Day 1: Budapest- Baia Mare

April 30, 2008

After a quick scrutiny/check-in process in Budapest and some flattering attention from the locals (Hungarian cowgirls? who would have thought) , we are off to the first day of racing.  A pleasant liaison drive from Budapest to the first special, the crowd is cheering. So far so good. 

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But then we get to the special and everything starts happening way too fast: we rush to the starting line to make our designated start time, not really comfortable yet with our seats, helmets, gloves, and harnesses, and before we know it the official at the start line counts with the fingers of one hand: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and go!  I’m driving the first day and Nadav is the navigator; really rough terrain, very tight corners, very bumpy; super narrow tracks, trees and bushes on both sides; mud, murky windshield, washer doesn’t work well; we never drove in a course like this before, much different than the Moroccan sand dunes; not sure that I have complete control of the car and want to go slower, especially after seeing a car overturned on its side and the driver laying on the ground, trying not to move and obviously in serious pain; see a video of the first stage to get a sense for the track:

But then a very loud buzzer goes off in our cabin and we are being overtaken time and time again by faster drivers; concerned that pretty soon the gigantic trucks will show up and will force us off the track we pick up speed, intense concentration, and somehow in a blur finish the 60km of the first special…

Wow… both of us sweat bullets and breath hard; huge relief, we survived the first special, and even moved up the ranking from 81st to 52nd place!!! It feels so good we don’t even notice that we broke the front differential shaft and probably didn’t have front wheel drive for most of the special…  

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Now the awesome team of Rally Raid UK mechanics jumps into action and in no time the car  is serviceable again.  We are off to a 400+ km liaison to Baia Mare, Romania.

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On the Road again: the Central European Rally

April 30, 2008



Nadav and I are back in the saddle, just competed the Central European Rally that took place last week in Hungary and Romania.  This was a make-up event that the Dakar organizers put together after the 2008 Lisbon-Dakar race was canceled due to terrorism threats.

central european rally map

While it wasn’t the Dakar in terms of terrain, landscapes, and length, it was a great event that attracted most of the top professional teams and more than half of the competitors who registered for the Lisbon-Dakar race.  Some 130 bikes and quads, 92 cars, and 40 trucks started the race on Sunday in Budapest, Hungary.   Relatively speaking it was not a long event (2,600 km overall and only 1,100 km of off-road sections), but it was quite brutal and a lot of competitors, including some of the top drivers, had to drop out.  Within the car category only 55 cars got the the finish line at Lake Balaton, Hungary, and much to our surprise Nadav and I were among them! So while we were not exactly a direct threat to Carlos Sainz who won the race (we finished 53 out of 55 cars),  still we were ahead of almost 40 other competitors who didn’t finish, so it felt GREAT! 


Overall the Desert Warriors did really well in this rally.  Of the 8 that started the race, one retired the first day with a fully functioning car, and the other 7 managed to complete the race.   Not that the vehicles didn’t have problems: in our team we had to replace a broken axle, broken differential shaft, a full set of shock absorbers, clutch bearing, steering wheel pump and brakes just to name a few.  But because the car is designed for simple repair and maintenance, our mechanics (who are the real heroes behind this sport ) were able to get each and every Desert Warrior back into service within hours or even minutes and allowed us drivers to complete the race despite all the abuse and punishment we inflicted upon the cars. 

Over the next few days I will try to tell the story of our race by the different days.  But just to give you a taste, see how our 2nd day ended (no, it is not Photoshop :)).