Difficult navigation on the second day of the Balkan Offroad Rallye
Crossing Bulgaria from north to south in three stages, 458 kilometer and at least eight hours of riding made an impression on the competitors. ‘We started in the fog, with a beautiful sunrise,’ says Beat Juen, the first biker to finish the day. ‘Then the mountains and here in the south wide tracks, stones and the fields. It is enough to wear me out!’
Rico van der Sanden loved the stage, but had a hard time with the fog in the morning. ‘I had to ride without glasses, everything was wet.’ Frank Weisbach agrees, and says it’s simple. ‘With the roadbook you can try to predict corners or a change in the direction, but I always like to slow down when I can’t see the track.
’The navigation was difficult today,’ says bikerider Henno van Bergeijk, finishing as fourth bike. ‘I asked for azimuths in my email to Alex, and of course I messed up the first one!’ He lost his GPS, lost the way and searched for tracks to continue with the race. ‘I felt so stupid, it was my request!’
Adventure in the Extreme Class on the Balkan Offroad Rallye
After meeting in 2012 in the Balkan Offroad Rallye Franck and Francoise haven’t missed a year. They are strong supporters of the Extreme Class. ‘The first stage was exactly what we are here for. Technical, difficult, and very interesting. We only saw Roland Brack, he had some issues with the engine.’
They sold their dear ‘Manubain’, the vehicle that brought them many victories and adventure. Doing without is no option and here they are in the Balkan Offroad Rallye with a brand new vehicle, a long wheelbase tubular prototype. ‘It does exactly what I ask from it. That was my worry,’ says Franck. ‘The motor is strong, the wheelbase is good. And of course we have small things to fix like with any new car but the most important things turned out really really well.’
‘All day we drove alone,’ says Carmen, Roland Bracks’ co-driver. ‘It really was our day, with super navigation and a fantastic track. We were leading, but at kilometer 60 we discovered a problem with the cooling system. Normally our car is bulletproof, but without coolant the engine can’t run. So we had to let the engine cool, and we saw our lead go up in smoke!’
And even experienced teams have their moments: ‘We lost the clutch at km 10,’ says Adi Ruhaltiger, co-driver of Ernst Amort. ‘Can you imagine driving the Extreme stage without clutch? Sometimes we had to pull the lever together to change gear, I think the gearbox suffered quite a bit. But we are here for racing, so as long as we have a chance to continue we do this.’
Driving Extreme on the Balkan Offroad Rallye is adventurous driving, not pure trophy but a fantastic ‘ballade’ through the roughest parts of Bulgaria. Dennis Rijks from the Netherlands is all smiles – he is racing his first long distance event with a beautiful trophy buggy, together with his friends. ‘To find your track all day long, to drive freely in a landscape like this and to be here together with good friends is something special!’
The adventure of the Extreme class is easy to see in the photos provided by Sabine Trapp, who was on site at a difficult section. ‘It looked really harmless at the beginning, but when Fritz Becker came and started rolling over it turned into something quite different!’ The spirit of the class shows: Daniel Vetter and his co-driver help Fritz back on the wheels, and the race continues. In Extreme Class there is always tomorrow, another day and another tricky situation!
When a day of adventure becomes a night of getting home..
As the sun set over the finishline there were still competitors arriving, with faces full of dust and a day full of adventure. Reaching the end can be a pleasant experience, especially after almost 500 km of rallytrack. Most of them are done and dusted, and we enjoy the special stories that are part of racing the Balkan Offroad Rallye.
Leon de Wit is the first truck driver to arrive, happy to be in front of the competition. ‘Today the dust was our enemy,’ he says. ‘Tomorrow it will be our friend.’ Fighting for each meter of track with Tom Heuer, he was happy to see the Tatra disappear in the wrong direction. ‘He let us pass earlier, incredibly friendly as I was not even on the horn. We spend the day racing together and Tom can be very fast with his new truck.’
Lea and Isabelle Gauthier race with their Yamaha. It is an unexpected return to co-driving for Isabelle as she guides her daughter over the stage. Several Dakars, a Master Rally with René Metge and many adventures in the desert might be long ago, but the years in between disappear when you can be a navigator for your own child, racing together.
Racing is winning, and Lea takes this as serious as her father, who cannot be here because of his health. ‘Now we will hold the flag of our family team,’ she says, ‘Two blondes in the Yamaha!’ It is an adventurous day for the team, as they roll the Yamaha and need to find rhythm in the race. Guidance comes from home, as Philippe follows their steps on the online tracking.
‘We made it, day 2 is finished!’ says Erno van Lieshout as he arrives at the finish line. Racing a beautiful Toyota Land Cruiser V8 he leads the limited class and makes a top 10 score overal. ’Today was fantastic,’ says Eugene, his co-driver. ‘We overtook a whole lot of cars at the azimuth, and we really like these graveltracks. I think racing here beats a desertrace, we love drifting and precise navigation on this type of terrain!’
Adventure man or what? Jan Neumann had everything today – a puncture on his rear tyre, which he fixed in a village along the route, problems with the navigation and the famous ‘stone-with-your-name-on-it’ right before the end of the stage. ‘I had a phone full of messages from my home, they noticed I was slow today. But I kept going and I managed to reach the finish line!’
Text and photo: Niels Hatzmann, Dutch Rally Press