On Tuesday September 15, almost 250 teams from at least 20 nationalities, including Poland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and many others will start for the Rallye Breslau Poland. Five days, with roadbooks through the forests and across the fields and moorland - an adventure that has its roots in the previous century and has been in Poland for over 25 years. There is no summer without the Rallye Breslau in this region, and luckily this year is no exception. Jim Marsden won in the Extreme car category while Frank Stensky won in the Cross Country car category.
Photography by Paolo Baraldi, story by RBI Media
From 1995 to today, the Rallye Breslau Poland has represented a fixed appointment for every European off-roader and also in this particular 2020, which has heavily marked the life of each of us, Alexander Kovatchev, organizer of Breslau, was not intimidated and, with the necessary precautions against Covid 19, was staged with the race from 15 to 19 September.
Breslau Poland 2020, start your engines!
On Tuesday September 15, 09:30 local time last years’ winner of the motorbike ranking Mirjam Pol will start as the first competitor in the Rallye Breslau Poland, and open what is perhaps the first international rally raid that takes place after the summer of 2020. Start your engines, we will race!
Almost 250 teams from at least 20 nationalities, including Poland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and many others will start in this international event. Bikes, ATV, Side by sides, Cars and Trucks will compete over five days in the most beautiful areas of North-West of Poland.
Five days, with roadbooks through the forests and across the fields and moorland - an adventure that has its roots in the previous century and has been in Poland for over 25 years. There is no summer without the Rallye Breslau in this region, and luckily this year is no exception.
At stake is the honour of winning a legendary event on European soil. With 40% new competitors there is no way to say ahead of the race who has the best chances. New competitors bring experience from the desert, from the mountains and from local competitions all over Europe: how will they adapt to the forest?
This year the navigation will be more crucial than ever before. Having moved to september, even the ‘aficionados’ of the rally will have to chance their routine as the vegetation and the visibility are completely different from what they are used to. We know for sure the navigation and the cooperation in the team with the driver, co-driver and mechanics will be the decision maker in this competition.
“How we managed to make the Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 happen? We never stopped organising!” says organiser Alexander Kovatchev. “The trust given to us by the competitors is something special, just as the strong connections we have with our Polish partners and the cooperation with our sponsors. It is the result of many years of hard and silent work, and we are happy to be here in Poland.”
Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 – day 1: the glove is on the table
The glove is on the table in the Rallye Breslau Poland 2020, with fierce competition right from the start. During the 272km of today’s stage the top drivers were constantly changing position. It was a true competition for the fastest time and the first place on the first day of perhaps the first and only international rally-raid after the summer of 2020.
The stories of today are glowing with joy, as the forests of Bobolice and Dretyn received the competitors in true ‘Breslau’ style with pleasure, speed and competitive racing. The Rallye Breslau Poland allows you to compete with all your skill and knowledge, and when you get it right it rewards you with good results.
Cars: Fantastic to be back.
“It is fantastic to be back in the car!” says stagewinner in the car category Dave Klaassen at the finish of the first special. Dave and his navigator Tessa Rooth have been quick to learn the rules of the game in rally raid, and are able to navigate and drive fast enough to capture the flag on this historic day.
After the first stage, what looked like a fight between Herman Jasper, Frank Stensky and Ronald Schoolderman turned around to the advantage of strategic drivers and good navigators. In the Breslau, it is the navigation that wins, and the speed that looses time. To balance them is a careful act. When you push too much, time gets lost.
Benny Dille and Sander Dille race a modified HZJ73, a classic Toyota Land Cruiser. Not a fast car, but faultless navigation brings them to a second place in the Car ranking, ahead of the armada of fast rally raid cars in the Cross Country class. It is a pleasure to see them on the track, making such great results with a simple car and steady driving.
Bikes: The roadbook gives a strong message.
Starting in the morning in the high grass of Bobolice, last years’ winner Mirjam Pol takes it very easy with a 20th place as result. Andrius Likus and Paul Spierings battle for the first place with Rob van Vegchel, who was the fastest biker on the first stage. “These stages give such a strong message,” Rob says. “You need to navigate, and be so careful with the distances and choices you make. It is a fantastic game to play!”
