Using all-asphalt stages in mountains around Sliven, 300 kilometres east of Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, the event is a mainstay of the Bulgarian national championship and part of the FIA European Rally Cups.
Traditionally attracting thousands of fans, day one of this year’s rally features nine stages over a competitive distance of 131.93 kilometres and is a made up of a superspecial stage around Sliven’s Hadji Dimitar Stadium on Friday night plus four repeated stages in mountains overlooking the city on Saturday.
Day two consists of four standalone tests over 65.39 kilometres of competitive running with the finish scheduled for 14:00hrs on Sunday.
The Mabanol Sliven Rally represents an intriguing prospect for IRC regulars and newcomers to the all-action series alike. With the bulk of the stages based in mountainous areas, altitudes range from 250 metres to 1100 metres above sea level with some runs featuring an altitude variation of 600 metres. Two legendary downhill tests, Bulgarka and Stara Reka, are back on the itinerary for the first time in 20 years. The challenge facing the crews is increased due to the changing grip levels they will encounter on the asphalt roads.
*The history of the Sliven Rally dates back to 1976. Two of the Bulgaria’s most successful drivers, Krum Donchev and Dimitar Iliev, are multiple winners.
*Sliven is credited as the starting point of industrial development in Bulgaria with the country’s first factory built in the city in 1834.
*Located 130 kilometres from the Turkish border, it’s no surprise that several crews from Turkey are contesting the Sliven Rally, including Yağiz Avci, who won the last IRC round in Yalta. Indeed, the last non-Bulgarian winner in Sliven was a Turk, Ercan Kazas, who triumphed in 2000.
*One of Sliven’s most popular locations is Karandila, a hilltop reaching 1050 metres above sea level.
*Grilled meats and soups are popular in Bulgaria with tarator, a cold soup made from yoghurt and cucumber particularly sought after.