South Racing swaps the heat of South America for a Russian winter
KARELIA (RUSSIA): A month after taking all four of its cars to the finish of the gruelling Dakar Rally, South Racing will swap the punishing heat of South America for the ice, snow and plummeting temperatures of a Russian winter, when it enters two cars in next weekend’s Baja Russia Northern Forest Rally.
The traditional opening round of the 2016 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies is based in the Republic of Karelia, near the Russian border with Finland, and will offer the two South Racing crews of a pair of Toyota Hiluxes an altogether different challenge to competing in the dust, sand and heat of South America. Nighttime temperatures could plummet to as low as -40°C.
Spanish driver Fernando Alvarez and his Argentinean navigator Luciano Gennoni crew the first of the South Racing Toyotas and will be joined by the experienced Venezuelan duo of Nunzio Coffaro and Daniel Meneses.
Alvarez and Gennoni crew the Conarpesa/Iprisco Toyota that took them to fourth overall in last year’s Desafio Guarani in Paraguay, eighth at the Desafio Ruta 40 in Argentina and a troubled 23rd in Portugal’s Baja Portalegre, where the crew lost time after an accident and co-driver sickness. The Russian encounter will mark the first time that the crew have competed on snow and ice in sub-zero temperatures.
Coffaro’s INA Toyota Hilux has further backing from PDVSA, Toyota, Venezuela Tourism and the Ministerio Desportes. The Team Azimut Venezuela crew are returning to FIA World Cup competition after enjoying an excellent foray at last month’s Dakar Rally. They finished 30th overall after running as high as 22nd through seven of the 13 stages.
Coffaro is no stranger to the FIA World Cup and is planning a full assault at the 2016 championship, although the Baja Russia Northern Forest outing will be the Venezuelan’s first taste of racing on snow and ice in a classic winter rally.
“This is a new and exciting challenge for everyone at South Racing,” admitted South Racing’s team director Scott Abraham. “It comes off the back of a strong Dakar, where we were the only multi-car team to have all our cars at the finish in Rosario. This cannot be achieved without a great team of personnel. We did not have much rest after the Dakar, but everyone is ready for a completely different challenge in the Northern Forest Rally. Straight after this event, the teams’ containers leave for the Middle Eastern rounds of the championship.”
South Racing was founded in 2013. Based near Frankfurt in Germany, the young, customer-driven team also has workshops in Portugal and has extensive experience of the Dakar Rally and rallying in South America.
Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia guided his South Racing Toyota to the finish of the Dakar in 21st and was joined by Czech-born Australian Peter Jerie in 32nd position. The team also ran a pair of Ford Rangers in conjunction with DMAS and Esponsorama: Xavier Pons and Daniel Mas Valdes finished the event in 30th and 35th overall to give South Racing an impressive 100% finishing record at the world’s most demanding rally.
Main competition to the South Racing crews in the remote icy wastelands of Russia will come from the former FIA World Cup champion Vladimir Vasilyev, fellow Russian drivers Evgeny Firsov and Andrey Novikov, Finland’s Toni Gardemeister and Poland’s Marek Dabrowski.
The northern region of Karelia, near the border with Finland, will host the event for the second successive year and is likely to give the organisers more stable winter weather, guaranteed snow cover and lower temperatures.
There will be two days of action along a revised route through the frozen wilderness, including two stages of approximately 20km and 180km in length on Sunday, February 21st. The longer selective section will be repeated on Monday, February 22nd before the ceremonial finish in the village of Vyartsilya.
Event formalities will be based at Sortavala town, while the competitive route winds its way close to the Finnish border, near Yartsevo in the Sortavala region, and then further north towards the district of Suojärvi.
The Republic of Karelia stretches from the White Sea coast to the Gulf of Finland and contains the two largest lakes in Europe, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega.