ORLEN Baja Poland 2019: “Year by year we try to prepare this rally better and better”

ORLEN Baja Poland 2019: “Year by year we try to prepare this rally better and better”

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97 entries from 16 countries – the organiser of ORLEN Baja Poland, taking place in Szczecin, northwestern Poland between 29 August and 1 September, could be happy with the numbers. But is he? Rally-Raid Network asked him about not only this, but also the „monster” special stage of Drawsko Pomorskie, the current situation of European baja events and what and who could be the key to the survival and development of cross-country rallies.

11th edition of Baja Poland is just around the corner. Which, if any, of the previous ten editions stands out in your mind?
Actually, all of them are similar – the same amount of work, the same emotions. 10th edition could have been a breakthrough, but it wasn’t. Each one is similar to the others. All those who take part in organisation of this event put the same amount of energy and work all the time to make it as good as possible. Of course, every year we introduce new elements, new solutions, or even old solutions instead of new, because they work, but as for work, for commitment of all, each edition is on the same level, or even on higher. Year by year we try to prepare this rally better and better.

The special stage “Darwsko Pomorskie” of the upcoming Baja Poland 2019 is the longest stage of FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas series with its 220 km. Is this the maximum or can we expect something even longer next year?
Drawsko Pomorskie military training center has a potential for an even longer stage, this is not our last word, we can prepare 300 km or 320 km stage, but the question is if it wouldn’t be too tough. These are baja rallies, the stages are fast, these are not marathons, the pace is really impressive. In last year’s Baja Poland the average pace of the fastest competitors reached 97 km/h, and on 300 km stage driving with such pace is a real feat. These are really impressive speeds, this is turn in turn, tops, hills, they really have to exercise, these speeds are much, much above 100 km/h, this is madness. It’s really a big challenge! Some could not even make it. After two runs of such stage it’s a physical catastrophe, so I think that 300 km would be too much. This year, we have 220 km, last year after a similar stage competitors were almost dead. Of course, I’m talking about those best ones. Who keep the pace, because the truth is that the faster the competitor is, the more effort he has to put in driving so fast, so these top drivers really do their best, really their best. Somebody who’s driving 15 or 20 minutes slower on the stage – let’s be sincere – can put much less effort, but for those fastest competitors, who are fighting for top positions, these stages are super exhausting. When we talk to them, they say that our stages are the toughest of all series.

This year the World Cup is divided into two series – Cross-Country Rallies and Cross-Country Bajas. How will this fact affect the future of Baja Poland?
The same way, as the future of all rallies. If we look at the start lists of all the rallies counting for the World Cup, we’ll notice that they’re not impressive and that only a few, 3-4 competitors take part in the full series. It speaks for itself. Practically there’s no T2 group, competitors are not interested at all in our European rounds because of the division of these rallies. I think it’s a completely irrational decision, I don’t know what it was for. Unfortunately, it seems that the golden years of baja rallies are over. Maybe a European Championship should be implemented to come back to those real baja rallies, to make competitors want to race, come, fight for this title. There should be a European Championship in place, and the World Cup should be a real World Cup and be held all around the world, on these long rallies, marathons, where starting in one of the greatest events, like Dakar, Africa Eco Race or Silk Way, could top the success. Everybody has to find one’s own place – for what one wants to prepare, for what one wants to fight. Those smaller teams, that don’t have budgets counted in millions, for sure would like to fight for the European Championship title because it’s a prestigious title, really worth fighting for.

Even though, about 100 competitors entered for Baja Poland 2019. What can we say about those entries? Who are the big names?
Our Polish competitors make a big part of participants – just like local drivers in Spain or Portugal. Compared to our competitors, those top drivers are very few, so it’s not an impressive result, it’s not what we expected. There are some cool names, there is Vladimir Vasilyev, who doesn’t let us down, because he comes here every year, there is Orlando Terranova, who comes here for the first time and he’s a really nice surprise, there is Zapletal, all our top drivers – Hołowczyc, Przygoński, those are competitors on whom we can count. We would like to have more competitors on entry lists. Once we had 123 competitors – where are they?

There were rumors that Fernando Alonso could have his cross-country rally debut at Baja Poland  – can you comment on this?
I don’t know where people take that information from. It would be wonderful! It would be really awesome if such a personality stood on the starting line here, in Poland, it would be an unbelievable adventure. But don’t count on it, he won’t be here. But there will be Jutta Kleinschmidt, the boss of our cross-country rallies, who is responsible for development of these rallies. Let’s hope she’ll make something for those golden years to come back. All hope lies with her.
 

Rally-Raid Network / Anna Michalska, Rita Kónya

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