The 28th edition of the Rallye Breslau took place in Poland from 27 June to 1 July. This year, Breslau had a particular connection with its history, with European history and with current events. Rallye Breslau is the Europe's oldest license-free off-road rally for Bikes, ATV, SSV, Cars and Trucks in Extreme and Cross Country categories. From Zagan to Drawsko Pomorskie the 290 competitors drove 1500 km in Cross Country category and 1300 km of itinerary for the Extreme.
Photography and story by Paolo Baraldi
The Rallye Breslau, with almost 30 years of history and traditions, is the greatest meeting point for European off-road drivers, who share the same passion and follow the same principles. Three generations of participants met in Poland at the end of June to compete in legendary Breslau.
The 2022 edition was a very special edition, with unique connections for a race in Europe. For many teams and members of the Orga it has been like a journey back in time with many memories coming back to life. It was also the edition with a special connection to the European history of World War II.
A historic homecoming for the Rallye Breslau
The Rallye Breslau 2022 returned to the Zagan region with tracks that had not been covered since 2009. The show start took place in the heart of the city of Zagan (historical partner of Breslau) in front of the town hall.
The Rallye Breslau meets the true history of the Great Escape
But what does European history have to do with Rallye Breslau?
This year a lot!
The first bivouac was set up in a very special place. In fact it was located where Stalag VIIIC once stood, along the road that runs towards the Harry Tunnel. Historically very important place of the Second World War and made famous by the film The Great Escape.
Marek Lazarz, director of the Muzeum Obozów Jenieckich (Museum of prison camps) built in 1971, welcomed me with great availability and told me this important piece of history. The museum commemorates the prison camps set up in Zagan during the Second World War. The museum serves as a memorial and its collection contains a multitude of artifacts related to the Żagań stalags. It also serves as a meeting place for former POWs and their descendants from around the world.
One of the camps was the infamous Stalag Luft 3 for Allied aviators known for the mass evasion of 76 prisoners in 1944. The event was immortalized in the 1963 film "The Great Escape".
In 1943, prisoners of war from Stalag Luft 3 began preparing for one of the largest escapes of World War II. It involved digging three tunnels in parallel. The tunnels were nicknamed "Tom", "Dick" and "Harry" and more than six hundred prisoners of war took part in the preparation of the operation.
"Harry" was the longest of the tunnels. Excavated at a depth of 9 meters, it was about 110 meters long.
The plan called for the escape of two hundred people. Finally, on the night of March 24, 1944, 76 prisoners fled the camp. It was the largest prisoner-of-war escape during the war, known worldwide as the "Great Escape".
Yet only three of the fugitives would return home. The remaining seventy-three were captured and fifty of them were shot by Hitler's personal order.
Zagan where the roots of the Rallye Breslau are located
On Sunday, immediately after the Show Start, the qualifying prologue took place on military terrain near the city of Zagan; prologue that determined the starting order for the first leg of the rally on Monday.
On Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 June, the race traveled only strictly permitted routes in the military areas in the Zagan region. It was a real victory for RBI Sport, led by Alex Kovatchev, to have obtained the permits for these areas which surely awakened great memories for the competitors who participated in the Rallye Breslau 12-15 years ago.
The tracks of these first days of competition were fast and difficult for navigation. Unfortunately, due to the permanent training of the army, it was not possible to access the land where the Extreme category would have felt at home. They certainly enjoyed the tracks of the Polish Sahara and the difficult tank roads.
Drawsko Pomorskie, tested all categories of the Rallye Breslau
On Wednesday 29th the race moved to Drawsko Pomorskie, the same great polygon as always but with a new bivouac. This area, in this particular historical moment, was full of military forces and once again it was a great challenge to find the right path for the race. Military who dictated the programming of the various special stages.
At Drawsko, the Extreme have finally found the infamous waters and swamps areas of the shooting range that characterize this historic category of Breslau. While the Extreme fought the mud, the Cross Country challenged each other along the fast tracks of the polygon with their navigation and driving problems.
On Thursday 30th, to make Breslau even more challenging, the Night Stage took place.
The Rallye Breslau has always been a challenge for everyone who participated in it and this year was no different. It's anything but easy, and RBI Sport has maintained this tradition for a long time. This is because it is a special event that leaves "scars" and memories for a lifetime. And if by chance you feel weak and desperate because you haven't slept much, just think of the Breslau Orga, which does not age from one rally to another and has to be on the field from the first to the last competitor in the race. But this is part of our life and we are all Rally People!
