BITTER SWEET VICTORY
On the way to Elista through the Kalmoukia Desert, Nasser Al Attiyah claimed his very first victory on this edition of the Silk Way Rally. Yet for the Volkswagen driver whose mission was to gain over 15 minutes on Carlos Sainz, this success was slightly bitter. Indeed Al Attiyah only gained just under three minutes on the title holder and time and kilometres are counted^a In the truck race, a huge upset occurred, in favour of young Eduard Nikolaev who made the best navigation mistakes on behalf of his elders, Kabirov and Chagin. The 26-year-old takes command of the GC.
Some victories can leave a slight bad taste in the mouth. It might be the case for Nasser Al Attiyah after his stage victory at Elista. Already a multiple special winner on rallies around the world, the man from Qatar bitterly welcomed his first success on this Silk Way. Indeed his advantage of 2'53 on Carlos Sainz at the end of a day spent in the middle of a sand storm in the Kalmoukia Desert, meant that the situation was getting more and more complicated. Thanks to his huge experience, the overall leader remained calm and composed on the day's special. As expected, the Spaniard was caught by his team mates and the starting order gave Al Attiyah an advantage of 1'01 on Miller at the finish. But more importantly, El Matador had managed to keep good control of his rivals on a day that could have been tricky. With a 12'48 lead over Al Attiyah, he can serenely take on the 363kms that remain in the Silk Way Rally on the way to Sochi.
The time schedule of the 29 other cars was a lot longer^aagain. But the battle for fourth place is as interesting as can be. Mathias Kahle had been the best of the non-Volkswagen drivers for the last two days. But the German was finally the day's victim in this battle for fourth spot. With the twelfth time of the day, the Buggy master close to 1h30'' behind Al Attiyah, he now has a deficit of over half an hour on Alexander Mironenko. Seventh of the special allows the Russian to overtake Kahle in the GC. But the gap is slim: only 22'45.
Firdaus Kabirov in his Kamaz truck took off with the clear intention of keeping his rivals under control. And the Russian was in position to do so as he started second behind Chagin. After all, his task was only to remain within shooting distance of the 6-time Dakar winner. But the truth of racing isn't that simple. And it reminds us that in cross-country rallies, positions are always fragile. Indeed as the two leaders took on the final third of the special, they completely lost track. Minutes went by and they carried on looking for a GPS point on a portion of 5 kilometres.
At the finish in Elista, the rising star of the Kamaz team, Eduard Nikolaev made the best of the odd situation. At age 26 and after avoiding the traps set out on the stage, he captured his second stage success and the overall lead with an advantage of 33' on Kabirov and 43'36'' on Vladimir Chagin.