Day 18

Silven (Bulgaria) to Nis (Serbia)

Last night’s red wine was pretty bad. In fact, the service at dinner last night was non-existent. After waiting 90 minutes, we were prepared to take anything that was offered at the table and share it between us. It wasn’t necessarily what we ordered, but we were prepared to take anything.

Today we had our first competition in Europe. It was 33.8km of relatively smooth tar, very twisty with lots of hairpins. 
 It started and ended near Sliven and had a service park in the town square.
 The stage was run three times.  On the first run, the Sandy Dalgarno Escort burst an oil pump line and lost all its sump oil over the last 15km of the stage.  This made it more interesting on the second and third runs, having to take lines to avoid crossing the usually visible trail of oil.  He was towed back to the service by the Shane Attwell Falcon.
A few cars reported spins and offs after hitting the oil.

A pair of Porsches at Sliven
(The above photos are from albums posted on, by Plamen Petrov and Todor Kirchev.  See those albums for many more action photos from that stage).

Looking at today’s results: We were faster each time we did the stage. But so were most people. Joost was 42 seconds quicker than us each time. We did get 8 seconds back off Geoff Olholm but he should be in conserve mode now - he has an 11 minute lead.  Joost took 42 seconds off us every 34km. He is now just 6:37 behind us. There are six stages to run in Europe and five in the UK for a total of 260km. He will get close and that’s assuming no one has any problems along the way.
After three runs of the stage, we transported 500km to Nis in Serbia. We were first to reach the border, and as expected, got parked off to the side while the officials made phone calls and had loud discussions with each other. I think we paved the way for everyone else.

Bulgaria and Serbia seem to consist of green rolling plains and hills.
Bulgaria had a very nice motorway for several hundred kilometres. The speed limit is 140kph. Quite a lot of cars travel above that speed. Plus, there's heaps of trucks. Not good on the non-motorway bits.

Tomorrow is another ‘free transit’ day.  We drive to Belgrade, the Serbian capital…
Next: Day 19: Nils to Belgrade