On Friday, stage number 5 with only one selective section put the last icing on the cake for this year. Shortly before the end of the special stage, the paths of bikes, quads, cars, SSVs, Trucks came together to reach the last milestone. This last moment, deserved and dreamed of by all, will be remembered by all from the photo with the medal under the arch of the Rallye Brslau.
The Friday night awards ceremony closed this incredible race week.
The comment of Alexander Kovatchev, race director of Rallye Breslau
At the end of the rally, the race director of Breslau Alex Kovatchev was tired, but happy. "It was a really big challenge to organize and manage the race. With the very complicated political, economic and with many other crisis situations in Europe, I think this was the most difficult rally to make in my whole long career. But I think we made it, and we made it very well, according to the highest standards of RBI International. And I saw, that the competitors were happy and that makes myself even happier".
After a small rest, all the eyes will be turned toward the next race of the so called "RBI Series". If everything is going according to the plans, in the beginning of October will be the 10th edition of the famous Balkan Offroad Rally. This time, the race will be in the beautiful Sibiu area of Romania.
All the podiums of the Rallye Breslau 2022
Starting with the bikes, or Enduro class of Rallye Breslau 2022, it was well deserved victory for Nerimantas Jucius (#28, Husqvarna). The pilot from Lithuania managed more than 19 minutes advance at the end versus Matthew Grid (#5, KTM) from South Africa. Third place in the marathon claimed Eduard Hillebrand (#75, KTM) from Nederland.
In the ATV class, we saw double podium for our host-country Poland, as well as for the Polaris brand. Undoubted win for Rafal Jawien, who crossed the finish line 20 minutes (and one second) in front of the "silver medalist" Ireneusz Ostafin. Top 3 completed Adomas Gancierius from Latvia with CFMOTO quad.
Moving to the SSV class, Michiel Becx (#105) with his "extraterrestrial" Arcane T3 managed to be the best driver in Rallye Breslau 2022. The Dutch pilot "escaped" the Lithuanian pressure with 8 minutes, leaving the Can Am pilots from the Baltic country Jonas Raudeliunas (#165) and Tomas Guzauskas (#102) on the second and third place.
In the Car Cross Country class, and more especially in the “open” group, Urvo Mannama (#218) was leading the rally from the very beginning and stayed as leader to the end. The Estonian pilot with his amazing Century desert bolide often was the fastest in the mixed rankings, and managed to make the comfortable 45 minutes against his main rival at the finish. This rival was Ronald Schoolderman (#219, Mitsubishi ASX), who claimed the second place with more than 20 minutes advance versus his fellow countryman Rik Van Den Brink (#201, Borgward).
In the Cars Limited class, class, the winner of Rallye Breslau 2022 was Piotr Borys from Poland, behind the wheels of Mitsubishi Pajero (#255).
In the Truck Cross Country class, after a big battle between two German pilots, it was Benjamin Kittler (#411, KAT 1A). The second place came for Tom Heurer and his famous Tatra (#403), and third on the podium was Aad Van Velsen with Scania (#404) from Nederland.
As for the Extreme category, the podium in the car class was fully occupied by French drivers. And it was a duel to the last meters, as Romain Porchere (#310, Construmental Proto) claimed the victory with only 2:20 minutes in front of Benoit Bonnefoy (#328, Mercedes). Well deserved "bronze medal" for Gillaume Boudoux and his Land Rover (#327).
In the Limited cars group, the title went to Oliver Schwermann from Germany, also with Land Rover (#309).
After the battle in the Small Extreme Trucks class, on top on the finish was Stefen Braun (#453, Unimog). The German made huge 5 hours advance versus Urmas Uffert from Estonia (#469, MOG Proto), and the Baltic driver was some 2 and a half hours in front of Alfred Wemhof (#468, Unimog, DEU).
In the Big Truck Extreme class, the title was claimed by Henri Verhoeven from Nederland with Ginaf (#466), who made comfortable one-and-a-half-hour advance to Oliver Leyh from Germany (#457, MAN KAT). The podium was completed by another German driver - Silvio Menz, also with MAN KAT (#454).