Jim Marsden wins the 2015 Croatia Trophy!
Jim Marsden & Team Gigglepin Off-Road Race Team have secured 1st place in this years Croatia Trophy. Think 8 days of non-stop off-road driver/vehicle/team punishment, in some of the harshest terrain Europe has to offer. Jim Marsden has become a seasoned Ultra4 name these days, in his signature Spider 9 powered Land Rover buggy. We are thrilled to see the team’s hard work pay off, and checking out all the photos and videos from race week, we’re wishing to have been there in person. Congrats Jim and the entire Gigglepin Team!
While we couldn’t make this race, our good friend Robb Pritchard over at World4x4 was there all week, and provided unprecedented coverage, both video and photos throughout the entire week. Robb was kind enough to write-up a recap for us here, along with an arsenal of killer shots from the week. So, without further ado, enter Robb.
2015 Croatia Trophy
Words by Robb Pritchard
Photos by Robb Pritchard & Gedmantas Kropis, © All rights reserved
8 days, 55 crews from 20 countries as far and wide as Russia, Malta, UK and Israel, the Croatia Trophy is Europe’s biggest 4×4 event, and at 15 years old, one of it’s elder statesmen.
The abandoned forests along the Bosnian border aren’t just big and empty they are full of ravines, rivers, meadows and bogs and even if it doesn’t rain the ground is still saturated with snow melt… it’s very muddy!
The action started over a week ago with a short but hectic prologue where the results from last year were inverted… the two crews the rolled a few hundred metres from the start last year found the best condition of the course and Israel’s Ira Avni and Malta’s Adrian Bezzina were 1st and 3rd… but another massive element of the Croatia Trophy is navigation, with just a roadbook and markers painted on trees to find the way… and there is nothing in the Middle East that can prepare you for this. And braking the winch and having two punctures didn’t help.
Coming from 10th to be first car on the ‘road’ at the 10km mark was Jim Marsden in the Gigglepin Land Rover (with Spidertrax axles) with co-driver / winch-bitch Wayne Smith, fresh from Australia, jogging along beside, hooking the car up to a tree if it gets bogged down. There is no shame or failure in winching here, it’s expected… 30 times a stage! That is why the Europeans have developed monster winches!
Second was Hungary’s Szilard Magyar in his stunning 3-series BMW bodied,independent suspension, Mercedes-powered creation. Seeing the BMW grill smash through the low handing branches was a great sight to see… and the dashboard still has the walnut trim!
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Jim though, leaves got into the radiator cowling and caused the LS3 to overheat so badly that they needed to rely on the water from other competitors to keep going.
Andrei Ponomarev in his Russian 300TDi engined, Volvo Laplander axled proto was a close second for a couple of days while Jim explored some off-piste parts of the forest and then it was a couple of days of stages that are really unique to the Croatia Trophy. To help foster more international competition teams are forced to work together to perform tasks like pulling each other through the deep holes of a quarry… then there’s a night stage (sponsored by Wilderness Lighting) and if too many good relationships were made in the team events the Circle Race is a demolition derby on short course where 10 cars go at once to blast through river crossings and speed up slippery hills.
But then it was back into the forests for 4 days of serious racing. Ponomarev, a driver well experienced in the Russian bogs, had an eye on first place, but his push to catch Jim didn’t pay off as an axle shaft broke and cost him an hour and a half. The stages are so long and tough here that everyone says that anything can happen but with a 2 hour lead the Gigglepin boys weren’t going to squander it and drove a measured race… even though a brake pipe snapped on the penultimate stage. Without a flange making tool in the car they had to effect a field repair… but it held for the rest of the stage and the last day was just a 40km stage to the end. A winching section in a river crossing in sight of the finish line with a couple of drowned Adventure class cars in the way didn’t stop them and the Euro4x4Parts flag was flying for Jim and Wayne’s second win in this incredible event!