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February 24th 2008, 13:54

Breaking the off-road stereotypes

The most popular stereotype about rally-raids is that this sport isnt convenient for spectators. This myth was massively shuddered 130km to the north from St. Petersburg, in Gromovo village, where organizers of the Baja Northern Forest created a special spectators area.

The idea is clear: if there’s a place where the start and the finish of a special stage are situated, as well as the service park, than it’s obvious that this is a must-seen area for spectators. Not for the “experts”, driving thousands kilometers to come here, going to the farthest part of the route over swamps and fallen trees and there, holding a GPS gadget in one hand and stopwatch in another one, talking on clever topics and watching passing cars. But that was created for the “amateurs”, who call any off-road vehicle a “Jeep” and aren’t interested in complicated racing rules. But of course the powerful cars and the skillful drivers fascinate them. That’s whom this area was constructed for in Gromovo.

Looking at cars? Welcome – there you can watch 2-3 cars at one moment of time.
Listen to comments? Welcome – there was a commentator, describing everything happening on the route and introducing this sport to inexperienced spectators.

Warm up? Welcome – there are tents, inside them hot tea, strong coffee and rich dinner.

Take something with you? Welcome – there’s also a merchandise area.

The stereotype of rally-raids being not spectacular, probably, didn’t appear out from nothing. Of course, it’s much more comfortable to watch reports on the TV, lying on a cosy sofa. But you can feel the atmosphere of real race only “in the field”. It’s only your presence there that can give you the feeling of belonging to this sport, as spectators are as full members of any competition as organizers, stewards, journalists and drivers.

Irina Kirillovna Boyarskaya

Photo: Alexander Lesnikov, Lina Arnautova, Andrey Chursinov

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