Matthias Haidt still loves the Breslau, even after 15 years of racing. “My bike is even older, it has done every one of these races with me. There is something nice about going into the forest, finding the route, opening the throttle when you’re sure. It was fun today!” And the pleasure of racing, that is what the Breslau is about. In a year such as this one, the best thing to do is enjoy these opportunities!
Racing a big bike in a tight forest is not for the faint of heart: Tomas Mankowski knows all about it. “I want to prove myself I can do this, but the choice for my KTM 950 could not be more unfortunate. For me it is simple, it is the only bike I have.” Finishing as 26th bike in the stage today, for sure he cannot complain about his results!
SSV Class: the fastest in the field.
Ramunas Kembre is the fastest driver on the stage today with his Can AM. In a huge field of side by sides, the fun and speed are there in this class. He is being chased by Tank Tsankov and Yann van Beek, who occupy the second and third place today. During the day the ranking changed as the competitors were chasing each other and pushing beyond the limit of their vehicles.
Balkan Offroad Rallye winner Konstantin Cholakov was leading in the first stage, but reached the finish with technical difficulties, Philon Parpottas took over but turned his SSV into a 2WD, breaking the front diff, etc. The forest is full of stories like these. The recovery crew is busy collecting everyone, and we will see who is able to repair and restart tomorrow morning!
Trucks: Enjoying the forest.
“We are competing in the Extreme Truck Class, but often we found ourselves racing with the Dakar trucks!” Henri Verhoeven races his GINAF through the tight forest, enjoying the sharp turns and difficult terrain. “This is the type of driving for which we’ve built our truck, fantastic!”
Winner of the stage today is Tom Heuer in his Tatra, who is able to make an incredible speed in this difficult terrain. He has a reputation for being fast, which he shares with many of the new teams who compete on the Breslau this year. As he also has a good hand in choosing his navigator, tomorrow he can open the stage in this class.
Extreme Class: exciting battle ahead.
Jim Marsden set the pace today in the Extreme Class, with the fastest time in the provisional results. But Hardo Mere, Franck Daurelle, Eric Plomp, Matthias Hertwig and Gilles Girousse are all within a good 15 minutes of him. The hillclimb in Dretyn was difficult for the first teams, who tried to break their front axles, jumping in true ‘Formula Offroad’ style. Yet most of the teams mastered the obstacles today with style, with a very close field as a final result.
“Hardo Mere is really competitive,” says Franck Daurelle, “his speed will be difficult to match even for Jim Marsden!” It will be a fast Breslau in this class, who drive their own roadbook in a combination of cross country and trophy as a tribute to the classic Breslau concept.
To be tempted or to stay calm…
The ability to race in Poland is highly regarded by the competitors, who are truly enjoying the competition. The glove is on the table right from the start, and when you let go and are tempted to race beyond your skill… your can be lucky, or not. The Breslau is famous for being tough, for being fun and for being both a rally at speed and a mental game for the competitors.
Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 – day 2: from the black soil to the deep sand
A long day in the forest, going from Miastko to Borne Sulinowo on two specials through completely different forests: the production area of Borne, with the pine trees and deep dry sand and the old forest near Miastko with oak and black soil. There are few races with such a variety of terrain as the Breslau Poland: if you can compete here, you can race almost everywhere.
Flying Dutchman wins the bike ranking.
In the Bike category it is Paul Spierings who takes the lead in the provisional ranking, ahead of Tiziano Interno and Rob van Vegchel. “Now I’ve found my pace!”, says Paul, who is happy to be back on the bike. “And this sand, I love it!” Romualdas Karuzis has the fastest time on his ATV, an he is happy to be here with the entire ‘Specialist Racing Team’. “We race in different classes, and we all want to make a good result!”
Joachim Streeck has taken a completely different route in the competition, joining the Breslau with his BMW GS 1200 motorbike which is almost as heavy as an ATV. “I wanted to know if it is possible to do this, so I basically jumped into the cold water. It is a fantastic adventure, really accessible. But with the BMW it is not the easiest way to do it. As long as you can keep it rolling, everything is fine!”
