The Breslau Rally: Day 5

Stage 4 of the Breslau Rally was 25 km longer than Stage 3, but the distance wasn’t the biggest challenge: it was the mud.

The starting point was again at the southwest corner of the camp, which is on a military base. Stage 4 took place entirely within the perimeter of the base. When our team had passed the starting point, we set out to follow the race using the many access roads that cross the area, sometimes passing alongside training areas for commandos and artillery units. At one point, rusty tanks dotted the horizon.

We found several good spots to watch and take photos, including one of the mud holes on the map for spectators near the halfway point of the race. It was a swampy passage about 50m long. The mud and water were over 2m deep in places. Even most of the trucks were winching to pass through, passing their cables around large tree trunks and pulling their massive bodies across. Relatively few vehicles made it through without winching. The trick was to have a vehicle well-adapted to the difficulty and choose the best way through it.

Our team’s Unimog made it look easy: a burst of power, down into and through the black bog, then up and over on the other side. They had made it in seconds where some of the biggest Man Kat’s would need their winches, but that situation wouldn’t last; the worst was yet to come.

We spent most of the afternoon at the mud hole, staying long enough to see two of the other cars in our team pass. As more cars and trucks struggled through and the passage wore away, it became almost impossible to cross without winching, and the second car of our team to arrive had to use the winch to get through.

As the race continued, the teams would encounter around a dozen more mud holes, some much more difficult than this one, where the cars couldn’t make it without being pulled through by one of the larger vehicles. While this might seem surprising, it’s true to the spirit of this race; the Breslau Rally is as much about determination, resourcefulness, and cooperation as it is about having the fastest, most powerful or best-prepared vehicle.


Our teams were late getting back to camp. The Unimog arrived at 9 pm and the last jeep around 10 pm. Exhausted, the co-pilots had a very hard day, climbing in and out of the car, wading in mud up to their chests, manipulating the cables for winching and taking care of the navigation in between.


It was time for dinner. Most of the teams hadn’t had a chance to snack on their energy bars during the day, but the day wasn’t over yet, because the vehicles had also suffered and needed maintenance and some repairs.

For the Unimog, the team changed the oil and fluids in the engine, transmission, axles and brakes; drained the water that had infiltrated wherever it could; and cleaned off the biggest patches of mud and grass. The brakes weren’t working well, because mud had gotten into the brake pads, so they changed those too.


The team worked hard through the night; everything had to be in good shape for Stage 5, the marathon “Hannibal” Stage that started the next morning at 6:30 am.

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