A spectacular starting ceremony opened the HunGarian Baja in front of the Thury Castle in Várpalota, which in motorbike category counts as a round of Baja World Cup, while in the car category of Baja European Cup.
Péter Faluvégi, Clerck of the Course said: “A more compact race has been put together by this year’s edition, which means the schedule of the event is going to be tighter. It will surely be challenging for the competitors, but it is the essence of cross-country rally, testing not only the machine, but the man as well. The weather played tricks on us with huge rains over the last couple of weeks, and although the terrain dried up a bit during the last two days, there are still some puddles, half a metre deep in some cases, which can be challenging for the riders.”
The competitors are over the necessary paperwork and scrutineering, and a total 101 units – riders, drivers and two trucks – will start the real race on Friday, with its distance of 615-km, including the 445-km special stages.
In bike category Mohammed Al Balooshi is leading the Baja World Cup, not surprisingly his aim is to keep the leading position, because the rivals are chasing him.
Two-time HunGarian Baja winner, Stefan Svitko has nr. 1 starting number, and explicitly or implicitly, he is one of the riders to beat at the race.
“This is my fourth HunGarian Baja, I won two of them, and finished second once, which shows how I love these stages here. I also heard that there was lots of rain in the last weeks, which I am happy for, because I like the slippery and muddy stages. I am looking forward to the start of the first stage” Stefan Svitko said.
Richárd Hodola represents Hungary among the riders in the World Cup: “This is the most important and of the highest quality race here in Hungary, for which I prepared at the Spanish round. The field is very strong, there are many top riders here, so I expect a fierce fight. I do not like predicting, but I will do my best to get the maximum out of myself.”
One of the most interesting characters in the riders’ field is Andrew Houlihan of Australia, who travelled 16 thousand kilometres, 33 hours to be able to participate at the HunGarian Baja. “Five years ago, I had my first race in Greece and we came to Budapest for a holiday, but I never raced here” Houlihan said, who is leading the veteran’s class, and third in the overall classification of 450cc category. “I have heard that it is a tough race, the military shooting range is quite demanding, especially for the riders. My goal is to be safe and continue to get points, keep my lead in the veteran’s category and close the gap to Balooshi in the 450cc championship class.”
In car category three former HunGarian Baja winners are on the start line: Krzysztof Holowczyc, Benedictas Vanagas and Miroslav Zapletal. All of them are aimed at fighting for the win, but in T1+ category Michal Maluszynski will also have a word or two. Interestingly, Maluszynski’s car is powered by environmental-friendly fuel called HVO, which reduces the emission by 90 per cents. Cross-country rally decided to run on the environment protection years ago, and in some years, it will turn out whether electric cars or alternative fuel will be the solution.
Speaking of the former winners, Holowczyc’s win two years ago probably was one of the most interesting victories in the history of HunGarian Baja, because he finished with exactly the same time as Jazeed Al Rajhi, and finally he won the race thanks to his first stage win.
“I will never forget that day” Holowczyc said. “We fought until the last metres with Al-Rajhival, not kilometres, but metres, and after some hundreds of kilometres we had the exact same times. And we had no idea about who won the race. Finally, the regulations said that the winner was the one having won the first stage. It was unbelievable! HunGarian Baja is one of my favourite races, not just for this, but because here, besides the technical parts, there are places where big heart is needed to push as much as you can. Now I will compete with my old BMW, but the goal is the same: win the rally.”
In the car category Hungary is represented by Kornél Lukács „Csucsu” and Pál Lónyai, Csucsu started his cross-country rally career here two years ago, and he fell in love with the sport for the first sight. “It is always a pleasure to return wherever everything started, and I love these stages, the conditions. So, for me it is important to get the maximum out of myself” Lukács said, who has already started to collect points in the European Cup. “I tried rally and rallycross, but I really liked the community of cross-country rally, the togetherness, which describes this community, so I would like a long-term pass here.”
This is the first time that Pál Lónyai competes with György Tóth, they did their first kilometres together at shakedown on Thursday, but they are both experienced competitors, so they hope to be competitive together. “We developed the gearbox and the central differential, which made the car more driveable, the speed at turns and the grip also got better. I hope we will become more competitive than before” Lónyai said. “I love the shooting range and the whole rally, and I am looking forward to starting it. And what am I thinking of the mud and puddles? I am not thinking anything, I just send the car over them, because it is fit for it.”
Source Hungarian Baja official press release