Wednesday, April 17, 2024

KAMAZ-master lead technician Nikolai Strakhov dies at 63

Nikolai Strakhov, an early pioneer of Russian competitors at the Dakar Rally, passed away last Tuesday. He was 63 years old.

Strakhov had worked at KAMAZ-master since its formation in 1988. The Dakar Rally saw its first Russian entrants three years later in 1991, and Strakhov served as mechanic of a KAMAZ driven by Vladimir Goltsov with Firdaus Kabirov also onboard. The trio finished runner-up to Jacques Houssat’s Perlini, while their KAMAZ team-mate Joel Tammeka joined them on the podium.

He continued to work at KAMAZ in a pit capacity, servicing the team’s competition entries from assistance vehicles. While such positions do not attain the same glory as those racing, he continued to experience his own adventures that infamously included his KamAZ-5350 support truck being cut off from the team at the 2001 Dakar Rally when the Mauritania/Morocco border was closed following a landmine injuring a driver.

With Strakhov’s help, KAMAZ has won a record nineteen Dakar Rallies in the truck/T5 category.

“Nikolai Strakhov is gone. The motorsport veteran, who has worked in the team since its inception and achieved all the major historical milestones with it, died on April 25, at the age of 63,” reads a team statement. “Back in 1991, together with Vladimir Goltsov and Firdaus Kabirov, he became the first Russian winner of the Dakar Rally when their crew took second place in the race. After that, there were thousands of kilometres of roads, cities and countries, sleepless nights and selfless work for the overall team result.

“Kind, smiling, reliable, and always ready to help… This is how Nikolai Strakhov will forever remain in our memory.”

Even excluding fatal accidents, of which there have been too many in recent times, Strakhov is among a growing list of Dakar Rally alumni to have passed away in the past six months. This is especially the case for those who died of natural causes decades after a given event, which, while obviously not unusual, has seemingly been a bigger trend since late 2022 when Georges Groine, one of the first winners of the truck category in 1982, died in December. Matthew Stevenson, a co-driver in the 1990s and 2000s, passed two months later. April alone has seen the losses of Croatian rally legend and 1990 Dakar racer Tihomir Filipović, followed by 1990s truck competitor Alexandre Boutevillain the following week.

Nikolai Strakhov: 31 December 1959 – 25 April 2023

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