The FINANCIAL — When it comes to offering equipment for extreme situations, Mercedes-Benz has been considered a specialist for decades. Where robustness, performance and reliability count the Unimog and Zetros convince on and off the road. Now the two off-road specialists demonstrated their advantages once again.
No less than three amateur teams have whipped the attending crowd into a frenzy with Mercedes-Benz vehicles at this year’s Wroclaw Poland extreme off-road rally: after eight nerve-racking days at the absolute limit, rally driver Alfred Wemhoff from the German Westmünsterland region and his Dutch navigator Simon Meintema emerged victorious driving Wemhoff’s newly built rally Unimog from the Unimog model series 437 in the category “Small Truck Extreme”, approved for trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than 7.5 tonnes.
Polish rally specialists Krzysztof Ostaszewski, Lukasz Piasecki and Slawomir Papaj were also able to score a major success driving a Mercedes-Benz Zetros truck. After a tiring race, they too were able to climb the top spot of the podium in the “Big Truck Extreme” category for trucks with a GVW of more than 7.5 tonnes, according to Daimler.
Also first to cross the finish line was the Unimog U 100 L of Hanspeter Karches and co-driver Bernd Regensburger in the fast “Small Truck Cross Country” category. This typical rally raid category dispenses with fording deep water holes and having to carry a mandatory winch as is required in the other categories. Instead, precise navigation and high speeds complete with hard sand tracks and several racing kilometres are crucial – and this year these were realized perfectly by the Karches/Regensburger team.
Slippery mud holes, thick trails of dust and water metres deep
This year, the gruelling off-road marathon took participants from Hohenmoelsen near Leipzig in Germany to Drawsko Pomorskie in Poland. The 127 rally teams from 15 countries entered in the rally successfully battled breathtaking fords, deep mud holes, spectacular steep hills and sand tracks with dust trails metres high over the course of eight days and a distance of more than 1500 kilometres. The rally winners and the champions of the other categories also precisely navigated and mastered the obstacle-strewn stages on the premises of the brown coal surface mine in Profen, the difficult night stage on the swampy military training area in Biedrusko and the ride over the sandy tracks on the Polish military compound in the forests of Borne Sulinowo.
Alfred Wemhoff was particularly delighted about his win. The owner of family-owned Wemhoff GmbH & Co. KG Company, which buys and sells silo and tipper vehicles in Legden in the German Münsterland region, has already taken on the exertions of the Wroclaw Poland Rally for the seventh time. This year he crossed the finish line for the first time as the winner after a net driving time of 29 hours – driving a 1987 Unimog converted from a U 1700 and U 2450 model. He finished more than three hours ahead of the second-place vehicle. He proudly calls a roll cage, special shock absorbers, bucket seats, modified approach and departure angles, winch, about 330 horsepower, a high-speed transmission for speeds up to about 125 km/h and, last but not least, off-road driving skills, vast experience and steady driving with good navigation his personal secrets to success.
Sheer adventure at the “Dakar Rally of the North”
The Wroclaw Poland Rally, also known as the “Dakar Rally of the North”, is an international, licence-free and cross-border marathon rally. For the participants in the various commercial vehicle, car, side-by-side (SSV), motorcycle and quad categories, the eight days of unadulterated motor racing for the most part embody the last real big adventure and often take them to the limits of their capabilities. The off-road rally was first run in 1995 and back then counted just 60 vehicles at the start – 35 cars, 20 motorcycles and five trucks. Today, the Wroclaw Poland Rally is an internationally established event and one of the largest, toughest and most demanding competitions among the licence-free off-road rallies in Europe.