It is full house for the sixth edition of the Balkan Offroad Rallye 2016, starting today (on the 10th of September) in the city centre of Sofia. More than 120 teams are gearing up for the best Offroad Rallye in Europe at the moment, with many fast competitors from all over the continent. Who will be the first to reach the shores of the Black Sea after eight days of racing through the mountains, hills, vineyards and the sand of Long Beach?
‘I am proud of the startlist we have this year, with so many incredible teams who have come to Bulgaria,’ says Race Director Alexander Kovatchev. ‘You cannot predict the results of a marathon, but looking at the startlist we can only be happy with such incredible vehicles and the quality of the teams we see here. There are a lot of podium candidates here in the camp!’
During Balkan Offroad Rallye 2016 we’ll have two main classes: Cross Country as classic rally raid with the fastest teams from all over Europe. Trophy lovers enter in our Extreme class, a hidden gem with special roadbooks made by Bulgaria’s best trophy specialists. Both classes share the bivouac, but otherwise run seperate races.
This year will be a battle of the champions, as we have current and former Offroad Racing champions of several European countries: Pawel Molgo with his Overdrive Hilux from Poland, Ronald Schoolderman with his Toyota Land Cruiser from the Netherlands, Frank Stensky with his Lennson CC from Germany, Thierry Gerome with Polaris from Belgium – the list is long and the teams are fast!
Rients Hofstra finished second last year and opens the first mountain stage tomorrow afternoon. ‘We like to start and stay in front of the competition,’ he says smiling. ‘But with the line-up this year I expect it will be difficult with our rigid axle Land Rover. There are many fast and modern cars with independent suspension which is a big advantage with the high speeds in this rally.’
Lea Gauthier we saw last year in the Side by Side Class, when her gearbox exploded after 8 days of racing with the fast Bulgarian Tsanko Tsankov. ‘For this year we brought a new Yamaha 1000, but we have to learn how to race it. For us it will be a slow start this year!’
On the quad it will be a battle: usually the quad class is small, but this time almost 10 vehicles have entered, including experienced Dakar riders such as Gerard List, last years’ winner Kevin Chenu, the famous Bulgarian Vasil Tomov and multiple Baja Deutschland winner Peter Groneschild.
‘This is my second rally,’ says Kay-Arne Bulsink, who won the dutch ‘Nationals’ in Enduro last year. He faces the competition of almost 40 motorbikes from all over Europe, with Dakar riders such as Marcel Snijders, last years’ winner Beat Juen and
many others. With the help of our competitors the numbers of bikes has doubled this year and the bike community is discovering Bulgaria and the Balkan Offroad Rallye.
‘This is not only about racing,’ says Christophe Moine, one of the competitors in the Extreme class. ‘When you go offroad like we do in the extreme class, driving over rocks and difficult terrain you have to work together.’ Fair play and teamspirit are the reason why this team is here, it is a special experience to compete and help each other at the same time.
With 21 teams the Extreme Class is something special: the organisers write special roadbooks for this category and within the organisation there is a deep love for this category, in which you truely go offroad and find your way even through the most difficult challenges.
Saturday september the 10th the Balkan Offroad Rallye will start in front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the city centre of Sofia, before heading straight into the mountains for the first special stages. Cross Country will start in the first special at 13:30h, the first Extreme Car will start at 15:40h.