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Round Kurland Rally for Historic Motorcycles

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Kurlandscape Typical beach

The Round Kurland Rally Goes Annual
- report by Juris Ramba

Rumour has it that for as long as the local guys can remember every year the 3rd weekend in July has never had rain around the smalltown of Tukums which is situated in Kurland - Latvia's westernmost region. Well almost, if we do not count real downpours during the night which swallow up the dust and allow for some freshness on hot summer mornings…

The Kurland area has always been rich in old castles, beautiful hills and rivers and white sand beaches, once so eagerly guarded by Soviet borderguards that the shoreline has been left untouched and almost uninhabited. Some of the roads could be described as very rural with landscape nearly unchanged in the past 50-odd years… Tukums is a nice quiet town with its long cultivated tradition of annual town festivals. Yet it has one unique advantage over other similar quiet Kurland towns -- it has a nice steep hill in the town centre which is very suitable for hill climb competition for vintage motorcycles! All these and a few other good things mixed together resulted in the Annual Round Kurland Historic motorcycle Rally idea -- first tested out on the Saturday of July 19th 2003. It really did not rain the whole weekend; far from it, the weather was like everywhere else in Europe - bone dry and sunny.

As none of the promised foreign participants turned up due to various reasons, it was decided to fold down the event in one busy day. The Rally started in the morning - after scrutineering of machines and a morning coffee at the Slokenbeck estate with a quick dash to Jaunmoku Castle, just outside Tukums on the main Ventspils route, which was the starting venue for the 100-plus km Road Run, entering the most picturesque Kurland area along the undulating Abava river, taking us through the little ancient towns of Kandava and Sabile, past the World's Northermost vineyards (as mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records). The route took us through a few stretches of real white roads, -- the vintage machines could feel at home in their natural environment of pre-war Latvian roads - the much younger riders could bite some dust between their teeth - all part of the game in fact. There were quite a few checkpoints manned by enthusiasts in green reflecting bibs, offering mineral water to the dusty company of riders on dusty vintage machines. Too much road vibration or maybe old age had broken the carburettor in half on a BMW R-35. The float bowl was hanging and clinging for life on the petrol tube. Rider Maris Bedre pulled in on the roadside and nearly called it a day. Soon he was surrounded by 4 other riders who made a joint effort to revive the old carburettor by tying it up with a piece of wire. Maris's day was saved and in fact he went on to win the Best Overall Performance Prize for the Rally (best overall result in the road run and in the hillclimb). Maris even reported that after the "wire treatment" his machine was running faster and smoother, thanks to a better positioned float bowl - or was it better float position!? The 1937 K800 Zundapp of Uldis Janstevics had to retire from the Road Run due to contaminated fuel; he had it sorted out by the time we were assembling for the Hill Climb competition.

The Hill Climb was run on a regularity basis - as a cross between a vintage hill climb and vintage regularity races in that. each competitor had to make 2 runs up the hill and to achieve the minimum difference of timings between these two runs. The timing was done on professional rallye timing equipment which was on loan from the rallye people. A few thousand spectators and participants of the town festival were watching the Hill Climb Competition, thus our activities got good publicity as well. My own old Norton Mod 25 "banger" of 1926 behaved really well - apart from sooting up the plug on top of a hill on a dusty road - but only once. In May and June I had spent a week ironing out all possible and impossible teething troubles on it on the Isle of Man, sometimes working well past midnight to get it ready for the next day's ride. My son Roberts was riding pillion again and as he said later - he had enjoyed our run and for the riding from his viewpoint it had been nearly as good as the Banbury Run, obviously because it all happened in our own lovely environment and we were riding on the right hand side of the road. We both of course missed the crowds and those hundreds of lovely vintage machines at the start…

We had just over a dozen enthusiastic riders on proper vintage machines who took part in the Round Kurland Rally, yet everyone was tired and very satisfied at the end of the day to say the least. So the idea and the format of the event deserves to be put in our calendar as a traditional annual meeting. The more so because we now have 5 travelling cups/prizes which will all be back for the next year's event. Sadly at least two nice period machines - an R-35 BMW and a WLA Harley-Davidson were turned down from participation in the rally by the scrutineers because the riders were not complying with regulations - they refused to wear crash helmets.

As for the next year - it will be the same: 3rd weekend of July (July 16th - 18th, 2004); the same Slokenbeck estate as a base for assembly, scrutineering, food and shelter; the same hill climb site, but a different road run rute - just for a little change in an otherwise traditional rally in our club's calendar of events. The organizer - yours truly:

Juris Ramba,
Lapu # 10,
Ogre LV 5001,
e-mail:; Fax +371 5071334; Tel. + 371 9255601

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