Tsanko Tsankov, the man to beat in the SSV.
It is a Bulgarian show in the SSV ranking today, with Tsanko Tsankov and Konstantin Cholakov playing on the stage for the first and second place. “It is fantastic to race a Can AM!” says Konstantin. “I am really happy I made the choice to go to this class and compete here, it is fun!” As they are playing together, Yann van Beek is the strategist who stays right behind them. “We don’t want to go so fast, but at 85% we have no navigation mistakes so we can keep up!”
Leading the pack in a classic Toyota.
A rare sight in rally raid is the classic nose of the Toyota HZJ73 of the Dille brothers from the Netherlands, leading a pack of high performance cars from Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. “Somehow it works!” says Sander Dille. “In the end they overtook us, as we ripped the gearbox mount from the chassis and had to go slow to reach the finish.” It is the story of the underdog, the two brothers who race in the day and work at night to prepare the car.
After a DNF on the first day Rik van den Brink is racing for the day, and makes good progress doing so. He is part of the 4x4 Centrum Ermelo team, who came to the rally with new cars, to test and to play. Winning a day on the first event with a new car is what you hope for, and it is well deserved for this Dutch team.
Frank Stensky and Jorg Grunbeck defend the German honour in the Cross Country Class. Frank is second, and happy to see his progress in the overall ranking. For Jorg, a seventh place is reason enough to be happy. “It was a tough and long day, the forests here seem endless! It is such a pleasant landscape, the variety is great. We cannot be happy enough to have a chance to race this year.”
High speed in the Extreme Class.
Speed is high in the Extreme class with Jim Marsden and Hardo Mere trying to beat each other while the others wait for the first mistake. “Their speed is fantastic,” says Eric Plomp. “But we cannot go any faster than we do now. It is really a nice event, very different from what we as trophy team are used to. Faster, longer. We have never done so many kilometers in our car. The organisation is a surprise, it is really well done with a high safety standard. We look forward to Drawsko!”
Focus on the race in the truck class.
“What the others are doing in the Truck class?” Tom Heuer grins as he thinks about the answer. He is leading the truck ranking with his Tatra. Perhaps the others have more horsepower and bigger engines but they cannot match his speed. “For sure they will be faster. But I think it doesn’t help them, they should focus more on the navigation.” Even though he leads the race right from the start, he’s not bored yet. “Not at all!”
Viktor Merkovics already discovered the best way to increase the speed in the Breslau, as he and his team are enjoying the event. “We’ve come here with the entire family,” says Laszlo Komaromi, “and it is fun to compete in these forests. You cannot say it is way, as the track can be quite difficult for the truck. But we try to be fast and improve each race. It is good to measure ourselves with such good and friendly teams as we see here!”
Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 – day 3: open the throttle or stay calm?
On the third day of the Rallye Breslau Poland the route goes from Miastko and Okonek towards the forests of Drawsko Pomorski, for a gruelling night stage on the sand tracks. As we send out this press release the teams are still on the track for the final special of the day, going deep into the night.
The stage today started on the yellow sand of Czarne, the famous polygon that is a challenge for everyone who’s been there. It temps you to open the throttle, drift through the corners and jump over each and every crest, a fantastic feeling in a magical landscape with fast sand tracks and wide corners. It is the miracle of the Breslau, to have the ability to race so close to home and in such a variety of terrains.
Pleasure in racing is in the landscape, but most of all in the game with the other competitors, in chasing and being chased. On the stages in the Breslau we see constant changing of positions, fights between competitors - everyone is in a sporting mood. Until the start in Drawsko It was Marcin Gracyk leading in the Side by Side ranking, followed by Dave Klaassen in the Redline Nissan.
Paul Spierings maintains his position as fastest biker, opening the night stage with flair and an extensive lead already after the first kilometers. Andrius Likus, the fastest competitor in the ATV class cannot keep up with him, although that might change now we have moved to Drawsko. Moving to Drawsko is moving to a area in Poland, with thick sand, small rivers and a different vegetation.
