I attended to the Albania Rally on June 8 to 15, 2012. Starting from Tirana via Razma, Voskopoja, Himara and finish in Tirana again. A total of 4 bivouacs and 1785 promising and challenging off road kilometers (1115 miles).
The Rally Albania was fantastic, wonderful off road, beautiful nature, a huge variation of terrain, from mud and grass to beach sand and from gravel to all kinds of stones, river-beds and river crossings. The Rally was well organized, but I had some worries about the safety: Even on the special stages you could be faced with an old Mercedes 207D coming towards you in opposite direction… It surprised me there were no severe accidents because the traffic on the liaisons was pretty unpredictable too. Mainly because of the massive holes in the tarmac, cars turn left and right without giving any notice. Roadbooks looked great and were free from mistakes and more important: not subjest to last minute changes like in the Breslau.. Navigation then again wasn’t challenging at all.
I joined Henno’s Rally Team (HRT) with two of my friends. Henno is a Dakar competitor and used this Rally mainly for his crew members to get acquainted with the normal practice of an international rally. After the showstart in the centre of Tirana with the Minister of Tourism present, we took off towards the prologue on the beach. My relatively heavy motorcycle is very powerful and therefore I could take the change to be amongst the fastest drivers and it worked: I finished 7-th overall out of the 150 participants.
As a consequense of this result, the next day’s special I had to start in the top 20 in reversed order, on 14-th place. With a one minute interval at the start, several riders passed me on this stage, except for my teammate Henno who started at 23-rd position. In this terrain I could keep up with him pretty well and I was surprised that we had almost similar race results during this rally.
Every day we got one or two special stages at race speed and liaisons before and after thye stages each with a speciific target time. If you’d fail to reach the target time you were charged with penalty time which was added 1:1 to your race time. This was a little strange IMHO. As a consequence some jeeps were driving 140 km/h in villages to avoid penalty time.. this is something the organization should avoid. Because of a flat tire, waiting for my friends after the stages and some vital lunches during the >400km days, I faced several hours penalty time and as a consequence finished 43-rd overall. I didn’t fall down or crash, my motorcycle did OK and I got home in one piece. Maybe I could have taken a little more risk and be faster… but I’m happy with the result.
Together with a good friend and a guy we met on the plane on the outward voyage, we drove the Van and trailer home in 36 hours. What a journey! From Albania via Montenegro, Bosnia, the fantastic town Dubrovnik in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and finally Belgium. On the picture below left we are on a Ferry in Bosnia, the pic on the right is the bivouac in Razma.