Croatia’s entry into the Rally Racing World ADV Rider

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Europe is home to the highest concentration of rally racing in the world, with names like Hellas, Serres, Iberian Rally, Breslau, Rally Hispania and many more having already made their mark. There’s no shortage of rally practice events such as Rally Bosnia or the Trans Alen Tejo either, and there are several smaller events all over the continent, from Portugal and Spain to Romania, the Balkans, Poland and beyond. This year, although arguably the worst time to start a new event due to COVID-19, Europe is seeing another race based on the rally format in Croatia: the Dinaric Rally come on stage.

The Dinaric Rally kicks off on September 11 in Knin, Croatia, and participants will spend three days rolling in the Dinaric Alps, a mountainous region still largely unknown to adventurers. The rally will have GPS navigation instead of roadbooking, but the stages will be timed, making this event a transitional race between a traditional rally format and an amateur practice event. The average distance will vary between 230 and 170 kilometers per day, and the Knin bivouac will remain stationary with runners making loops in the sector.

Dinaric Rally 2020: Croatia's entry into the world of rallies

Dinaric Rally: From Mountains to Motorcycles

To find out more about this brand new event and see what the Dinaric Rally is all about, I spoke with Perica Matijevic, the mastermind behind the project. Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina but based in Croatia, Perica has a background in adventure travel and mountain rescue. “Growing up in a small village in central Bosnia and Herzegovina, I have always been fascinated by nature, adventures and exploration. After moving to Zagreb, Croatia, I got into rock climbing and mountaineering and have traveled as much as possible.I have been on a few climbing expeditions like Mount Kenya and have done rafting, snorkeling, kayaking, sea kayaking, skydiving, paragliding, canyoning – more or less I did or at least tried anything interesting and exciting that I could.In 2002 I joined the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, and nine years ago I started riding a motorcycle, soon I started riding off-road and since then I have explored the Balkans on two wheels, often helping other bikers and sometimes guiding visits,” Perica said.

Dinaric Rally 2020: Croatia's entry into the world of rallies

For him, the idea of ​​organizing an off-road rally came naturally. “The Dinaric Alps in Croatia are a beautiful and truly undiscovered area, and I just wanted more riders to come and experience it in the best possible way – off-road. As the rally grows, I hope to eventually cover all of the Dinaric Alps from Slovenia all the way to Albania. For this first edition, however, I have chosen a part of the Dinarides in Croatia where the landscapes are spectacular and the driving will be phenomenal. I also hope to contribute to efforts to find and eradicate remaining landmines from the Balkan War period as well as the reforestation of the area – we will plant a tree for each runner who comes to the Dinaric Rally – and the city de Knin was an excellent partner in the organization of the rally and in all these endeavours. Above all, I am delighted to share this beautiful corner of Croatia with riders from all over Europe and the world, and I want it to be done in the safest way possible”.

Dinaric Rally 2020: Croatia's entry into the world of rallies

The remaining landmines in the Balkans are still a problem, but Perica hopes to help clear the area and is working with the city of Knin to keep riders safe throughout the rally.

Safety of riders at the Dinaric Rally

Having ridden in Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina myself, I can personally attest that this area is truly an awesome place to ride. However, why aim for a rally format instead of just doing an off-road adventure or ride?

“Because of my experience in mountain rescue, I place great importance on the safety of cyclists, and the reality is that you cannot guarantee a high level of safety on an off-road excursion, especially if you have a large group of cyclists. A rally format, on the other hand, can offer you this. All competitors will be monitored, assistance will be available throughout the event, and we will have an ambulance tent with a doctor and medical equipment from first aid, medical technicians on the slopes, search and rescue service vehicles with SAR professionals and a medical technician on standby, an all-terrain vehicle with a doctor on standby and a search and rescue team available as reinforcements to ensure the safety of the competitors throughout each stage.

Safety aside, I think roadbooks are a great way to navigate, and while we won’t have roadbook navigation this year, we’re definitely aiming for roadbook navigation in 2021. I’m following the other races closely. rally and I see the switch to electric roadbooks as a more environmentally friendly option, so I think the introduction of electric roadbook navigation at the Dinaric Rally in 2021 will be perfect. For this edition it will be GPS tracks all the way but hopefully it will be useful for less experienced riders as well as those who are considering doing a rally race like Hellas or Serres but feel intimidated by the roadbook Perica told me.

Dinaric Rally 2020: Croatia's entry into the world of rallies

A weird but wonderful mix between trail and rally, amateurish and eco-friendly, promising the wilderness of the Dinaric Alps and the safety of a professionally run event, the Dinaric Rally certainly piqued my curiosity, and I am sure I’ll be at that start line in Knin in September. However, the threat of the second wave of coronavirus is still real as well.

“We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are ready to make the necessary changes, however, we are confident that Croatia is managing the situation well and we hope that participants will not face any COVID-related issues here. I’m prepared to issue full refunds if the situation gets worse, of course, but I can tell you one thing – even if the event has to be canceled, there will be at least one person – me – who will go and go through the three stages I am aware that going ahead with the event is a big risk, but I am confident that we will manage the situation and Dinaric Rally will celebrate its first edition this year”.

Dinaric Rally 2020: Croatia's entry into the world of rallies

Registration for the Dinaric Rally in Croatia is always open with classes ranging from 250cc to 1200cc, including veteran and women’s classes available, as well as 2WD and 4wD and Quad classes.

Images: Dinaric Rally, Iva Šverko, Željko Opačić, Marko Erceg

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