The track is dry, the forest is calm but everything seems different from the previous stages: the corners, the grip, the smell… for those who race in Poland it is familiar terrain. “It is like our home,” says Maciej Pelc, who is racing a Patrol in the extreme class together with his wife. “The entire year, we look forward to this event. It is a marathon, you need be smart all week long to finish here!"
Felix Muellenheim is celebrating today as he brings his new Unimog to the first position in the race. “It was fantastic!” says Felix. “We built it for this type of racing, where the roadbook and the stage challenge you, demand you to use the brain, the engine and your suspension. For me, this is already a great day!” He is leading a pack of strong and powerful machines, with experienced teams who look for a tough challenge.
So far the Extreme Class in the Breslau has been fast, and the competitors look forward to the water crossings, the swamps and the difficulties that are expected in Drawsko. Leaders Hardo Mere and Jim Marsden are still playing hide & seek together, occupying the first two places in the Extreme Car category, and their competitors are waiting for the mud and the water to see a first mistake.
Zero mistakes: This is the goal of Dave Klaassen and Tessa Rooth who hope to keep their lead in the race today. The young team has made considerable progress in the recent years, competing in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. The Breslau is their step up from weekend events to marathon rallye, suited to their fast Redline Nissan rallycar.
Bigger might not be better: Matthias Hertwig and Philipp Rothkegel both choose a classic Suzuki Samurai, the legendary 4x4 that brought many people into the sport. Matthias races together with his brother Martin, competing in the Breslau since 2008. Philipp Rothkegel has a car with a history dating back to the classic ‘vier stunden rennen’, four hour races, in Germany.
Philipps’ Suzuki is still close to the original vehicle, and a dream for those who like the brand. What remains of the 2008 car that brought Matthias and Martin into the sport is unclear, perhaps bodywork or the steering wheel? Martin and Matthias have changed and improved their Samurai to such an extend that it ‘contains Suzuki parts’ and has become an artwork of offroad engineering.
There is no pauze after the night stage: the competition continues tomorrow morning with a long stage in the forests of Drawsko. At sunrise we will know who has made it to the end, and who has lost himself in the darkness of the night.
Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 – day 4: the night before the last day
The end of the Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 is in sight: tomorrow is the last day and the last chance to gain or loose places in the ranking. Almost 150 kilometers of special stage in Drawsko separate the competitors from the finish line, and as we know it is still a ‘Breslau’, so anything can happen!
Frank Stensky came to defend his title, and he had been leading the Car Cross Country class since the beginning of the week. “We had to open the stage today, there was not even a SSV in sight and it was really nice to find the route. But you loose a lot of time. In order to be fast you have to be in the top but not the first!”
Starting the stage knowing that you have to be fast creates a special atmosphere in the car. There are many competitors for Franks’ first place: Jaroslaw Andrzejewski follows within minutes, just as Dave Klaassen and Herman Jasper. It takes one mistake, one wrong turn or a flat tyre to have a completely different podium after the stage tomorrow.
The same tension is in the SSV class, where Tsanko Tsankov has disappeared after the night stage, and Jacek Zak has taken over as leader of the provisional ranking. With just a few minutes ahead of Yann van Beek and Kees Box, tomorrow will be madness on the stage.
What to expect from the last day? Navigation will be the most difficult, with fast sections across the endless sand in the forests of Drawsko alternated with the small tracks in the forest and many many turns and junctions. Can you smell the right direction? This is the place to test yourself!
The Extreme class got wet today. “Alex! What are you doing to us!” shouted James Ayre, co-driver of Jim Marsden, to organiser Alexander Kovatchev as he swam towards the shore on one of the Extreme sections today on the stage. It was a real fight between the teams: Jim was leading, followed by Franck & Francoise. As they crossed the water, Hardo arrived, floored his car and reached the shore without winching, overtaking everyone. Within 100 meter you can win of loose everything.
