Marian BUBEL Bublewicz: the polish rally artist

Marian BUBEL Bublewicz: the polish rally artist


“While training I set myself on three to four corners and try to drive faster and faster through them. At some point car starts to break away flying out of the corner. I fight it and succeed. I’m not satisfied with that. Making it work isn’t a success for me. I purposely try to overdrive a car, to go faster and faster. Boundaries of what is possible are starting to disappear. Turns out we can outdo ourselves, be faster every time, what man can do isn’t defined. In the endpossibility turns into a reality, my skills improve and I push even more, to be faster, so the circle starts all over again.” ~ Marian Bublewicz

The Legend. Marian “Bubel” Bublewicz”, businessman, loving husband, caring father, polish motorsport icon of the 90s. 7 times Polish Rally Champion, 2nd in the 1992 European Rally Championship standings. Driver who in 1993 was pinned at a “priority list A”, when he was admitted by FIA as one of 31 best ever rally drivers. To get to the Gazmot Motorsport workshop I had to drive 100kilometres. Driving there I constantly reminded myself who Marian Bublewicz was and what he had achieved in 43 years of his life. I’ve read books about him, looked up some press releases, seen numerous interviews, the more research I did about him the more impressed I was. For the whole time I spent driving to Żychlin I couldn’t think about cars I was about todrive, I was focused solely on Bublewicz and his phenomenon. Cars for me were never much more than hunk of steel with four wheels attached to it.I always was about experiences that come with cars, meeting people and getting to know their amazing achievements. About a week before the trip, on the Sunday, while visiting my parents for the dinner I mentioned that I’ll be writing about Bublewicz. My mother immediatelygot up and started telling me the story about how she with passion followed Bublewicz’s career.
-But mom, I thought you didn’t like motorsport? How do you even know who Bublewicz was?!
It struck me then, that Marian was more than just a driver, he was the sportsman beloved by Poles. I’m going to face a legend, and it’s me, someone who compared to him has no actual talent. I can’t event reverse park a car good enough, but what we’ve in common is a drive for adrenaline.

Marlboro. I met Marek on one of the winter special stages of AutodromŁódź. It was extremely cold, slippery conditions, with bad visibility. After a quick rundown I decided I have to change my tire pressure. Problem was, I didn’t have any equipment to do so. I took a quick look around car park. In the field of very tired drivers and cars I saw motoring equivalent of hope. It was Marlboro livered Mercedes 207 service truck, next to it was parked Sierra Cosworth RS AWD in the matching livery. In between both cars there was whole service team in period correct white-red Marlboro uniforms. All this felt like 90s rally stage. Obviously, I went straight to them, I was hoping for quick advice, but as it turned out I got much more. Besides possibility of using their equipment, time and knowledge I met Marek. He quickly explained he is Bublewicz family member. It took Marek many years to rebuilt Marlboro Rally Team Poland. Original team was officially presented in march of 1991 in the Victoria Hotel in Warsaw. It was the first professional polish rally team with Marlboro branding. More important is that in the same time Marlboro’s parent company, Philip Morris sponsored likes of such great individuals as Ayrton Senna or Carlos Sainz. Besides cash flow consortium gave polish team something more, worldwide known name, something that no other polish team had ever before. Partnership while great, came with a wave of criticism. People thought Marian won just by big sponsor money, which was consequently visible by better equipment that he had. To be frank, you won’t place 2nd in European Rally Championship just by glorified logo on your pullover.

Cosworth. Gazmot Motorsport goal was to bring back historic Marlboro Rally Team Poland. For this purpose, everything had to be period correct, starting with mechanics and drivers’ uniforms, through two spec A rally cars to service trucks from good old days. Marek always wanted to participate in rallies, he told me: “Neither me or Marian wouldn’t be happy with the rebuilt cars being just another museum piece, never used, for exhibition purpose only”. Today in Marek’s team there are two Ford Sierras Cosworth RS, one RWD and one AWD, exactly the same as it was in the 90s, in Bublewicz era. Both fitted with 2 litre turbocharged engine made by Cosworth, making just shy of 300 horsepower. What’s more, both cars are built using original components from Marian’s cars. The idea was to build those cars to commemorate Marian Bublewicz by participating in historical rallies, so it was only right to build them according to today’s standards, equipment such as full racing roll cage was fitted, as otherwise they wouldn’t be homologated and would never race.

