|Croatia Trophy: Croatia Trophy is back and this field is home to 80 teams.|
The first week of May has been marked in the calendars of many of Europe's top off-roading teams and the normally deserted little hamlet of Staro Selo, by the Bosnian border, is ringing with the sounds of angle grinders and hammers on metal. The Croatia Trophy is back and this field is home to 80 teams from as far and wide as Spain, Russia, Norway, Malta and Israel.
Yesterday was the prologue, a short blast to put on a show for the spectators and to sort out the running order for the first real stage. The beasts went head to head around a course with a bog, nasty back, slide slope and some tight trees.
Some tipped over, some got lost, others broke down... some had the traction to drive straight up the slope, others struggled for ages trying to winch up... but in the end the cream rose to the top, the UK's Jim Marsden took the fastest time and was the first to start today's proper test.
The genial event director Igor Bozikovic was in the HQ building (a builder's portacabin in a corner of the field, looked quite calm as he looked at the print out that told him that less than half the field had managed to finish the stage and get out of the forest. “It's about right with out plan. It wasn't supposed to be an easy stage,” he shrugged.
3rd was the UK's Jim Marsden of Team Gigglepin. “It all went perfectly for the first 800 metres,” he smiled. “But as we were powering up a slope we caught a tree on the inside which pushed us out over the bank. We almost got out of it but caught another tree and that tipped us over. We only lost about a minute though as we were on our wheels and gone before the next car came.”
fastest time went to last year's runner up, Hungarian Boros Csaba in his Jeep Proto. English was a bit of a problem in his camp but I understood that he had a good day, found some good mud and that if I bring bottle of vodka around next time they'll speak better English!
Next door was the 2012 Malaysian Rainforest Challenge winner Roman Kulbak in his portal axled Suzuki Jimny which they'd shipped all the way from Vladivostok in the far east of Russia. His co-driver Arkady Aronov explained, “It's a lot different to the RFC. There you know exactly what the stage is but here every corner is blind so you have to think about what you have to do when you arrive there and see what is in front of you."
"When I get a moment to look out of the window what I see is always beautiful but the problem is that after the first 5 cars have gone through the track is already destroyed. It's a road for the first car but for the last it is a bog! So it's very important to get a good start position.” For their first stage in Europe they finished a creditable 7th.
With the sad accolade of being first to go home were the Spanish team to go home were Roberto Garcia Lazo and Jose Antonio Leon. A small electrical part that sits next to the distributor failed for the third time... the original, the spare and the only other one in the whole of Croatia had died, and so they had to give up... But with 20 cars in Trophy Class not making the finish theirs was certainly not the only tale of woe...
But the general atmosphere in camp is one of relaxation. Jaap Betsema in the biggest and loudest car in the event sailed through the stage. “It went through the bogs were like boat!” he laughed. But with 44' Bogger tyres and nearly 500bhp on tap it could. They got 4th overall today but are over an hour behind Csaba.
5th, or thereabouts as they didn't seem all that bothered, were the French team of Antoine and Benoit Reul in their Land Rover. “Nothing to hard, everything is OK,” Antoine shrugged as he blew the mud out of a brake disk with a high pressure air hose.
In the Adventure class, for slightly less brutal machines than the top Trophy class monsters, David De Raedt has downsized slightly from his usual Unimog to his Minimog, a CF Moto Rancher. “It was hard to follow the roadbook, but we only had to winch 3 times,” he said.
“But my co-driver had to run a lot.” I asked why, seeing as they only had to winch 3 times. “Because Minimog is only 650kg and without the extra 105kg of my co-driver it steers a lot better. And actually if we had to do another 3km then all of the wheels would have fallen off as the spacers have all come loose!”
2013/05/07 | 11:55 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/PRITCHARD