THE MASTER AND THE LITTLE TSAR Before hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic games, Sochi welcomed the finish of an outstanding edition of the Silk Way Rally after a long journey through Russia ending on the shores of the Black Sea. After the visit ...
THE MASTER AND THE LITTLE TSAR
Before hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic games, Sochi welcomed the finish of an outstanding edition of the Silk Way Rally after a long journey through Russia ending on the shores of the Black Sea. After the visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Poutine at the Maykop bivouac yesterday evening, the competitors took on a final special that officialised the victories of Carlos Sainz in the car race and promising Eduard Nikolaev in the trucks.
The special with 24 water fords wasn't fatal for Carlos Sainz. The overall leader of the race since Giniel De Villiers' crash was worried about the meeting between car and water but everything went as planned. While Nasser Al Attiyah had chosen to put on a great show to conquer a third stage win, the Spaniard remained calm and focused, avoiding to play his rival's risky game. Sainz remains the master of the Silk Way Rally by claiming the event for the second consecutive time after a week where he was actually more troubled by De Villiers than by Al Attiyah. The expected battle with the driver from Qatar was finally a three-man fight, at least until stage 5 where De Villiers' hopes of victory faded away. On equal level in terms of driving, the difference was made on navigation especially when the stages of the Silk Way rally became extremely long and tricky. While they all suffered stressful moments looking for the good way, Sainz was the one to suffer the less. And that's probably what Al Attiyah will have to keep in mind to outpace his Spanish rival during the next Dakar, in less than 4 months.
The battle for the place of best non-Volkswagen witnessed quite a few upsets. It first hit Boris Gadasin who looked impressive behind the steering wheel of his G Force Prototype before he crashed out during stage 4, leaving that precious spot to Mathias Kahle leading the battle of the privateers in his SMG buggy. He too thought it was all over when he broke his gear box and finished the penultimate stage behind his assistance truck, however remaining 5th. Good news for Alexander Mironenko. Well the final stage of the rally was not to be kind to the Russian. He indeed broke the engine of his Nissan and made it to the line behind his truck but outside the time limit. That meant a 2-hour penalty. Kahle moved back into 4th position while Mironenko dropped down to 7th, leaving the title of best Russian to Binyamin Dzhepaev in a Russian UAZ Pickup. In the T2 Production class, victory was for the only French crew remaining in the rally: Frederic Chavigny and Jean Brucy in their Dessoude Nissan. They finished 6th overall.
In the truck race, a historical page was turned in the Kamaz team that conquered all three steps of the podium like the Volkswagen Race Touaregs. Natural leader Vladimir Chagin, a 6-time Dakar winner started by taking command of the rally before first being overtaken by experienced Firdaus Kabirov. But the real menace came from elsewhere. At 26 years of age, Eduard Nikolaev shattered the traditional and established hierarchy when he first claimed a special as soon as day 2. He then distanced his prestigious elders when avoiding a navigation mistake that was fatal to the victory hopes of Chagin and Kabirov. The young man learned his trucking skills in Tatarstan and his short career reminds that of the Dakar victory record holder. The 'little Tsar' who was actually part of Chagin's last victorious campaign in Argentine and Chile as the third member in the cabin of the Kamaz truck, will be the man in charge in his own machine on the next edition of the Dakar, next January.
Like in the car race the battle to finish best of the non-Kamaz trucks was fascinating. After the De Rooy trucks of Vila and Duisters (finally 10th and 13th overall) suffered accidents and incidents early in the rally, the fight was between Franz Echter, in his MAN, and the Tatra of Ales Loprais. It eventually went Loprais' way during the penultimate stage when Echter suffered a puncture. Despite several navigation mistakes that certainly made Loprais cover a lot more than the initial 2014 kilometres, this 4th spot comes as a slight satisfaction. But the Czech Republic driver will have to do a lot better if he wants to be a threat to the Kamaz army during the next Dakar.