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LEG 1 Balkan Classic: respect for the mountains

LEG 1 Balkan Classic: respect for the mountains

Starting today in front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia the competitors of the Balkan Classic Rallye had their first encounter on Bulgarian soil. Going straight from the city into the mountains, the difference between city life and rally cannot be bigger.

Krasen Kralev, the Bulgarian Minister of Youth and Sports opened the Balkan Classic Rallye today in Sofia, welcoming competitors from all over the world to this unique event. Broadcasted on Bulgarian Television, the showstart is the moment of glory and the final start of the Balkan Classic Rallye, with 8 days of racing.

Starting on the Murgash Mountains on a rocky high altitude stage the competitors reach one of the high points in the Balkan Offroad Rallye right at the beginning. It was a rocky and difficult first stage for the competitors, who had to adjust their driving style to the typical terrain found on the Murgash mountain.

‘What a stages today!’ says Geoff Bell, first to finish today. ‘With the first of three stages being quite tough, in the second and third the corners opened and I could really enjoy my Datsun!’ Followed closely by Andrew Siddal the Dansport team leads the race after this first day.

It was not an easy start for the Classic cars, with the riders and the organisation adjusting – to the terrain, the navigation and the speed of these fantastic vehicles. ‘Today I saw what a classic rallycar can do on a stage and I am impressed,’ says Race Director Alexander Kovatchev, who directly applies the results from today in tomorrows stage.

To finish first you first have to finish – and to do so in difficult conditions makes the adventure even greater. Breaking the throttle cable on his Datsun on the last stage of the day, Jonathan Savage choose to operate the carburettors on his vehicle himself. Sitting on the front left fender, under the protection of the bonnet he could just reach the throttle. With Kieran Day behind the wheel, together they got their Datsun to the end of the stage. Completely knackered at arrival – but at the finishline!

Peter Landrichter showed his determination when he bent the front bumper of his Volvo and it cut the front tyre. ‘We had to bend the bumper and use the flex to get it into a drivable shape again, somewhere on the first mountain stage!’ Finishing with the Volvo was a pleasure, even though they made the car quite a bit lighter in the process.

The navigation in the Balkan Classic is based on the familiar tulips, but for many rallydrivers running a stage without pacenotes is an interesting experience. Roman Madera: ’Sometimes it is hard to recognise the situations in the roadbook, but the information is 100% correct.’  Having to drive on sight and on the brief info you find in the roadbook can be quite a challenge. Still most of the teams manage to find their way.

The second stage on september 11th will be held in the Borovets region, on mid- and high altitude tracks. Beautiful mountainroads, dirtroads and breathtaking landscapes have been packed into in three specials, around the Ski Resort Borovets.

Results, startlists and our daily videos from the event can be found at www.balkanclassic.com and on our Facebook page.

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