Starting today in front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia the competitors of the Balkan Offroad 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 Offroad Rallye today in Sofia, welcoming the competitors from all over Europe to this unique event. Alexander Kovatchev started the competitors, wishing them luck and a safe race on their journey from Sofia to the coast of the Black Sea.
Broadcasted on Bulgarian Television, the showstart is the moment of glory for the competitors, and the final start of the Balkan Offroad Rallye, with 8 days of racing. The square full of the most beautiful offroad vehicles – big trucks, fast cars, small buggies, quads and bikes – all prepared to go offroad, into the mountains and forests of Bulgaria.
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 difficult to go fast on this stage,’ says Nikke Harkjaer, who finished second on his Polaris today. Gerard List had more fun on his new quad: ‘It’s a mattress, even on these difficult roads. Never before it was so easy to jump over rocks and ruts!’
‘This was written for the SSV,’ says Thierry Gerome smiling, the offroad legend racing together with his wife and living the spirit of his class with a small Polaris 800cc. Last years’ winner Tsanko Tsankov takes the overal lead straight from the beginning with his incredible Yamaha, with almost 8 minutes lead over the fastest car.
Doncho Canev is racing a full blown offroad buggy and wins the first stage in the Car Cross Country category, with Konstantin Cholakov on Hilux behind him. Polish champion Pawel Molgo finishes third, starting at the very end of the field with his Overdrive Hilux. He managed to overtake a lot of cars on the tracks, securing a good starting position for tomorrow.
Strategy is king in a marathonrally such as the Balkan Offroad Rallye and many of the regular competitors make a careful start. ’We are racing at high speed, but we take little risk,’ says Marcel van Blankestijn, co-driver of the 4×4 centrum Ermelo team. The full top ten of the race is within 8 minutes, todays stage is only the beginning of an 8 day battle at high speed, going from west to east in Bulgaria.
Fritz Becker is a legendary trophy competitor and for this race he has selected an experienced co-driver: Otto Weyand. First fruit of their cooperation is a first place on the opening stage of the Balkan Offroad Rallye, pleasure for both of them. ‘It was an excellent start,’ says Carmen Hrup, co-driver of Roland Brack, ‘a very nice stage, difficult driving but not too tough. Just a great way to start the race!’
The second stage on september 11th will be held in the Borovets region, on mid- and high altitude tracks. Beautiful mountainpasses, long and sometimes difficult climbs and steep descents – it will not be easy for those who want to go fast!
Results, startlists and our daily videos from the event can be found at www.balkanoffroad.net and on our Facebook page.