Family. Marian’s team was something more than just bunch of people on a rally stage. It was family, real family with one goal in mind – winning. If mechanics were face with reality staying up late night to fix cars for another day, they would willingly do so. Whileall the drivers rested Marian trained. When other co-drivers had free time in the evenings, Marian’s co-drivers had to repeat route over and over again. Team had levels of chemistry almost visible by the competition. Krzysztof Hołowczyc, one of the most titled polish rally driver was trained by Marian. In his memories about Bublewicz always stresses how energetic of a person he was, that this energy attracted people to him. It was so strong of the force that it would drive everyone around Marian to fight with him for split seconds on rally stages. Bublewicz was very kind and warm person. he knew his team was very engaged in the work all year long neglecting the families. He came up with the idea that he will fund holidays for wifes of team members in the time of Rally of Greece. While men worked, women sunbathed. Marian loved his fans, he always found some time to sign autographs and take pictures. Even when the battle didn’t go as he planned, he stayed and waited for all the people that came for him, always smiling, he didn’t want to disappoint nobody. Being a public persona forgot he not about being a team leader, charismatic front runner that everyone listed to and followed path of. He never shouted, he made sure that his team will think for themselves. When Marian told his co-driver, Grzegorz Gac, that they will be participating in 1992 season of European Rally Championship Gac expressed his concerns about the plan. Bublewicz cut it short “I’m decided, it is happening”. That how the champion was, rich and complex personality combined with passion for cars and drive to achieve all his dreams, capable of uniting people.

Sweat. I cram myself into narrow racing bucket. I think I put on a little bit of weight. Marian would probably be disgusted with my overall shape and posture, he ran a lot, trained all the time, to always be/ in form. Interior of the car is extremely humid and hot. I slowly click on the five-point harnesses. Every time I put on the racing harness, I think to myself, does it hurt a lot in a junk region when you have an accident? Marek fiddles a bit with the doors, then slams them shut closing me in, like a fish in a tin can. All of the sudden there is only silence, then I hear knocking on the roof, it is the sing for me to go. I push red button with words “start/stop” written on it, car slowly gets on going onto a forest rally stage. Couple of minutes ago I drove there as a passenger to get to know the route. First, second, then third. Gearbox is surprisingly precise with very short travel between gears. Razor sharp. I get to 100, 120, I barely touch the accelerator pedal, I feel like all wheel drive Sierra is plowing through the gravel trail. Corner. I remember that pedal in the middle is not something you take time on. I slam on the brakes as hard as I can. I go down the gears. I get to the paved road with a shrine on the side in a meagre minutes, I’m supposed to turn around here. I search for the reverse for a while, I forgot to ask how to engage it. I go back the same route I come, this time braver. Eternal countersteering resembles driving a hovercraft. Car throws itself from the left to the right. For a single moment I forgot that tomorrow I have much important business meeting, that I have to iron my shirt and polish my shoes for. It all fades away, my body turns on standby mode. It’s only me and the legend of Marian Bublewicz. In one of his interviews for the Playboy magazine he said that driving fast is like sex for him, it calms him. I push harder. Famous are the stories of how did Bublewicz trained.Late in the evenings he raced himself on public roads through forests and villages with assist of friends, who closed down side roads so no one would interrupt Marian’s attempts. I’m currently on that makeshift rally stage. Forgotten by God and humanity stretch of narrow road. Nothing but yellow dust, gravel, dirt and trees. Driving rally cars calms me. I drift through the road like a cruise ship. Don’t know if this is the moment I’m still in control of a car, or the car is in the control of me. My ears are drilled with turbocharged cosworthengine that spits fire out the exhaust. Exhilarating sound. I hear stones bouncing around under the car, I love that sound, I can feel that there’s not much between me and the ground. I go around few times and then stop in the same place I started. Interior instantly fills with dust chasing the car down the road. I unbuckle my seatbelts and get out. Just now it hit me, I’m drenched in sweat. My hands are shaking. That was something else. For the moment I stand still in the heat looking at both rally cars. Instantly my head is occupied by thought that there are some cars that absorb me completely. Stratos was just like that. Absorb, chew up and spit. They want something more of you than just a gear change. They want you to know their history. It’s like dancing, technique ain’t everything, you have to know your partner.

One last rally. February 20th 1993, Lower Silesia Rally, near the Polish – Chech border. 7 out of 9 Lower Silesian Rallies won by Bublewicz. Marian with car number 1 goes for the stage 5, Orłowiec – Złoty Stok. He’s driving borrowed by Belgian driver Patric Snijers Ford Sierra AWD with even power distribution for both axles. It happened because Belgian crashed Marians sierra AWD couple weeks before that on the special stage somewhere in the middle east. Bublewicz loved rear wheel drive cars, he could feel them much better than all-wheel drive ones. In his AWD Sierra he had 36% power to the front and 64% to the back, it was like that so he could flick car into a corner with some slip of the back. Following drivers were starting to finish the stage, but Marian was still nowhere to be seen. What happened to him? He was destined to win this stage.
2nd kilometer of the 5th stage. One corner, One tree. Sierra wraps around it like a Coca Cola can. Co-Driver escapes without any problems. Marian has less luck, he is trapped inside the crushed car. People gathered around try to get him out. Despite the harm Marian is still conscious, he is still giving people orders how to help him in the best way. Emergency services have to cut him out using bare hands and had axes, lack of equipment makes them lose time. Finally, they release Bublewicz from the wreckage. Being transported to the medical car he refuses to get help with getting his helmet off, he does it himself to give the sign that he is still here. He even waves to the crowd. Medical car goes straight to the hospital, and Marian straight to the operating table. Suddenly blood for transfusion ends. There is no more in the hospital. Krzysztof Czepan, Marian’s cousin, his right hand, chief of service and man inseparable from the Marlboro Rally Team recalls the moment when Marian got to the hospital. Andrzej Martynkin, one of the journalists that was on the hospital floor, drove borrowed car to the nearest city to the hospital to get blood for Marian. When he got back hospital staff realised there is no machine to heat up the blood, so Czepan with the Marboro Team personelheat up the blood packs under their suits. Internal damage of Marian’s was too much. Once shining star slowly fades away in the small hospital operating theatre. “I got luck and I hope it’ll never abandon me” Marian repeated numerous times, and so on through his whole career luck never abandoned him. Even when he hit the boulder on the side of the road with Mazda 323 and rolled over 8 times. He got to the hospital with a broken skull then, but he came back. Unfortunately, Lower Silesia Rally had to be the last one.

