Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Russian KAMAZ Team in the Lead at the Dakar-2009 International Auto Rally at the End of the 10th Leg

Filed under: Russian,sport — 01varvara @ 00.00

The KAMAZ team strengthened its lead in the Dakar-2009 International Auto Rally. Looking at the results of the first ten legs of the race, being run for the first time in Latin America, in the truck category, the first two spots were taken by the crews of Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov. The Dutch crew of Gerard de Roy was in third place. Well, it is almost “traditional” in the Dakar Rally for the KAMAZ Master Team to hold the leading positions. Thus, on Tuesday, at the completion of the 10th leg of the route, five-time-winner Vladimir Chagin again proved his stuff, being at the head of the pack. Due to adverse weather conditions, the organisers were forced to substantially reduce the length of this part of the route. As a result, the sportsmen passed only 476 kilometres (295 miles) instead of the 670 kilometres (416 miles) planned. Chagin proved himself a champ in fighting through the sand dunes in the Atacama Desert and finished first with a time for the leg of 5 hours 14 minutes 40 seconds.

Experts agree that the organisers of the rally chose a route in Argentina and Chile that ran on almost-impassable roads, a route that was nearly too much for the men and machines. The main challenge in the present rally has been the intolerable heat. The Atacama is a desert no less hot and no less insidious than the Sahara. The crews are holding out, but, the machinery takes a beating. Tyres can catch on fire due to the friction on the hot sand at speeds of up to 150 kph (93 mph). Then, it is necessary to stop, jack up the vehicle, and change the tyres. Even the relief from the desert turns out to be illusory. The Chilean sand dunes turn into sandy mountain tracks, then, a swamp appears, ending with a narrow mountain path with a rather slippery surface.

Thus, to finish this leg of the rally, it was necessary for the racers to overcome a very complex and dangerous section of road that was a mountain pass only wide enough to accommodate one vehicle. It was not possible for one vehicle to pass another at the pass, and it seemed that it was nothing but a sheer rock face on one side and a sharp drop on the other. Russian driver Firdaus Kabirov said, “The road was so narrow that it seemed to be the width of the wheels… literally. There was no way that we could choose another path. We had to accelerate and brake carefully around the turns. Of course, we put a large strain on the brakes. However, the brakes played the most decisive role. Those of us who didn’t stint on their use proved to have the better results”.

Don’t forget, the Dakar Auto Rally, the most prestigious in the world, is being conducted for the first time in its 30-year history in Argentina and Chile instead of in Africa. Again, the total length of the route is some 9,000 kilometres (5,592 miles), with 6,000 (3,728 miles) of them being high-speed stretches. The race shall conclude in Buenos Aires on 18 January. The fight for the title of champion of the race shall be bitter to the very end, the Dakar-2009 organisers said.

14 January 2009

Svetlana Kalmykova

Voice of Russia World Service


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