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GP Week : Issue 51
>>WRCINSIGHT days were run on asphalt roads. It was the speedy nature of these roads, and especially the eternal proximity of trees on the sides of the roads, which hastened the decision of the organisers to check out the chances of moving northwards for the future, where special stage roads were gravel and slower. At the time another World Championship Rajd Polski was being planned, there was also no sense in pushing for an asphalt event as the sport’s policy makers at that time were strongly pro-gravel. Whose ‘baby’ is this World Drivers in their Wartburgs, Moskvichs, Skodas, Ladas and Trabants battled against the Renaults, Opels and BMWs of the privateers who came from the west. A few privileged eastern drivers were seen in Renaults, and the dream objects for spectators to gaze on were the FSO team’s Fiat Abarth 124s and their Lancia Stratos. What was normal for western Europe was new territory for Poland. The hand-typed entry list named the car a “Startos”. And as journalists, we had to be careful in what we wrote. You never knew who read the telexes sent to foreign magazines, especially when the winner, who was the son of the Prime Minister, nearly threw away his win by incurring a three-minute penalty for a co- driver error and had earlier gone off the road in his Lancia … A lot of the stages in those Championship revival in Poland? One of the sporting hard-hitters in rallying is Jacek Bartos, currently the FIA’s WRC Safety Delegate. Jacek’s sporting career started as a private rally driver at the wheel of a Trabant, and developed as an engineer who became team manager of Polski Fiat. A prominent observer of Polish motorsport said “Jacek was very helpful in explaining the opportunities for holding a World Championship rally again in Poland, but to suggest this is his ‘baby’ is not correct. You cannot upgrade the rally’s status only through diplomatic action. At first a rally of a good standard is required, and this was achieved thanks to the hard work of many people in Poland.” Jacek, however, has a very important link with the past. Not always remembered were exploits of the Polish FSO rally team in the 1970s. The team contested rallies where there was a strong Polski Fiat market, and still the best foreign WRC result for a Polish car was in USA in 1973, with Robert Mucha’s 125p in sixth place. Success on Peace and Friendship championship events (restricted to competitors from Eastern Europe) were very important for the company. Their activities continued into 1980 with the Polonez model. The team also ran the private Lancia Stratos cars for Andrzej Jaroszewicz in European championship events and Group 4 Fiat Abarth 124 sports cars as well. The connections continue. Jacek Bartos is the father of Tomas Bartos, the current Clerk of the Course of Rally Poland. Notwithstanding their relative paucity of World Championship achievements, Polish drivers have been successful in rallying in other ways. A legend in his day was Sobieslaw Zasada, who was three times a champion in the European series in the late 60s and early 70s, days when that was the sport’s premier level, in cars as diverse was a Steyr Puch 650TR and Porsche. His last official World Championship entry was the 1979 Safari with Mercedes, and Blazej Krupa as co-driver. Zasada made a nostalgic return 18 years later, to drive the Safari Rally in Kenya with his wife Ewa, when they finished second in Group N. Zasada is now 78 years old, and will make a token appearance at the superspecial in Mikolajki before the start of this year’s rally. A generation later, Krzysztof Holowczyc, makes a guest appearance as a competitor on this year’s event, was European champion in 1997. 24-year-old Polish driver Michal Kosciuszko will start Rajd Polski leading the FIA’s Junior World Championship, and full of anticipation. “There are fast flowing stages that are now much more hard- based than in previous years,”he says. “The roads used to have a very sandy surface, now the surface has been made harder by the support of the European Union authorities. The stages go through the forests, the fields and around a lot of lakes. The roads are really beautiful, quite similar to Finland, but without the crests – really perfect for the spectators. “I think it will be great for them, especially as they do not have the chance to see World Rally Cars in Poland these days. I drove this rally with a Peugeot S2000 last year, and it was big, big fun for me.” The country’s top co-driver is 65 year old Maciej Wislawski, another major link with the past. Last year he co-drove the runner-up in the national series, Kajetan Kajetanowicz. He was also co-driver to Holowczyc in 1997 when they were European champions. Wislawski starts in Mikolajki alongside Guest JWRC driver Radoslaw Typa, and is currently lying third in the 2009 Rally America series in the USA. Entry details list 55 crews, including four of the five registered World Championship teams and 10 JWRC drivers, with two crews nominated as Guests by the organisers. Highest seeded Polish driver will be 47 year old Krzysztof Holowczyc in a Stobart entered Focus World Rally Car. This is now the fifth time for Rajd Polski in Mikolajki, a town of fewer than 5000 inhabitants. The nice thing is that it is a most beautiful lakeside town; the bad thing it is 239km from the nearest international airport, Warsaw, and the time to travel can vary from three to six hours depending on traffic conditions. Even seven hours is not unheard of ... Mikolajki is described as the gateway to the huge inland Lake Sniardwy ,where there is a great amount of leisure boating, and the town is the centre of many regatta activities in the summer, and ice sports in winter. The weather, however, is indeterminate. It has been beautiful the last few times the Rajd Polski was held in this region, but June and July are known for possible strong winds and rain. 39