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Rally Albania – 10 (or 20?) years later!

    After 20 years of Rally Albania, the 2024 anniversary edition invited all the past winners as guests!

    Undoubtedly, it was an honour to be invited as the winner of 2008 race. In the midst of organizational commitments between Olympia Rally and preparations for Greece Rally, the race in Albania would be a a pleasant break, meeting and riding with friends from all over the world.
    Despite, my absence from rallying in Europe, as I had turned more into desert and the dunes of Africa, and a serious knee injury a month ago while MTBing with my son, I was determined to get to the race even if I wouldn’t participate… just to meet again old friends and fellow riders.
    The 8day race started with a warm up prologue only to continue with a 420km day 2, mostly in rocky terrain.

    My main worry was to keep my injured foot off the ground to avoid heavy
    pain and of course ride only seated. Days went well, though there was no lack of the mishaps that are to be found in this kind of racing. Wheel bearings destroyed by the stones, tyres and
    mousse smashed, some screws left the suspension, a cooling tube burnt by
    the exhaust, as well as other bits and pieces…

    Until an unpleasant surprise at the start of the last special test of Day 5, when I try to start the bike, an awful noise came up… the starter gears were smashed.

    After riding the stage in safe mode, I got to the finish line relieved. However, our suspicions were sadly right… Checking the bike at the bivouac, metal pieces and aluminum grains were all over the engine and the oil magnet… We changed the oil a couple times to get the most of the trash out of the engine, crossed fingers and went on Day6 & Day 7, hoping that the bike will handle it. And it did! Even made the epilogue, and it was only on the way back to bivuac on Day8 that stalled, but 10 minutes later I was back rolling…!

    The truth is, that on the last day, a friend of a teammate who had given up, offered to provide me with his bike to continue but I kindly refused. Not only would it be unfair to the game of Rally racing that I passionately serve, but also a betrayal to my motorcycle, which although wounded, took me to the finish line, on the podium, unharmed & in one piece…

    3rd in the 450 class and 21st Overall was definitely my “worst” result ever in Rally Albania (2008 1st, 2009 3rd, 2014 6th), but probably the best considering my condition!

    Many thanks to the organization of Rally Albania, to Edvin Kasimati and Julinda Dahme, to Vassilis Boudros (Enduro Greece) and Dionysis Pallis for the support, to my wife Christina Papathanasiou for the ice-cold beers, and of course to all of my supporters from every position.

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