Europe has a robust and dynamic rally racing culture, and it’s no surprise the European rally scene is growing with each year. Despite the pandemic, Hellas Rally Raid was a success; Greece Really nd Iberian Rally are scheduled for September and November with registration filling out fast. Somewhere in the middle, however, there are rally hybrid and training events and one budding rally race poised to become the next big thing. If you’re not yet sure whether you’d like to try a full-on race, one of these three events may be the perfect intro into the rally world:
Currently underway, Gibraltar Race is something of an ADV rally. Open to all riders on all bikes, Gibraltar Race traditionally takes place across Europe starting in Romania and ending in Gibraltar; ths year, due to COVID-related restrictions, the rally is confined to Italy. 7,000 kilometers total, seventeen days of racing, and fourteen stages – the rally is, on the one hand, a serious challenge. On the other hand, it’s much more accessible to adventure riders; the navigation is GPS, not roadbook, based, and you can race on anything from a dirt bike to a medium-sized dual sport or a 1200cc adventure bike.
Notoriously, Gibraltar Race 2019 was won by Renato Zocchi aborad… a scooter. A Honda X-ADV 750cc scooter, to be precise, and Zocchi is a Dakar veteran, but still: if you’re looking to experience what rally racing is like without the hassle of investing in a roadbook navigation kit or getting a KTM450, the Gibraltar race could be the answer.
Bosnia Rally is a rally-format training event taking pace at the end of July. Organized by Geman Stefan Rossner, Bosnia Rally has grown so fast it’s obiovus there is a need for events like this: what used to be a modest three-day roadbook navigation rally training event is now a five-day rally hybrid, offering participants conditions mimicking a real rally race sans the pressure of timing. Having done Bosnia Rally myself, I can attest the scenery is spectacular, the stages are extremely well planned, the riding as varied as can be – from gnarly rocky single track to fast open sections – and the bivoauc camaraderie is unparalleled. Registration for the Bosnia Rally 2021 is now closed, but if you’re looking for a rally training event to learn roadbook navigation, boost your riding skills, and get an idea of what to expect at a rally race, Bosnia is a fantastic event to give it a go.
This year, Dinaric Rally celebrates its second edition, but within just one year, the event has grown from a chaotic three-day race to a five-day roadbook navigation rally. Last year, Dinaric was all about a mad enduro race in the Dinaric Alps; this year, the ORGA is planning some serious abuse over seriously long distances, putting riders though their paces. By the sound of it, Dinaric may turn out to be more brutal than Albania Rally, but if you’re in for some suffering, long stages, and timeless glory, Dinaric Rally is an excellent choice.
European rally training events and races aside, North Africa is famous for its big desert rallies such as Merzouga, Africa Eco Race, and the like. However, these races are as brutal as they are expensive, and may not be within the reach of an average adventure rider; 1000 Dunas, on the other hand, is. Taking place in the fall between Granada and Merzouga, 1000 Dunas is poised to become that intro-mid level rally open for amateurs, adventure riders, and other thrill-seeking souls looking to enter a desert rally without having to sell their organs to pay for it.
1000 Dunas is organized by Miguel Puertas, a former Spanish Air Force pilot and nine-times Dakar Rally finisher; according to him, 1000 Dunas is all about a high-intensity, brutal challenge out in the Saharan dunes, minus the pressure of timing. 1000 Dunas is, in many ways, also a hybryd event where racers are judged by navigation accuracy rather than speed – an ideal scenario for someone who wants to try out a desert rally and navigate the dunes without feeling the pressure to go faster. 1000 Dunas has seveal different classes – Adventure Raid, Classic, Trail, Hard Trail, Pro, and Elite, and some categories are GPS rather than roadbook-based. In other words, this is the perfect introduction into desert racing with affordable entry fees, non-timed stages, and plenty of room to learn and improve.
Would you rally if you ADV? Have you got your sights set on any of the intro, hybrid, or rally training events this year? If not, what’s stopping you? Share in the comments below!