Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie

Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie // Cross Country ADV

Hellas Rally Raid is the biggest international rally race in Europe, attracting hundreds of competitors every year (yep, including whatever is left of 2021). This seven-day race in the mountains of Greece has hosted the likes of Matthias Walkner, Chris Birch, and Lyndon Poskitt; the organization, the safety, and the stage design are top-notch, and since its inception some seven years ago, Hellas Rally has been steadily dominating the European rally scene. Seven days of racing, over 2,000 kilometers in total with one marathon day designed to push riders to their limits, diverse terrain, and roadbook navigation: sounds like a pretty serious rally race to us. Having survived Hellas 2019, however, we know it’s also… doable, even if you’ve never done a rally before.

Here’s why.

Amateur-friendly Rally Classes

Hellas has been growing a lot over the last few years, and its amateur classes have been getting bigger and bigger. Why? Because us adventure riders want to rally, and Hellas is happy to accommodate.

Klim motorcycle gear

This year, Hellas will have motorcycle classes ranging from M1 to M6 (<290cc bikes to 1200cc bikes), Adventure Raid (a non-timed, GPS navigation course for large capacity adventure bikes), and the Enduro Cup (previously Hellas Lite), a “light” rally version where riders will do 70% of the rally route and will be allowed to carry a GPS unit as a back up to their roadbook navigation.

With so many different options out there, there’s really no excuse not to go, especially because:

  • If you are not part of the FIM championship (and you don’t have to be – you can race Hellas as an amateur), even if you don’t finish a stage, you are allowed to start the next day. You will get a big time penalty, but you won’t be out of the race as long as you show up at the start line every day.
  • Entry fees are as low as 800 Euro (compared to 3,500 Eur+ for most desert rally entries)
  • You do not need a support crew to race, as the Hellas bivouac is static
  • Any off-road-capable bike will do; you do not need a rally replica or an ideal rally build. Race on what you’ve got!
  • As an amateur rider, you do not need a racing license. All that’s required is your driver’s license, your bike docs, and racing insurance which you can buy directly from the organizers.
Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie // Cross Country ADV
  • Logistics for Hellas are dead easy: show up at the Nafpaktos bivouac, set up camp, and race. You can also opt to stay in a hotel, but the bivouac will have shower and bathroom facilities, a canteen, and of course, a beer tent, so you’re all set.
  • If you’re going malle moto (that is, on your lonesome and unassisted), your expenses will be the rally entry fee, tracking device rental (around 50 Euro), racing insurance (120-150 Euro), and your food and fuel.
  • Can’t ship your bike? Rent one! Check out the Cross Country ADV rally assistance page and let us know if we can help.
  • Roadbook navigation is exceptionally precise at Hellas, so even if you haven’t ridden with roadbook before, it’s entirely possible to learn as you go during the prologue day of the rally. Remember that you will mostly have tracks and trails instead of open country, off-piste course. Hellas organizers are very generous with roadbook information, and if you’re struggling, come and find the Cross Country ADV team at the bivouac – we’ll be happy to help!
Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie // Cross Country ADV

Hellas Rally Terrain and Stage Length

A seven-day rally sounds intimidating if this is your first one, and understandably so. We’re not saying Hellas is easy by any means: you will have long specials, a 450-km marathon stage, countless rocky mountain trails, steep switchbacks, some steep climbs, water crossings, and sandy or muddy sections. The fatigue will start adding up quickly, and by day four, you’ll be suffering; Hellas will be tough, challenging, and tricky. At the same time, however, this is not Romaniacs or Roof of Africa. This is a cross-country rally, which means you will also have fast-flowing gravel tracks, hard-packed dirt, and forest trails; technical sections will not be long, and they will not be the dominant ones throughout the race.

Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie // Cross Country ADV

Hellas Rally stage design mimics all the big desert rallies out there (except, of course, for the actual desert part). You’ll start off with a short, 100-km or similar prologue special stage on Day 1, letting you get your bearings and figure out roadbook. Then, you’ll have a longer day followed by some more technical sections and longer distances on Day 3; Days 4-5 are typically marathon stage days, which means long specials and one night outside of the bivouac. Days 6 and 7 are designed to keep testing your stamina, but they will generally be slightly shorter or faster, and before you know it, you’re grinning from ear to ear, clutching your Hellas Rally finisher’s medal, and having tequila poured down your throat by the rally support crews celebrating the fact they’re done with babysitting your sorry self and your trashed bike (don’t worry, we’ll happily perform the tequila ritual if you’ve got no support for Hellas).

Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie // Cross Country ADV

In general, if you’ve been riding off-road for several years, if you’re more or less comfortable on muddy and sandy trails, can do some climbs, ride over rocks, shale, and loose gravel, you’re just about ready to go. Worst case scenario, you may not finish a stage or make your time limit – but as we’ve said before, it’ll simply cost you a time penalty and you can still finish the rally.

In the words of Meletis Stamatis, organizer of Hellas: “the best practice for a rally is a rally”, so fill out that entry form now, and let’s hang out at the bivouac!

Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie // Cross Country ADV

Hellas Rally will push you to your limits, test your skills and your bike, beat you down and at times, leave you questioning your sanity. But once you cross that finish line? There’s no other feeling like it in the whole wide world, and racing in a rally is so much more than just competition. The chance to really push your own edge, enjoy the incredible scenery, experience the camaraderie at the bivouac, and survive the crazy long days on the bike – all of this is going to leave you hopelessly hooked on rally racing and plotting your next rally adventure.

Don’t ask us how we know.

Words: @advtorally

Images: Actiongraphers

4 thoughts on “Surviving Hellas Rally Raid as a Newbie

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