Transylvania classic 2022: how to smile on the podium

Florentina Petcu Sep 13, 2022 · 9 min read

August 2021 was the first time my partner and I participated in a regularity competition. After 2 days of driving on the most beautiful roads in Sibiu (Romania) we finished 12th out of 18 EVs. It was a great result for a team that had no idea what a regularity rally was, no expectations and whose sole purpose was to have a fun new experience!

This year, we once again participated in the Transylvania Classic Regularity Rally. The Transylvania Classic started in 2015, but since 2017 it includes a category for electric vehicles. In the first year, there were only 3 teams at start. Last year, there were 18. But this year I was happy to see 27 EVs on the list! This just proves they do a great job in bringing e-mobility closer to the public and raising awareness.

Check out my blog on last year’s rally, where I got into: what a regularity rally is; how the penalties are calculated; and how the winners are the most consistent teams (rather than the fastest). There were a few things that changed this year - in fact (spoiler alert) we got on the podium!

🏰 A city demo after a festive start

The first evening of Transylvania Classic is dedicated to the opening festival: all teams are introduced to the public on a podium located in Piata Mica (the Small Square), in Sibiu city centre. This year, we also had the chance to drive around the centre for a city demo, using dedicated pages in the road book (see image below).

🦁 This time there was another lion registered in the competition.

One of the lovely surprises we had was to see another Peugeot e208 at start. As it was the facelift model, it gave us the opportunity to exchange impressions and experiences. We shared all the dos and don'ts that we discovered in our first regularity rally; that's what you do for your younger brother, right? I know they enjoyed the event and I hope to see them again next year.

⬆️  Our objective: understanding the secrets of regularity

Looking back at what we did in 2021, we understood which strategies didn’t work and where we needed to pay more attention. Last year I took the average speeds tables the organisers provided, and threw them onto the backseat. As a responsible copilot, I was supposed to inform the pilot if he needs to accelerate or decelerate based on the distance and the ideal time typed in the tables:

This year my goal was to actually use these tables (we had one for each speed limit mentioned in the bulletin). So, I asked a professional pilot for tips and tricks on how to do that. Imagine my surprise when Alex Filip (rally pilot and two-time winner of this competition) told us he's not using these tables, but… a mobile app! Well, hello 2022!

Once we downloaded the app he recommended, I started adding the necessary speeds and calculating the start times for each regularity test (RT).

⏱ We were better informed and paid more attention to the rules.

There are different methods to measure a team’s speed on the regularity tests (RT). One is the use of transponders which we had in the car that sent signals to receivers hidden in different spots along the segment and at the end of each RT. There could be several speed changes during one RT and if there are any road signs that indicate a certain speed limit one also needs to follow them (but those are not always mentioned in the road book). All this gets more challenging if you don't see the end of a speed limit on the road and you're not sure you just went past it. You keep checking the app or the road book as the pilot asks (numerous times) if you're sure about the speed that needs to be maintained.

That is why consistency, perfect synchronisation and attention to detail are important in this type of competition.

🥉We made it on the podium at the end of the first day!

The first day took us through more or less the same route as last year. However, as no team knows the exact route in advance, it all comes down to paying attention to the road book, even when it seems that you're driving in circles. If there is one thing we learned last year it was: don’t follow other competitors, follow the road book. This was very helpful when we had to pass by the same checkpoint twice to collect different stamps and saw other teams coming in from a different direction. Teams that started after us were overtaking us, whilst teams in front of us were driving way slower than we were and we had to overtake them.

By the end of the evening we got the confirmation that our strategy and calculations were good when the intermediary results after 5 RTs (one got canceled) listed us on the 3rd position out of 27 EVs. The lessons we learned were also visible in the penalty points: only 62.3 this time versus over 300 last year after the first day.

It was a nice surprise was to see an EV on the 1st position in the overall ranking too!

🍀 We got lucky!

