Drivers in Bosnia test their skills on 'Road to Peace'
Stars and Stripes June 24, 2003
KLADANJ, Bosnia and Herzegovina — A car rally brought more than 120 participants together in northeastern Bosnia on Saturday.
Competitors from all over the country — as well as neighboring Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro — drove down an old wartime supply route during the rally, touted as the “Road to Peace.”
“The message is that we want the peace to live long and that wherever we have misunderstandings, if we still have them, to resolve them like this,” said Mirza Kuluglic, president of the rally steering board as he stood on a sidewalk in Tuzla and watched the cars race off, one after another.
Bosnian auto association BIHAMK holds a rally, but this year regional and state officials got involved, developed a theme and picked the route. Local police and military, and for the first time, Stabilization Force troops got involved.
But the driving was left to civilians.
“I have a number of soldiers who would like to get in a Humvee and drive the course,” said Capt. Bryan Tolar of 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, who participated in the organization of the rally, “but they know that’s not proper use of military equipment.”
American troops manned checkpoints with the local police.
Spc. John Addison of Company A, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment was not lucky enough to be placed at a checkpoint along the route. He waited at the finish.
“I thought I’ll at least see [the race],” Addison said. “I just like to see cars.”
Although the type of cars were not Addison’s idea of race cars — most were either regular passenger cars used daily or old Fiat Bambinas and Yugos — the rules of the rally were unusual, too.
The organizers chose not to shut off traffic, instead timing how long it took from start to finish.
Cars had to stick to posted speed limits (as low as 12 miles per hour through towns). While most cars passed one another along the way, getting to a check point too fast earned penalty points.
Skilled drivers earned points by maneuvering around cones at the three courses set up in three different towns along the route. Smaller, older cars did the best.
Amateur radio broadcasters — who provided the only connection with the world during the war when phone lines were cut — were spread along the route to keep track of who was where.
Al White, an American civilian who works at Eagle Base for DynCorp, raced for the first time in his Opel Frontera.
“When we’re off work, there’s nothing to do in this country, so I said why not,” White said. “It’s just a change of pace, something to break monotony.”
Kuluglic said he wished American soldiers could have taken part.
But the troops got a chance to hang out at the finish. While music played through loudspeakers, some sipped coffee, some checked out cars and some ate the traditional military beans prepared by the local military.
All seemed to have fun.