Monday, June 24, 2024

MAZ snaps KAMAZ’s Silk Way streak

KAMAZ-master might be the king of the Silk Way Rally, but MAZ-SPORTauto has usurped the throne. For just the second time in the race’s history, KAMAZ failed to win the SWR as MAZ’s Siarhei Viazovich defeated a KAMAZ onslaught, securing a Belarusian victory on Russian soil.

Despite an early navigational error, Viazovich recorded a total time of 24 hours, 22 minutes, 14 seconds to hold off an army of KAMAZ trucks led by Eduard Nikolaev, who finished eleven minutes and forty-six seconds back. Defending champion Dmitry Sotnikov failed to podium in a race best lowlighted by him driving into a gully in Stage #2, prompting MAZ driver Vitaliy Murylev to help pull him out; Sotnikov finished fourth with Andrey Karginov beating him for the third and final spot on the podium.

MAZ is only the second manufacturer to defeat KAMAZ in the Silk Way after Aleš Loprais won the 2011 truck category in a Tatra.

“We are very happy to be at the finish. It has been a long way for us at thirteen years,” said Viazovich. “MAZ took part in the Silk Way for the first time in 2010, and today we finally became the winners of this most difficult race in the most difficult weather conditions when it started to rain. As always, we chose unconventional tactics and went on the attack today on a slippery road. We had excellent grip, the tyres worked great, we never slipped anywhere, we didn’t make a mistake, we quickly ‘rolled’ Andrey Karginov at the 40th kilometre, passed him, and kept a good pace until the very finish.

“MAZ turned out to be the fastest car in this rally and one of the fastest in the world. Representing the Republic of Belarus here is a great honour for us.”

The ninth and final stage, a 117-km sprint to Moscow, was marred by rain. In the conditions, Nikolaev won by 2:50 over Viazovich, which was nowhere near enough to close the gap.

“The route was very interesting, not easy—there was navigation, bumps, pits, and punctures,” Nikolaev commented. “Upon arriving home, we will gather and conduct a thorough analysis of both technology, and piloting, and navigation. Overall, everyone is alive and well: this is the main thing.”

Two more KAMAZ trucks followed as Hou Hongning and Sergey Kupriyanov were fifth and seventh in the T5 class, respectively, with MAZ’s Aliaksei Vishneuski sandwiched. Hou’s entry was a partnership with KAMAZ-master dubbed One Belt One Road, in reference to China’s economic policy laid along the historic Silk Road trade routes for which the SWR is named.

Vladimir Vasilyev had dominated the rally overall, setting the fastest times of the entire field across all but two legs entering the penultimate stage. However, he left the rally penniless after losing control of his BMW X5 in a puddle and rolling. Andrey Rudskoy‘s G-Force Bars overcame power issues to win the stage and eventually the T1 category with over two hours on Alexander Rusanov.

While 2022 SSV SWR winner Nikita Mazepin was unavailable, SNAG Racing still notched their fifth Silk Way Rally victory in that category with owner Sergei Kariakin. He had to stave off a challenge from SWR newcomer Roman Rusinov and beat him by seventeen minutes, an advantage he was able to inflate even after running out of windscreen washer fluid in a muddy Stage #8 and having to complete the leg using his memory of the route.

Even if short of the victory, Rusinov was more than pleased with the runner-up class finish. The former FIA World Endurance LMP2 Champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans veteran was running just his second rally raid after finishing nowhere near the podium in his rally début at the Gold of Kagan in April. His G-Drive Racing team-mate Anastasiya Nifontova was knocked out of contention after the driveshaft broke.

“Many thanks to the team. For most of them, it was the first race in their lives; it was very hard for them, but they never let me down,” wrote Kariakin on Telegram. “Now we need to rest to fight again, there are already plans for future races and projects!”

In the two-wheel classes, Oleg Pavlenko was the top bike rider until he got lost twice in Stage #7B, which Ilya Scheglov used to close the gap before passing him altogether a day later when mechanical issues ruined his race.

Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which led to Russian and Belarusian teams being barred from FIA-sanctioned series like the World Rally-Raid Championship unless they agreed to condemn the war, the SWR was once again relatively scant in nationality diversity outside of Russia, Belarus, and the lone Chinese entry with Hou. Turkmenistan was the only other country represented as the Federation Automobile Sport of Turkmenistan fielded three Nissan Patrols in T2 for Maxatmyrat Danatarov, Shamirat Gurbanov, and Merdan Toyliev. Danatarov finished the best of the three in twenty-second overall and second in T2 behind Anton Melkinov.

Class winners

Class Overall Finish Number Driver Co-Driver Team Vehicle Total Time
T1 5 202 Andrey Rudskoy Dmitry Karpov NG-Energo G-Force Bars 25:28:07
T2 20 222 Anton Melnikov Anton Nikolaev Moscow Region Toyota Land Cruiser 200 30:05:01
T3 7 211 Sergei Kariakin Anton Vlasyuk SNAG Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 25:31:30
T5 1 302 Siarhei Viazovich Pavel Haranin, Andrei Krahelskiy MAZ-SPORTauto MAZ 6440RR 24:22:14
Open 17 240 Sergey Evstratov Dmitri Shishkin Siberia SDE Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR 28:44:56
ATV 25 109 Anatoly Kuznetsov N/A Lion Racing Team Can-Am Outlander MAX XT-P 1000R 32:27:08
Moto 24 32 Ilya Scheglov N/A Doc 32 Husqvarna FR 450 Rally 33:03:32