The second day started very early, with the first car leaving at 07:01 AM, which brought us to the start line at 08:05. The individual start time is calculated by adding the car's competition number - 65 in our case - to the official start time (TC).

The route was sending along the spectacular road of Transfăgărășan and several historic Transylvanian villages. It's the curved mountain road which reaches 2043m altitude, heading towards Bâlea Lake - the crown jewel of this rally. It never ceases to impress! It was also the stage that got us most penalty points.

Going uphill with an EV is sometimes hair-raising. But after living this experiences a couple of times, you learn to wait impatiently for the downhill ride. You can then watch how regenerative braking piles up those kilometres back in the range indicator.

This year, both classic and electric cars shared the same extended route for the second day, while in previous editions electric cars had a shorter second day. When we first saw the planned route we got a bit anxious as the total length was close to Elektra's maximum range, and the density of high speed charging stations in the area is not great. We were happy to find out that one of the coffee break locations had a slow charging station. That was exactly what we needed. We were able to enjoy the coffee, cake and the green scenery of the Albota Trout Farm while the car was plugged in. We later realised we could have done it even without the charging session, but it felt good to drive without any range anxiety.

We left Albota to head towards Biertan, touring through Transylvanian villages ready for the next regularity tests. We nailed 3 of them. These were the ones where we got our best results. Though on the 4th one we got lucky, while the 5th one is almost everybody got confused.

Let me tell you that hearing "turn right, NOW!" it's not what a day-to-day driver turned pilot for 2 days wants to hear while cruising in a left heading U turn. Another competitor on the other side was heading towards us, while the narrow road suddenly became visible and he started braking severely. We then realised the GPS signal was lost. That's couples' therapy on the go, believe me!

We turned right and finally managed to bring the app back in the green zone (right in time) while other competitors were overtaking us trying to make their timeline. We reached Biertan and were happy to get lunch. Later that evening we were to find out that we had 7.4 penalty points on this TR. A sprinkle of luck.

After a short lunch break the last stage was about the being, which we knew would be a tricky one. After leaving Biertan, we were back on the road that gave us goose bumps earlier, before taking a right turn onto another narrow road.

The last RT was about to start. Our eyes were on the kilometres count and we were ready to start the app when we saw competitors that left before us coming towards us. Though confused, we continued to follow the road book, and our rule of minding our plan, not other competitors.

But our lack of experience surfaced: a tight left turn, a lost GPS signal and the rood book indications were no longer recognisable. At that point, we realised we made a mistake but didn’t know where. We decided to get back to the last visible checkpoint. By that time, some competition cars were overtaking us, others were also going back. The turmoil was growing.

We assumed we failed the last RT and the best we could do was to enjoy the road back to the center of Sibiu. But later that evening, we found out that the last regularity test was canceled due to wrong details in the road book! That brought us up to the second position out of 27 EVs and 6th position overall. Wow! Thank you, lucky star! 💫

The Transylvania Classic was yet again not about ranking or penalty points. It was about great people, sharing knowledge with new friends, thrilling roads, breathtaking views, the joy of electric driving and new experiences. Most of all, it was about trying to bring e-mobility and motorsports closer to everyone.

In fact, here's some impressive trivia: 84 teams joined the competition. Among them were 57 classic cars, 27 electric cars, 13 BMW, 11 Tesla, 8 Dacia, 8 Mercedes, 3 Hyundai, 2 Peugeot e208, a 1929 Ford A, a 1990 Trabant and a 2022 Porsche Taycan. There were a few professional pilots and copilots, journalists, influencers, 4 all-women teams, a 13 year old copilot, and a lovely family with 3 cute little girls on the back seat, all together for the joy of driving over 400 kilometres on the most beautiful roads in Sibiu!

As far as smiling on the podium goes… I have no idea how it's done. I guess we'll just have to set it as objective for next year.

See you in Sibiu in August 2023! 👋