Over 400 competitors from across Europe made this year’s Breslau Rally the biggest ever. Infamous for its combination of fast off-road sections, deep mud and difficult wading, Poland’s so-called ‘European Dakar’ involves hundreds of kilometres of competitive driving, day and night.
Three race categories and five vehicle classes attracted vehicles ranging from motorbikes to modified lorries, with the Green Oval represented by various Defenders, two Freelanders and two Discoverys. Support crews brought the total number of vehicles to over 1200.
Thanks to bureaucratic hurdles, Team Twinlock was the only British team to compete in the event, in a 200Tdi Defender 90 owned by Henry Siebert-Saunders. The vehicle was rebuilt and modified for the Extreme category in just three months. ‘It had two previous iterations of builds, but this was the big one,’ says Henry. Modifications included Ashcroft pneumatic locking diffs, Fox coilovers (12in front, 14in rear), four-point racing harnesses, Allisport rear-mounted radiator, Gigglepin GP84 winches front and rear, Whitbread front end, and Protections & Performance roll cage and rear tray – but the old 200Tdi would ultimately prove to be the car’s downfall.
Navigator Adam Pagett’s Td5 130 hauled the competition car to Poland, accompanied by the Tdi 110 of chief mechanic Charles Walls, plus support crew Simon Clark and Oliver Carslake. ‘That in itself was a bit of an undertaking,’ says Adam. In addition to Covid tests, the team were required to list over 600 items of equipment and provide carnets that were never asked for, adding two days of admin to their preparations.
The event itself posed more enjoyable challenges. ‘You’re navigating long distances from roadbooks, and there’s very little signage and not many marshals, so as soon as you lose track of where you are, you’re in trouble!’ says Adam. ‘The night stages were mad…
‘But the camaraderie was like nothing else. On the first day I got us a little bit lost, and a French team in a Suzuki with Land Rover axles helped us out. The next day they’d lost their rear diff and front winch so we pulled them through a mud section. And when we later had power steering problems, they held back with us.’
Trouble for the 200Tdi started on day 3, when the 90 hauled itself at full throttle through a deep water crossing. ‘I think it took on a bit of water, as it wasn’t quite the same after that,’ says Henry. ‘It carried on, but it was burning oil and sounding tappetty. Half way through the second stage the next day, the temperature started climbing, then our secondary water pump blew its fuse and that was the last straw. There’s just no compression now – I’m expecting to find holes in the pistons when we take it apart.’
‘But we were up to 9th at one point in the provisional classifications, before our power steering problems,’ says Henry. ‘For our first attempt at Breslau, I think that’s pretty good.’
Team Twinlock plans to return to the Bresla Rally in 2022, with a BMW M57 engine.