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Budapest-Bamako: Amateur-Rally started on Saturday morning

Early in the morning on January 17, 2009 the participants of the fourth Budapest-Bamako Rally set off from the Hungarian capital Budapest. Despite of the freezing weather towsends of spectators gathered around the start ramp to cheer the crews, who started from exactly the same place where the scrutineering of the Central Europe Rally was held in April last year.

The first vehicle the leave Felvonulási tér was the pace car, a beautifully rebuilt Peugeot 504 driven by the founder of the rally, Andrew G. Szabó himself. Then the teams drove (rode) through the start ramp one by one in order of their entry into the waiting area, starting with the two crews of the Travel Channel which is to make and broadcast a series of five programs about the rally in May. After a selection procedure, one duo from the UK and one from the Netherlands got the opportunity to tackle the adventures in two identical Suzuki Samurais. The ’Green Knights’, namely Robert Bell and Chris Drumney (both UK, car No 121) have never been to Budapest yet and were amazed by the beauty of the Hungarian capital. The two lively ladies from the Netherlands, Nynke Doorenbos and Amarja Niehof in car No 120 started under the team name ’From Holland with Love’.

The vehicles represented a colourful mix from old and special ones like the VW Beetle or the FSO Polones Ambulans, which was ’saved’ from a Warsaw scrap-ground, the two Rally Trabants of German Guiness record holder D-Rolf and his helper ’the baker of the Sahara’ Wilfried Janke to the Nissan of three times winner Slovakian couple Juraj Ulrich and Danka Ulrichova, the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution of Slovenian Robert and Tea Slavec, the seven Hummers of the Czech Hummer Racing Team (lead by former Dakar co-driver Mila Janacek and accompanied by member Gabi Kulcsar) and also some nail new cars, mostly Nissans, prepared by the same company which takes care of the Navara of the Hungarian cross country rally champion Laszlo Palik.

Beside them also took off four ambulance cars (after the rally, three of them will serve in Mali, one in Mauritania), a big truck of Herczegh Specialtransport, packed fully with the donations of ’Hungary for Africa’ and also an old fire engine.

Other interesting members of the field were the Citroen DS of Norwegian Hans Petter Svege and Sturla Bang and the Citroen 2 CV of Hungarian Viktor Lengyel and Laszlo Racz for whom it’s not the first time at the Bamako. And what brings them back to Africa? „We return to find the camera we lost last year”, explains Lengyel with a big smile.

To make the transfer from Budapest to the shores of Africa a bit more interesting, there are some tasks to solve for points already on these stages. As at all tasks during the rally, the teams can decide if they take part in a certain task or not. Those who were cunning could take some advantage already here.

But because of the long, 750 km stage to Brescia (Italy) only a few teams decided to solve these first tasks, the majority of the crews took the motorway through Austria instead. But, like at the Dakar, throughout the route in Hungary and Austria, fans cheered the teams from motorway bridges and in the villages crossed. Even at the petrol stations where the crews stopped spectators gathered quickly to see the vehicles.

As the start of the first stage, after only some kilometres the competitors had to find a hidden character with the help of the GPS – near a stone-pit. The navigation was quite tricky: two parallel ways but only one of them led the crews back to the rally route, the other one ended up in the stone-pit, so there was a good chance of getting lost on the very first kilometres of the Budapest-Bamako.

Bad news, that already on the first day one of the participants had to abandon after slipping on the icy surface and breaking a leg. The 850 km long Sunday leg leads the caravan to from Brescia in Italy to Montpellier in France, before on Monday they go on to Spain to ferry To Morocco – where the action actually begins.

2009/01/19 | 01:50 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Rita Konya

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