Silk Way Rally: Series Friday report

HEADED FOR SOCHI After the technical scrutineering and administrative checks, 43 cars and 16 trucks were authorized to start the second edition of the Silk Way Rally. Drivers and co-drivers representing 25 countries will therefore leave Saint...

HEADED FOR SOCHI

After the technical scrutineering and administrative checks, 43 cars and 16 trucks were authorized to start the second edition of the Silk Way Rally. Drivers and co-drivers representing 25 countries will therefore leave Saint Petersburg tomorrow morning for an outstanding adventure all the way to Sochi. Volkswagen in the car race and Kamaz in the truck class will naturally be favourites after the victories last year of Carlos Sainz and Firdaus Kabirov.

They started by a great breath of fresh air. The technical scrutineering zone on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, on the outskirts of Saint-Petersburg gave the competitors of the Silk Way Rally the opportunity to enjoy a nice deep breath of oxygen before taking on a course that will lead them 4000kms south to Sochi at the end of the week. On the scrutineering circuit that the vehicles covered to answer the mandatory technical rules, all eyes were focused on the four Race Touaregs lined up by Volkswagen and clear favourites of the bookmakers. The question concerning the battle for the title however remains wide open. Indeed the tradition inside the German team forbids any kind of team order that would anyhow be pointless with competitors like Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al Attiyah who offered the World a splendid battle in the last Dakar as well as during the first edition of the Silk Way.

As the title holder, the Spaniard admits he's eager to start racing after seven months without competing. For his return to the tracks, his mission will be to take the brand new Race Touareg developed by VW to victory. "It's very close to the older model but small changes will make it even more adapted to the terrain in Argentina and Chile with high temperatures and altitude". His biggest rival, Nasser Al Attiyah, will be driving the car that helped him finish second of the last Dakar and keeps a bitter memory of his experience in Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan last year: "The roll we had during the penultimate stage after having led the whole race was difficult to accept especially because it had also happened in Brazil a few weeks before". The driver from Qatar will maybe have the opportunity to put aside the setbacks that have been hitting him in his dual with Sainz but will also have keep an eye on Giniel De Villiers and Mark Miller who have no intention on playing secondary parts.

With quite a few candidates for a final podium spot, the battle among the blue team promises to be all the more exciting. Indeed German Mathias Kahle who will be competing in his first race in the SMG team of Philippe Gache, as well as Christian Lavieille still behind the steering wheel of a Dessoude Nissan prototype will be among the major threats. But Frenchman Lavieille certainly remembers that on the first edition, the Eastern European drivers had outclassed their hosts. Concerning the Russian contingent Ilya Kuznetsov and Alexey Berkut will be serious outsiders while Lithuania will be represented at the highest level by Benedictas Vanagas.

In the truck race, the battle promises to be just as exciting, with the presence of an impressive fleet of seven Kamaz trucks on the start line. There too, the main explanation could involve the other blue team. Firdaus Kabirov who on several occasions made the best of mistakes of his historical team captain Vladimir Chagin will do his best to defend his title in a truck that was especially built for its debut on the tracks of the Silk Way Rally. But the competition will also be fierce in this class, indeed Ales Loprais, third last year, also shows up in a brand new Tatra machine designed to fight for victory on the next Dakar. With the same ambitions, Pep Vila and Hugo Duisters will carry the colours and hopes of Gerard De Rooy's team in two new Iveco trucks.

-source: aso

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Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Hugo Duisters , Christian Lavieille , Alexey Berkut , Vladimir Chagin , Firdaus Kabirov , Ales Loprais , Pep Vila , Ilya Kuznetsov