Bulgaria, hmmm, where to start? Let's dive straight in: I didn't enjoy it and didn't think it worthy of a round of the World Rally Championship.
I'm still waiting for somebody to come up with a coherent reason as to why we were there in the first place. All I've been told is that it performed reasonably well as a candidate event and, as one member of the sporting establishment put it, "they paid their money for the candidate round, didn't they?"
So, does this mean you can buy a round of the World Rally Championship after all?
If so, we've sold our soul to the wrong country. The Bulgarians provided nothing like the return we would have managed if we'd done the commercially sensible thing and allowed Abu Dhabi to run a round next season. Initially, I was completely against Abu Dhabi bulldozing their way through the officialdom, while flashing an over-burdened national wallet, to fill a 2011 calendar slot. But, having seen what was surely the WRC's lowest ebb in Bulgaria, I think some Abu Dhabi razzmatazz, glamour, glitz and bling is just what we need.
That said, there was some bling about in Borovets, most of it coming in the shape of two tinted-windowed S63 AMG Mercedes which spent Sunday afternoon growling their way around town.
I just didn't get the whole idea of basing a rally in a ski resort in the summer thing. It was such a bizarre place, but pretty good if you wanted to buy last season's ski jacket. In red, with pink piping. I didn't.
The hotels were a bizarre mix, some built while the country was in the last throes of communism when the resort was created in 1986 (which included mine). Clearly these rooms had been shut up since the last of the winter snows departed and then hurriedly opened hours before we arrived. The smell of damp was everywhere.
Opening the window wasn't much better as the summer breeze brought not only a fine drizzle for most of the rally week, but also the honk of burning pig which was being spit-roasted by restaurants on every corner.
Okay, the WRC is not about the best hotels and restaurants. It's about the best drivers and the best roads in the world. And were they the best asphalt roads in the world? No.
I drove four of the stages to get a taste of Bulgarian fever. They were okay, but nothing super-special. They didn't really have a character of their own, more a bastardised mix of Corsica, Ireland, Catalunya, Germany and the B4501 near Bala. The one I did like was Sestrimo, Saturday morning's opener.
Sestrimo was the perfect example of the mongrel-mix of roads. The first seven kilometres were nice, wide and flowing roads, good B-road material with the odd open hairpin to give your World Rally Car a chuck on the handbrake to kick off a big skid. But then we forked to the right onto a smaller road. It was still quite nice, nadgery but reasonably smooth. From the patchwork appearance the road was pretty well maintained.
And then we saw why. A few kilometres further up the hill we came upon a power station and reservoir. Once past that, all hell broke lose. The forest at the side of the road intensified and the roots for the trees provided plenty of undulations for the last 15km of the stage. It was impossible to read the road.
I'd gone up in the fading light and gathering gloom at about eight o'clock on the eve of the event. The rain and mist were setting in and trying to fathom an apex was nigh on impossible. When we came out at the top of the mountain, at just shy of 2100 metres (which is almost the same altitude as would be achieved by stacking England's highest mountain on top of Scotland's highest mountain - and calling it Ben Pike), we could see absolutely nothing. It was the eeriest place in the world. In a moment, the wind changed direction and blew the fog away to reveal Belmeken Lake. And a bunch of hardy souls trying to set their tents up.
That was the moment I vowed I would be eternally grateful for my musty-smelling hotel room. It really wasn't much cop at all. None of it. People tried to palm us off with the argument that Bulgaria's absence from the 2011 calendar excused such a poor excuse for a WRC round. Sorry, I'm not buying that.
New Zealand isn't on next year's calendar, but instead of accepting their fate, the NZ organisers put their heart and soul into producing one of the finest rounds of the championship in years. What did Bulgaria do? It lit up another fag and stared its hard stare at anybody daring to question it.
There was no passion, no fever, no nothing in Bulgaria. And the rally wasn't much more exciting, either. The two highlights for me both came in Citroen C4 WRCs. One was Kimi Raikkonen, the other Sebastien Ogier.
As we'd expected, the Iceman's arrival on asphalt has placed him firmly in the groove. Okay, he dropped it on the second day, but he was lying fourth at the time - and he'd been quicker than Sebastien Loeb for the first two splits of that stage - not many people can say that, can they? Certainly not many driving anything other than a Citroen C4, that is.
And Ogier's performance was exceptional as well. It's easy to forget that Bulgaria was only his 28th ever start in a World Rally Car - and only his third on asphalt. Like Raikkonen, Ogier went off the road, but he came back strongly. Had he not put his C4 in a ditch for a minute on Friday, it would have been fascinating to see how Dani Sordo (supposedly Citroen's second strongest asphalt driver) would have dealt with the rising French force.
The good thing for the WRC is that we're off to Finland next. Finland is the perfect antidote to Bulgaria's miserable, pony attempt at running a round of the WRC. If Bulgaria wants to see how the job should be done, go west and follow signs to Jyvaskyla.
Jyvaskyla is, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the year. And this year, with a Finnish Formula 1 world champion at the sharp end of the field, there's going to be some serious interest in the event. This is good news for everybody involved in the sport, with the possible exception of Raikkonen himself. Might be time for Kimi to invest in an even bigger hat and some even darker shades.
Bring on the fever.
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