The roaring of engines pierces the air, and the dripping sound of steadily falling rain echoes through the forest. A thick veil of clouds floats mysteriously between the towering trees, and the air is filled with the rattling of winches and shouted commands. However, the fog cannot hide the deep water and slippery woodland littered with mudholes and fallen branches. All of these ingredients formed the breeding ground for the 13th annual Croatia Trophy, a weeklong endurance test of wheeling, winching, and special tasks in the densely forested mountains of eastern Croatia.
The Ramsey Croatia Trophy is, in a way, the ultimate "run whatcha brung" event. It is open to any and all 4x4s and ATVs that are street-legal and insured in their respective home countries. Requirements are few-including a driver and co-driver, a winch, a jack, seatbelts, and a tree protector. Tires must be production issue, and no GPS or mobile phones are allowed (except in emergency). After that, you can let your imagination run wild, and nowadays, extreme mud tires, two or even three winches (front, back, and top) and differential locks are ubiquitous. Portal axles-especially those from the Volvo Laplander-are gaining in popularity with the Euro-hard-core, too, as they increase ground clearance while keeping the center of gravity low.
Twenty-six 4x4s and eight ATVs representing 11 nations made the journey to the hamlet of Vojnic, where the 2006 Trophy began. One by one the participants departed for a location a few kilometers outside the village, where they started a two-round prologue en masse. The central part of the route is formed by a wide valley covered with sandy sediment. Apparently the riverbed seemed solid, but when you wiggle a little bit, you see the ground around you moving, and competitors slowly found themselves being sucked into a kind of quicksand. Getting out of the valley and up the hill was even more challenging. Steep and covered with soaked grass and low vegetation, the slope had only a few trees that could serve as anchor points. Beautiful images of winching cars and hard-working co-drivers were a feast for our eyes on most days.
Days are long at the Croatia Trophy, with all the four-wheeling challenges you could imagine. As an example, on the second day, the trophy organizers eliminated a part of the trophy route to save time, but by 5 p.m., only five competitors had finished. The last participants arrived long after midnight.
Participants also formed teams of four cars one day to attempt some special tasks. The tasks included winching up a steep slope, hanging onto a cable to traverse a valley, some challenging slippery sidehill driving, and even driving a 4x4 over a certain length on just two wheels.
By the end of the competition, only 13 of 34 vehicles were left standing. Of the 13 vehicles left standing, a Jeep belonging to Dariusz Luberda and Szymon Polak of Poland had finished in First Place. The two-time defending champion Dutch team of Simon van der Velde and Peter Arends fell slightly short of victory this time, but of course they didn't have to be ashamed to end up Second. The prestigious Fair Play Award for sportsmanship was won by the Austrian team of Christian Poprask and Christoph Krammer in their Mitsubishi.
|Place ||Pilot ||Co-Pilot ||Nation ||Vehicle |
|1 ||Dariusz Luberda ||Szymon Polak ||Poland ||Jeep |
|2 ||Simon van der Velde ||Peter Arends ||Netherlands ||Land Rover |
|3 ||Jadranko Kova ||Slavko Povrlisek ||Croatia ||Toyota |
|4 ||Thomas Shuker ||Jasmin Moll ||Germany ||Mercedes |
|5 ||Raphael van Seumeren ||Joop Barten ||Netherlands ||Land Rover |
|6 ||Marc Schafer ||Sven Kassebart ||Germany ||Toyota |
|7 ||Burkhard Eggeman ||Jens Wallmyer ||Germany ||Toyota |
|8 ||Wojciech Polowiec ||Pawel Przybylowski ||Poland ||Jeep |
|9 ||Herbert Kispert ||Mirko Urmosi ||Germany ||Jeep |
|J ||Robert Mucha ||Mariusz Gwizdowski ||Poland ||Land Rover |