Today after the showstart in Samokov the Balkan Offroad 2019 has started with a stage in the mountains near Borovets. High speed, fantastic scenery, difficult navigation and technical mountainous terrain: the competitors had to do everything. Both the Cross Country and the Extreme classes finished under the arch at Govedartsi, into a fantastic BBQ, a perfect day to remember!
There was applause for the fastest driver, Konstantin Cholakov. “We made it, and are happy to be at the finish,” he says, setting the time for all today. With just five minutes behind him Rik van den Brink finishes second in the ORD Toyota, with a new car and a new navigator, the experienced Guido Heijmans. It is not a small feat in his first season in the car, Rik is a strong newcomer in the 4×4 Centrum Ermelo team.
“Where are Herman and Ronald!” shouted Margarita at the finishline, arriving ahead of them after a day of intense racing. Together with Slavchev Desislav she finishes third with the classic G-Wagon, and Herman is right behind them. “I am satisfied with todays result,” he says with a smile, knowing that he has enough left for the rest of the week.
Adam Bomba returned to his Nemesis, but he misses the speed of the BMW. “There are so many fast cars this year, it is quite something. We are happy with the Nemesis for now, after last years’ crash the BMW is almost ready again. On the other hand, the navigation is the most important part of racing here. On every 300 meter there is an image in the roadbook!”
Classic navigation skills and inner peace are decisive on a stage like today. “I told myself to stay calm so many times, and it worked!” says Lodi Boelhouwer, who finishes as first motorbike ahead of Bram van der Wouden on Sherco and Breslau Poland winner Mirjam Pol. Bram is happy with the result: “As soon as I was riding, everything worked and I had so much fun!”
On the bike concentration is key. “I was only looking at the route and the roadbook, I did not even see the mountains!” says a surprised Bram van Vegchel, who raced with the leaders in the beginning of the stage. He got lost on his way through a village. “There were so many roads, I could not find the one I was supposed to use!”
Jose Castan and Francois Cazelet take the lead in the Side by Side ranking, with a fast time ahead of Yann van Beek and Emanuel Barraux. Richard Oguez and Delfine Delfino make it to the third place, a great result for an enthousiastic and experienced team. Dark clouds loom over Zornitsa’s head when she brings her timecard to the finish to collect her fourth place. They lost 5 minutes with a broken kill-switch on the buggy, something that is hard to digest for Tsanko and Zornitsa.
True to the off-road history of both the Balkan Offroad and to the spirit of roadbook makers Kiril and Konstantin Panayotov, the extreme class had a fantastic start today on the playground of the Samokov Off-Road club. “It was a difficult start, but nice to do,” says Dolly Wittberger, who has found a seat as navigator of Daniel Vetter. “We had to drive or winch up and down a steep hill, and go through a swamp. Luckily we could drive it, as we saw a straight line through the middle!”
Winners of today are the young but experienced Romain Porchere and Benoit Bonnefoi, before Sven Syfrig and Michael Ginther. Christophe Moine and Olivier Vailleau arrive as third car. Driving Extreme class is not just about winching, but about ‘adventurous driving’ in the mountains. Old tracks, mountain ridges and very technical sections with big washouts provide for an entertaining day. “This is real,” says Christophe Moine. “You should not underestimate it, a day in the mountains is always a day to remember!”
Tomorrow the race continues from the mountains to the vineyards, from Borovets to Starosel. It will be a long day with no less then 200 km special stage for Cross Country and 175 km for the Extreme Class in a total distance of close to 400km.