German efficiency

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Sir,

Your picture of a Wartburg (Rally Review, Motor Sport, November 1988) brought to mind an incident that occurred sometime in the late 1970s on an RAC Rally, somewhere in the depths of Kielder forest.

I was marshalling a junction in the middle of one of those long stages that earned this area the title of “Killer Kielder”. This stage started at the bottom of the big hill at Plashetts, an area now under the reservoir, and wended some twenty miles in a generally northwards direction. At some unsociable hour of the morning, one of the Wartburg team pulled off the track, and the crew emerged. Being East German, they had very limited knowledge of English, but nonetheless made their requirement of water quite clear. It appeared that the head gasket had blown, and they set about changing it. They had evidently practised this, as the whole operation took only fifteen minutes, it being a flatheaded two stroke engine. We stood around in amazement at the skill and speed of it all, offering assistance though this was not taken up, and they soon departed with a cheery wave and shouts of “danke”.

I am not sure of the exact year, but believe I am correct in stating that the cars had an enviable record of reliability for the years in which they have competed, akin to that of Skoda of more recent times. Perhaps other readers can supply the details of their record?

RM Davies, Duns, Berwickshire