The third day of the Balkan Offroad 2019 started with a fast run up Sredna Gora, on broken roads and graveltracks. Full drifting, sharp corners and unexpected bumps and ditches – both up and downhill over the mountains. After that the track levelled out, as the roadbook took the competitors to the fertile soil of the wide open plains in the valley.
“Today was the day for speedfreaks,” says biker Guenther Nuechel with a smile. “Tonight the talk at the dinnertable will be about maximum speeds and minutes of airtime!” Strong talk, but on the fast tracks in the second part of the stage it takes a big heart and balls of steel. Every slight change in the landscape, every turn and every shadow can hide a bump or a ditch that will take your axles or sends you flying, so often slower is faster.
Konstantin Cholakov arrives at the finishline, smiling from ear to ear. He has kept everyone behind him, and created an even bigger lead. The car smells of hot exhaust, the work is visible but it has been done without mistakes. Would there be anyone faster in this race? Laughing: “I don’t know!”.
Second is Rients Hofstra, who has been out of the game for two years did not loose his speed. “We tried to prepare the car as good as possible, but we had some technical problems with the dieselsystem,” he says, but now this has been fixed he can race for good stage results, such as the second place today.
Bert van Mourik racing his Bowler Nemesis grows with every stage he runs, making one good day after another. “I had some help from Ronald Schoolderman, who was ahead of me and did some fieldwork for us. To finish as third car on the stage today is just great, what a fantastic experience!”
“Today we were slow,” says Zornitsa, as she finished first SSV but with her main opponent on her tail. “We need to safe the machine, otherwise we won’t make it to the end!” This team famous for their win-or-burst strategy has become more careful, something that will for sure add to their success rate. Yann van Beek is right behind them, smiling from ear to ear as he is happy to finish with a result to be remembered.
In the motorbike ranking Bert van Vegchel and Mirjam Pol set the pace, arriving ahead of their direct competitors. “In the mountains it was difficult,” says Bert. “I was racing on these big stones and my heart was pounding!” Still, he seems to have managed it quite well. “Bert caught me right away,” says Mirjam Pol, who rides a fully equipped and heavy rallybike. “But I decided to stay close to him and wait for an error. He did not make mistakes, but I am here and the end result is good!”
The Balkan Offroad 2019 ‘Extreme Class’ today had a magical start. After climbing Sredna Gora, they went off-track into the forest into the dry Gold River. Cutting deep into the surface, the dry riverbed is now close to 40 meter deep, manageable by car with a big heart or a rear winch. “We arrived, looked at the other competitors and just decided to drive it,” says Adi Ruhaltiger. “I jumped down and glided down the hill, we did not loose too much time. Normally we are careful, but this was plain fun to do!”
Tomorrow the Balkan Offroad 2019 continues with 140 km of special stage to the west of Starosel, a high altitude stage with beautiful panoramas in the mountains and tight and small tracks along the riverbeds and fast sections towards the end.
Source: Dutch Rally Press (Niels Hatzmann) Images: Durch Rally Press (RBI)