The second edition of the Balkan Classic Rally was held from 18th to 23rd September 2017 at the Black Sea coast, one of the most beautiful regions of Bulgaria. 16 cars with crews from Kenya, Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, the United Kingdom and Austria started in the five rally days with total distance of 1867 kms and more than 1000 kms of special stages.
We saw different iconic rallycars from the Golden Era of the automotive industry of the 20th century like several and beautiful built Porsche 911, Mercedes 500 and 280, Triumph TR7, Datsun 240Z, Ford Cortina, Toyota Corolla and Celica - and also one FSO Polonez, the legendary Polish "people’s car" based on a Fiat chassis.
The Balkan Classic was a grueling marathon, where the participants drive as fast as hell on gravel and forest roads, using road book navigation - no turbos and 4x4 allowed. The late summer days made it more interesting, offering more heat than expected and also a lot of dust...
During all the days in the lead we saw a fight especially between the Porsche 911 - and the Mercedes 500 SLC. Race instead of holiday, right from the beginning, the "Shakedown": 1-2-3 for Porsche, Rai / Shah from Kenya, Chager / Soni (also Kenya) and the Belgium/Luxembourg duo Lausberg / Hansen were the fastest in the rally-prologue, liable for the starting order of SS01.
The first leg around the region of Primorsko started with 197 kms timed section and 306 kms overall and was won by the Kenyan crew of Chager / Soni (Porsche 911, 01:48:01), the Belgians Vanhaverbeke / Deplancke (Mercedes 500SLC, 01:49:50) and their compatriots De Mevius / Leyh (Porsche 911, 01:50:50).
The second leg was the longest of the rally, the competitors had to manage 292 kms timed and 425 kms including liaisons. It was a day for the Porsche brand, with only 8:38 minutes lead the Belgians Gregoire de Mevius / Andre Leyh won the day (02:52:01) in front of the two Kenyan teams Chager / Soni (03:00:39) and Rai / Dawe (03:08:36).
Also leg 3 was a day made for the legendary Porsche and again the leading cars were very close to each other. 188 kms racing and 377 kms overall on the plan - and in this stage the Kenyans Rai / Dawe managed to win with 01:52:52, only 50 seconds faster than De Mevius / Leyh and 2:55 minutes faster than Rai / Shah, also from Kenya.
Day 4, 258 kms timed section, 384 kms overall - and again a battle between cars from the German city of Stuttgart, to be exact between "Stuttgart Zuffenhausen" (Porsche) and "Stuttgart Untertürkheim" (Mercedes). Gregoire de Mevius and Andre Leyh got their second stage victory of the rally with 02:29:21, 1:02 minutes in front of the second Porsche of Rai / Dawe (Kenya) but 05:16 minutes faster than the Mercedes 500SLC of Vanhaverbeke / Deplancke.
At least, leg 5 with 157 / 375 kms was the day for the Mercedes 500SLC crew! With 47 seconds lead the Belgians Vanhaverbecke / Deplancke showed that their "Benz" is able to beat all the Porsche and won with 02:06:58. Second (and so first time in the top 3) were the Belgium-Luxembourg crew Lausberg / Hansen in the fastest Porsche, third again De Mevius / Leyh (+2:09).
After 5 days of fierce battle and a lot of emotions, the rally got it´s new champions: Gregoire De Mevius and Andre Leyh won the rally, securing their overall lead just after the second leg.
Fast and precise, the Belgian crew finished the rally with 50 minutes ahead of the Kenyan crew of Onkar Rai and Gareth Dawe (Porsche 911) and 01:08:05 hours ahead of Karim Wissanji / Amaar Slatch (Porsche 911), also from Kenya.
De Mevius / Leyh also grabbed the victory in the class up to 3000 cc.
But sport is not always about winning by any means, there is a magic word called "fairplay", and we saw the meaning of it. On the last stage, the Kenyan Team Baldev Chager / Ravi Soni, lost their second place in the overall to help their compatriots Onkar Rai and Gareth Dawe, who broke the gearbox of their Porsche. And that brought Rai and Dawe to the second position. But, at the ceremony we saw another gentlemen’s act – Onkar gave his trophy to Baldev. It was an amazing story!
In the class for cars with engines up to 1600 cc, the prize grabbed Ewald Holler and Dolly Wittberger (Austria, Datsun 1600). The fastest in the 2000 cc class was the Polish crew Jacek and Michal Bujanski (FSO Polonez), and the winners in the class over 3000 cc were Franco and Natasha Tundo from Kenya with their amazing jewel Triumph TR7.
Now, we are waiting for Balkan Classic Rally 2018 and are looking forward to see more of the 20th century masterpieces of automotive art again in Bulgaria...