Sredna Gora bites back – it was a tough day in the mountains, with beautiful panoramas and fantastic views for those who had time to look at it. On ‘break day’ halfway through the Balkan Offroad 2019 the marathon has finally begun and the ranking sees major changes on a stage so long and tough it required self control and true driving skills.
After three days of straight victories, the engine of Konstantin Cholakov spits out the turbo and he looses one hour and a half in the overall ranking. “Our service could replace the part between the stages, and we were able to claim a victory on the second stage today,” and laughing: “I think we will manage to make up for the lost time in the following days!”
Rients Hofstra is back in the game today, with an excellent win in the Car Open ranking. After some engine problems in the beginning of the race he is now able to set the pace with his famous yellow Land Rover. Together with a motivated team of friends they race for the fun of it, and winning together with your best mates makes it taste even sweeter.
In the Car Limited class for standard vehicles Sebastien Morisod makes a fantastic return after two days of hard work on the car. “Winning today is excellent, but we have lost our place in the overall ranking due to the technical problems,” he says. Oleg Manokhin and Andrey Bryukhov in the Pajero V60 are second, running their second race with a strong car. “Well, we managed to smack the skidplate into pieces, so do you know someone who can weld aluminium?”
They are the only two in the limited class who can beat the Dacias of the Overlimit team, with Magdalena Zajac and Tomasz Mroczek as leader of four fast small cars. Original engine and original body: just strengthened, fitted with a proper roll-cage, protection plates and racing shocks the Dacia Duster is a strong little offroader. Of course there is limit to everything, such as teamboss Grzegorz Brochocki found out when he managed to break his suspension today.
Ruud Franssen takes his first stage win on the motorbike, after problems for Bert van Vegchel and Mirjam Pol. It is an excellent result for the biker, who rides a small 350cc KTM and has the advantage of lightness on a technical stage like today. Bram van der Wouden is also pleased, arriving as second. “This day was for me, fantastic! Difficult tracks, lots of things to do. Just the navigation was a tad on the easy side, but perhaps it will become more difficult again in the following stages.”
The navigation today was difficult for those who do not know their GPS, with a long section where the roadbook gave you a heading and a distance. “Here we made up some time,” says Mirjam Pol. “You have to project a waypoint with your GPS to find the next imagine in your roadbook, not easy to do. Bert and I were together, on the mountaintop and we saw no-one around. The view was fantastic, and I was happy to see we were still leading in the race!”
Driving a separate roadbook, the Extreme Class is a race within the race, running next to the Cross Country but with a different goal, unique routes and true adventure: “We did everything today, from driving over big rocks to long riverbeds and wide open views in the mountains,” says Maxence Walocha, copilot of Joseph Augustin. “And when you thought it was though, the roadbook said ‘erosion’ and I still cannot believe the size of the washouts, fantastic to drive!”
The ranking in this class is exciting, with just short differences between the teams. There is a French battle for the podium with Romain Porchere, Christophe Moine and Franck Daurelle who are chasing each other on the wild tracks through the Balkans. The atmosphere among the teams and the cooperation in the most difficult of situations is vital to this class: one day you win, the other day you need help. Today Franck and Francoise keep the lead, even after a roll over in the forest. Keep your eyes open for the video of today for some awesome footage of this class!
Tomorrow the rally moves from Starosel to Shkorpilovtsi, from the vineyards to the beach at the Black Sea in a long monster stage of 650km total distance. It will be more than enough for the teams, and only those who make no mistakes will arrive at the finishline in normal daylight. Another day in the marathon from the mountains to the sea!
Source: Dutch Rally Press (Niels Hatzmann) Images: Dutch Rally Press (RBI)