A Specialist Team with or without irony - Andrius Liskus is leading the enduro class, his teammate Romualdas is second in the ATV class: the Lithuanians are fast and successful in the Breslau. Andrius has just minutes lead over Paul Spierings, who will try to pass him on the stage tomorrow.
Over 20 ATV’s compete this year in the Rallye Breslau Poland. Leader is Daniel Radzio, a household name in the Breslau. He tries to keep Romualdas Karuzis and Arkadiusz Lindner at a distance, but the difference is small. It is just incredible, the speed of the ATVs combined with the navigation skills of the top riders makes this a very attractive class to follow.
Almost certain of the 1st place is Tom Heuer, who is at a comfortable 2 hour lead over Lars Jans and William van Groningen. Normally you would go slower, but Tom has his racing pace and the Tatra just keeps going. The battle tomorrow is between the two Dutchmen, Lars and William, who will decide about place 2 and 3 on the podium.
We did not expect such a competitive ranking as we see here, with just minutes between the competitors after four long days of racing. And not just among the leaders in the race, the Rallye Breslau Poland is a competitive and friendly event for everyone. Tonight the mechanics will prepare the vehicles for the last time, and we all look forward to the last and decisive day, tomorrow September 19, 2020!
Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 – day 5: it ain’t over till it is over
The fifth and last day of the Rallye Breslau Poland is a monster of the stage, one of the must difficult in terms of navigation and exhaustion. It is a fantastic stage, going deep into the forest, across the plains and through the valleys on the Polygon of Drawsko. Today, the podium will be decided, on the last 150 km of the Rallye Breslau Poland!
Bikes & ATV: Losing it on the last day.
Andrius Liskus is the first to find out that it is only over when it is over. He started in the first position, with the goal to keep it until the finishline. “But I got so horribly lost! My tripmaster died and I drove at least 5 km in the wrong direction, and I lost time and my chance to a first place!”
His position goes to Paul Spierings, who wins the Rallye Breslau Poland in the enduro class. “It was not easy today!” he says at the finishline, with a face red from the adrenaline. As he finds out he wasn’t the only one with problems today the smile comes back: Paul brings the title to the Netherlands!
“This race is though, on the body and on the brain,” says Daniel Radzio, who wins the ATV class. For a good competition you need someone to write a difficult roadbook like we have here in the Rallye Breslau Poland, and Daniel can easily handle it. “The competition is good, and I am very happy to be on the podium.
SSV: Sportmanship rewarded.
Yann van Beek and Emanuel Barraux win the SSV class, ahead of Kees Box and Hein Verschuuren. “We helped a crashed biker on the track today,” Yann said. “So I thought we lost our position, but someone in need is more important than the race. In the end, Alex Kovatchev gave us the time back, and we are on the podium. We never expected this!”
Even though he is not on the podium, Kees Koolen is happy to be at the finishline. “It is a lot of fun, very different from what I usually do. The distances in the roadbook are very short, you have to pay a lot of attention. For us it was very difficult to find the way. But the stages of yesterday and today were perfect, both in terms of distance and complexity. I look forward to next year!”
Car Cross Country: Frank, the man to beat.
‘The man to beat’ proves he has all it takes to lead the Rallye Breslau Poland. “Last night we replaced the shocks, so we could push today and win the race,” Frank says at the finishline. “We made no mistakes, but is was not easy at all!” The competition never sleeps, and this year there were plenty candidates for the podium.
“We love this!” says Jaroslaw Andrzejewski, who finishes second in the Car Cross Country class. “It is a strong competition, a real fight andto very long race. Today we drove all day on our own, but we are thinking about the others and about the time. To arrive on the podium, that is fantastic!”
Car Extreme: Perseverance leads to the podium.
Perhaps almost as fast as the Cross Country class, the ‘Car Extreme’ is related to the heritage of the Rallye Breslau Poland. The idea is to cross natural challenges as part of the race, just like you would do in the desert when crossing the dunes. Jim Marsden and Hardo Mere were leading the entire race at high speed.
Jim wins the Breslau with the same car he used in 2015, beating Hardo Mere with his trophy monster from Estonia. The perseverance of Franck and Francoise is rewarded with a third place on the podium, as both number 3 and 4 in the ranking break down on their way to the finish line: an unexpected ‘cadeau’ for the celebrating lovers.