Shoes. Couple of days before Rally of Bulgaria, Marian’s co-driver, Grzegorz Gac was gifted news shoes by his team. Blood Red Sparcos. There is a superstition in the rally community that new shoes are going to bring bad luck on the rally stages. Gac knowing this broke them out on the party once, so they wouldn’t be new anymore.
Training time. Marian was waiting for Grzegorz in front of the hotel. When Gac got into the car wearing his casual shoes he looked at Bublewicz and saw something disrupting in his eyes. He asked “What’s the matter Marian?”. Bubel then asked Gac if he could change into his sports shoes, just to be sure they aren’t new anymore. There was nothing to argue about with Marian, Gac got back to his room, change into the racing shoes and so they proceed the training. Team Bubel – Gac completed the rally on the third place.

Miko. Mikołaj “Miko” Marczyk – Rally driver for factory Skoda Polska Motorsport team; ex-factory driver for Subaru; Polish Rally Champion in Group N for 2017. Miko is my dear friend from the High School, very talented rally driver. I don’t know why we liked each other having so many differences between us. Despite that we’re still good friends, and have been for many years. We happen to have driven same cars, such as car similar to Bublewicz’s Sierra.
Miko says: “I’ve driven one of those RWD Sierra’s you’ve tested. I think that back in a day ability to control a car despite not being able to have influence over all the events surrounding and the ability to adapt was the most important skill that driver could have. I’m not suggesting that nowadays it is different, but modern rallies went to the route of analysis, everything is precise and planned. Remember that today rally cars are built from the scratch to do one thing, back then they were road cars prepared for the rallies. If you were to put modern rally driver into a co-driver seat of Marian’s they would probably get out scared of how fast you can go in that Sierra.  This year I drove Skoda Fabia R5 in the Rally of Lower Silesia. For the first time in 25 years, so from the moment when that tragic crash happened, stage of Lądek Zdrój to Złoty Stok was opened for rallying. This Special Stage is just so cool, it has so many moments when one mistake can snowball into something very dangerous. Big elevation changes, sometimes hills that you go over having 180 km/h on the clock. 13 kilometers in less than 6 minutes. We drove where Marian had his accident. It’s a scary place, very dark with low visibility. My co-driver noted that we should be cautious there. I try to be professional, stories like this shouldn’t reflect on how we drive. We have to race, drive fast, do what we have to, so for the whole rally we didn’t mention the crash. I though think, that everyone is somehow living through this accident in their head, that’s hard feelings. Rallies are the beautiful sport, but it never was safe and so everyone knows that. Of course, you force yourself not to think about it, but somewhere deep you know that happened on that corner 2 kilometers into the stage. I’m very happy I could drive this route. To just be there. Our appearance there with rally cars was a silent tribute for Marian. I think that he looked at as and smiled, and was very happy that this rally stage is once again in use.”

Farewell. Wintery Poland. February 25th 1993, 2:43pm. Rainy streets of Olsztyn are filled with hundreds of citizens, fans and friends of Bubel. Funeral procession made of couple of dozens of cars, including white and red Marbloro Service truck with a trailer goes in-between gathered. On that trailer laid coffin of rally master held by hands of team members. Last farewell for the Champion, rally driver, friend, daredevil, man who was truly loved. His condolences sent even reigning polish president Lech Wałęsa. Car Rallies are beautiful. They always gathered many individuals with their uncertainty and taste of balancing on thin line between life and death. Unfortunately, they tend to take some of them forever. Meeting with Marbloro Rally Team Poland by GazmotMotosport was an extraordinary experience. I took a peek inside truly astonishing team. I met exceptional people who spent all their life on their passion for speed and sincere admiration for one man. Marian was atypical person, he didn’t let himself to be labelled and to be described in simple words. Today I have no doubts, he was a living legend. He forever will be inspiration and model for many generations of drivers.

TEXT by: Sławomir Poros

PHOTOS by: Roman Rudnicki

TRANSLATED by: Wojciech Wólczyński

POWERED by: Gazmot Motorsport

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