DAY 7 – BALKAN CROSS COUNTRY: the Endgame is on!

The final days of the Balkan Offroad Rallye are on. With is only one day left, we reach the last day of the event. Every year, the decisions for the podium have been made on the last day. The last day is tough, the navigation is difficult and the terrain is new. The final stretch to the finish in front of the beach bar on the famous sand of the Black Sea gives the pleasure but can also kill the engine.. It is never over, until it is over.

Arunas Gelazninkas rules the Balkan Offroad Rallye, with 2 and a half hour ahead of Frank Modl, who lot most of this time in the last days due to navigation issues. ‘You cannot be concentrated fur such a long time!’ he said, ‘But I managed to beat Arunas several times in the sprint!’ Arunas is ready for tomorrow, and has a strong postion in the overal ranking!

There is no class where the time penalty and mechanical problems have made such a havoc as in the Side by side ranking. Yann van Beek and Emanuel Barraux managed to follow the roadbook, the timetable and the maximum speeds, creating a strong lead, ahead of the talented Lea Gauthier and her new navigator Corinne Clergeat. Jose Castan will chase the two ladies in the Yamaha, and has to make up for 8 minutes lost time..

Sebastien Mirosod is the old codriver of Eric Missiliez, racing the car they built for the Balkan Offroad Rallye. ‘We hope to be on the podium as a dedication to Eric,’ Sebastien says. ‘I was never a driver before, but the death of Eric made me move a seat in order to finish the project.’ Competing for the minutes and seconds with Jean-Francois and Marie-Aline Ryo and the other teams is perhaps the best way to remember the sporting spirit of Eric, who died July 12, 2017.

There is no class where the podium is so uncertain as in Car Open. After more than 25 hours of racing the difference between the first three is less than 30 minutes, and there are plenty of other teams waiting for a chance to get at the podium. On the last day, you try not to make mistakes. But lifting the throttle means losing a place..

Konstantin Cholakov is leading, racing with his own proto-type. ‘I am lucky to have a fast navigator, and I really like speed,’ he says, with a smile. ‘Even with the new car, I think we are close to the limit of what is possible. There is some room to go faster, but I am not sure we wille survive!’

Tomorrow on Saturday September 22nd the competitors have two special stages: one in the north, on the fast tracks north-west of Varna. And one in the forest close to the camp, a classic breaker for material and morale, with difficult navigation and technical terrain. Tomorrow after lunch the first competitors will arrive on the shores for the Black Sea, for a magnificent last run to the beach near Shkorpilovtsi!

DAY 7 – BALKAN EXTREME: one last chance…

After seven days of racing in the Balkan Extreme, crossing mountains, mastering rivers full of big boulders, finding the track through unpassable terrain and tight forests, Jim Marsden has built a lead on Franck Daurelle and Francoise Hollender. But especially in the Balkan Extreme, such a lead can melt away in the blink of eye, like butter in the Bulgarian sun…

Today after a fast start together with the Cross Country, the Balkan Extreme dived into the forest for a section through a river, continuing into a beautiful valley before a long descent from the mountains onto the plains near the coast.

‘It is just unbelievable how much off-road this country has,’ says Jim Marsden, who spoke with the organisers to lower the pace of the event, to allow everyone to reach the finishline. ‘We have well prepared cars,’ agrees Franck Daurelle, ‘But we are not alone!’

‘There are so many beautiful tracks!’ cheers Anneke Crijns from the Netherlands, competing together with Ron van Baal in the ‘limited’ class. ‘We have a very basic Toyota LJ, with some modifications but mostly original parts. And here, every day is a new adventure, I love it!’

Passing over the mountains, on the descent the teams had to master a washed out downhill section into a dry riverbed. Putting the car on the side, winching or with full-gas, everyone has a way to arrive at the bottom.

Tomorrow the Extreme class takes a short but tough stage, all before the finish on the beach of Shkorpilovtsi, in front of the Beachbar. In the Balkan Extreme, everything can change.. It is not over, until it is over!

Text: Niels Hatzmann
Photo credit: RBI Media and Dutch Rally Press