Truck Cross Country: Make no mistakes.
“Tom Heuer is almost unbeatable for us, he is so constant and makes no mistakes!”, says Lars Jans, finishing second behind Tom. The former Loprais Tatra is the perfect vehicle for this terrain. Agile, comfortable and fast - the team is unbeatable in these conditions.
“In the beginning we were scared to drive through the forests,” says Lars, “But we learned and were able to increase the speed as the week progressed. The cabin and the rear of the truck are still in a good shape, being careful has paid off with a good result!”
Truck Extreme: Winning on your debut.
Radoslaw Kotulski, Lukasz Kotulski and Krzysztof Kania win the Truck Extreme Category, with their mighty 6x6. The young team participates in the Breslau for the first time, but has done everything right. Struggling to deal with the truck and the race in the beginning, they quickly understood what they had to do.
Winners of the ‘never give up’ price is the Britz family, who lost the second axle on their 8x8 MAN KAT in one of the winch sections on the Extreme Route. With the help of the recovery teams and at least 6 experienced mechanics - friends from the Breslau - they managed to repair the truck and start again this morning.
What is better in this time then to be in the forest?
The price giving ceremony of the Rallye Breslau Poland was done directly at the finish, as soon as the timekeepers could produce their results. It is one of the Corona measures that were in place this week, allowing everyone to compete while keeping distance.
Where can you better be during Corona, than alone in the forest with your vehicle and roadbook? Organising this Rallye Breslau 2020 was the cause of a lot of sleepless nights in the organisation team, but the result was a week of racing in a year where it seemed to be impossible to do so. “It’s the Breslau, anything can happen!”
Rallye Breslau Poland 2020 podiums category by category
1 - Paul Spierings (NLD)
2 - Andrius Liskus (LTU)
3 - Tiziano Interno (ITA)
1 - Daniel Radzio Pingwin (POL)
2 - Romualdas Karuzis (LTU)
2 - Gaetan Martinez (FRA)
1 - Yann Van Beek / Emanuel Barraux (FRA)
2 - Kees Box / Hein Verschuuren (NLD)
1 - Marcin Graczyk / Michal Pieluzek (POL)
Cars Limited Cross Country
1 - Andreas Hoehn / Torsten Volk (DEU)
2 - Mike Dittmar / Mario Schneider (DEU)
3 - Thomas Wolthaus / Lisa Lazdins (DEU)
Cars Open Cross Country
1 - Frank Stensky / Alexander Tasch (DEU)
2 - Jaroslaw Andrzejewski / Maciej Radomski (POL)
3 - Herman Jasper / Evert Blaauw (NLD)
Trucks Cross Country
1 - Tom Heuer / Peter Schumann / Christoph Tum (DEU)
2 - Lars Jans / Hans Heerema / Bert uyt Den Bogaard (NLD)
3 - William Van Groningen / Eric Hendrik Metz / Remco Aangeenbrug (NLD)
Cars Limited Extreme
1 - Maciej Pelc / Beata Pelc (POL)
2 - Ronny Van Baal / Dominique Bovens (NLD)
3 - Oliver Groh / Marcel Petermann (DEU)
Cars Open Extreme
1 - Jim Marsden / James Ayre (GBR)
2 - Hardo Mere / Piotr Kujawski (EST-POL)
3 - Franck Daurelle / Francoise Hollender (FRA)
Trucks <7.5T Extreme
1 - Felix Muellenheim / Michael Muellenheim / Boris Glawe (DEU)
2 - Joris Peumans / Maarten De Boer (BEL)
3 - Steffen Braun / Patrick Toepfer / Christian Koepke (DEU)
Trucks >7.5T Extreme
1 - Radoslaw Kotulski / Lukasz Kotulski / Krzysztof Kania (POL)
2 - Alexander Paass / Rudi kruemmel / Torsten Buettner (DEU)
3 - Kay Messner / Nico Huth / Anja Wilhelm (DEU)