of August. 180 classic teams gathered on the shores of the Elbe river in Berlin on Thursday morning for the start of the three day rally. Among them everything from a 1930s Bentley to a 1995 BMW 750i. Several German celebrities also found their way to Hamburg like Olympic ice skating star Katarina Witt driving a beautiful BMW 328 with the head of BMW Group Classic, ‘Tatort’ star Richy Müller in a Porsche 968 CS, race driver Lili Reisenbichler in a BMW 503 Coupe and even royalty in the form of Leopold Prinz von Bayern in yet another BMW 328.
We made our appearance in Hamburg with a very special BMW 2002 Tii “Gläserne Werkstatt” finished in bright orange. The car courtesy of BMW Classic comes with a four cylinder engine paired to a manual four speed gearbox. The Tii designation stands for the sportier version of the BMW 2002. This particular car is a very special ‘1970’ 2002 Tii as it was actually built by the ‘Gläserne Werkstatt’ in 2005. With 140hp it is not the most powerful car on the grid but the Hamburg-Berlin Rallye is not about speed but precision and navigation skill.
For the 2016 Hamburg-Berlin Classic Rallye I’m paired with Boris Pieritz, who is reponsible for Autobild.de – Autobild is also the organizer of the Rallye – and he is almost a Hamburg-Berlin Rallye veteran. For me it is the first time on this Rallye but having done some other rallies like the Silvretta Classic and Mille Miglia I feel confident we can do this. Not shy of a challenge we both set our goal to finish top 50 of the 180 participating teams. We have start number 18 and are at the front of the pack – which means that we not only have to leave early but also have to get to the finish early every day if all goes well.
Day 1: Following a short start briefing in the ‘fish auction hall’ in the center of Hamburg we all receive our dedicated start times and use the last few minutes prior to the start to apply extra sun cream. It will be hot the next couple of days with the thermometer at the start already indicating well over 30 degrees at 12:00. Shortly after 12 it is our time to start and directly after the start there is the first timed segment. The goal is to be as precise as possible. We have to cross 10 meters in 4 seconds – quick math tells us the average speed we have to aim for and with a stopwatch in the hand I cross the first line. As Boris counts down to zero I cross the second line. That went quite well but this is only the start.
We drive through the center of Hamburg with the windows down as there is no airconditioning in the car. At the traffic light the temperature soars to record highs but once we get out of town and get some pace it is not that bad. The seating position in the 2002 Tii is typical for larger cars of the 70s and 80s era with plenty of leg space and a literally laid back driving style. The pedals are upright rather than hang down like in most cars today.
Without many modern driving aids like ABS and steering assistance there is a lot more work to do for the driver but it is all rewarding. We soon leave the outskirts of Hamburg behind us and cross forests and fields on the way to our next checkpoint. After four timed sections we arrive at the lunch destination with soaked backs. The chilled drinks cool our heads and with a mere 130 kilometers to go to the Day 1 finish we get in the car again.
The highlights of day 1 include driving with a group of precious BMW classic cars including two 503 models, waving to spectators of the rallye. Just like the Mille Miglia the Hamburg-Berlin Classic Rallye leads through the centers and pedestrian areas of little towns showcasing their nicest areas to the participants. At the various checkpoints a commentator welcomes us and spreads some knowledge about the car we are driving with the gathered crowds. On this day there is one secret checkpoint that quite a few teams missed leading to 300 penalty points for them. Luckily Boris was on his A game and spotted the potential secret checkpoint early on – good for us. Overall we finished 72 of 180 teams this day and were rewarded with a fresh dive in the lake at our hotel.
Day 2: The second day of the Hamburg-Berlin Classic Rallye would show us some of the best parts of the German State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommeren and its lake district in particular. We would return to the start location and stay in the holiday and wellness town of Göhren-Lebbin for yet another night.
Our lap of Mecklenburg promised a few highlights including a time trial at an airfield and checkpoints at some of the state’s most famous castles. Today Boris takes the wheel of our BMW 2002 Tii and I take on the challenge of navigating us. This task also includes working the stopwatches during the various time trials – a task no rally navigator takes lightly.
We are having a lot of fun and the number of people cheering us on has grown considerably compared to the previous day as well. It helps that this is a popular area for holiday and school holidays are still on in large parts of Germany.
Having enjoyed the previous days swim in the lake we decide not to stick around and continue at a steady pace. Lunch is served in the stables of a beautiful lake-side castle. After lunch we get to the airfield challenge where a surprise is waiting for us. But before we get to see the official surprise a small plane comes towards in the middle of a timed section, not part of the official program we swerve around it over the grass.
Now that we are back on track we continue to a secret time trial through a tire slalom and on to the runway where a ‘drag race’ is waiting for us. Goal is not to beat the special Mini rolling up next to us by top speed but by precision. As the clock counts down to zero and we set off to our 45 km/h average over 800 meters a double decker plane suddenly appears right above us – what a spectacle!
The second day finishes once again in Göhren-Lebbin and after a fresh dive in the lake once again we prepare for the night’s BBQ and party powered by Autostadt, one of the other event sponsors. Our driver switch paid off and on the second day we reached position 30 out of 180 participants landing multiple top 10 positions on individual sections. Pleased with our result we party the night away on an exceptionally good lake sunset, great music and a great crowd.
Day 3: We are off to a slow start – or actually I should say – I’m off to a slow start and with a slightly sleepy head I get in the car. Having reached a pretty good result the day before we decide Boris remains at the wheel and I continue my navigation duties.
Today the route leads us from Mecklenburg to Berlin where the official finish of the 2016 Hamburg-Berlin Rallye is. Another 8 timed sections half a dozen checkpoints await us today along with an unknown number of secret checkpoints. It is very hot once again with temperatures reaching well over 35 degrees Celsius by mid-day. Drinking a lot of water is key to staying hydrated and fit for the challenges that lay in front of us.
We once again return to the airfield followed by a special timed section on the skid pad of a driving experience center. The final time trial at the wet track of the driving center requires accelerating half way through. Right after we pass the start of the section Boris asks if I will count down from 3. At that point I look at the stopwatch in my hand which says 00:00,00. Oops! I randomly countdown from 3 and Boris passes almost exactly at zero not knowing I had no clue about the actual time we should cross the end of the section – sorry man!
Just before we reach Berlin the route of our rallye stops by the classic car festival in Potsdam where many fine and rare classic cars are on display and a classic car race takes place the entire weekend. Our favorite is a black Jaguar XJ 220 parked right next to the exit of the park on the side of the lake that for decades separated East and West. From here we cross the famous bridge that formed the location for a prisoner trade during the cold war.
The last 20 kilometers to the finish at the Axel Springer building in the center of Berlin the temperature in our car reaches boiling level and where possible we try to stop in the shade. With all checkpoints and time trials done we reflect on the last couple of days and our performance on the rally. We repeat our goal that reaching top 50 would be great – knowning today was not our best day of the rally.
At the finish we are welcomed with a cold beer and a group of dedicated fans who want to catch a glimpse of the participating classic cars. The Rallye’s final dinner and award location couldn’t be more fitting: Classic Remise in Berlin. Here a large number of classic cars are stored and displayed on sale. The winner of every class is awarded and called on stage, not us but no surprise there, and after a 20 minute video that the Autobild TV guys put together is shown we get to see our ranking. Overall we came in on position number 45 with some 2,000 penalty points. The overall winners had only 900 points after the three day events. We reached our goal and are in the Top 50, on top of that we truly had a blast.
The BMW 2002 Tii was an excellent companion for our journey and we kindly thank BMW for lending the keys to us for the duration of the 2016 Hamburg-Berlin Classic Rally. The rally itself had a great combination of scenic roads, enthusiastic spectators, beautiful cars, fun participants and challenging time trials and checkpoints. We will be back!
The following are the class winners of the Hamburg-Berlin Classic Rallye 2016
|Class/Position||Car No.||Team and Car||Overall Position|
1964 Volkswagen T1
BMW Group Classic
1937 BMW 328
1984 Volkswagen Golf I GLI Cabriolet
1953 Jaguar C-Type