Al-Attiyah and Sotnikov, first across the line
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Hilux) in the cars and Dmitry Sotnikov (Kamaz-Master) in the trucks have won the first stage of the 2018 SILK WAY RALLY, run as a loop around Astrakhan. This first special stage could in no way be considered a gentle warm up and provoked a number of upsets. The first competitors to run out of luck were Nani Roma (MINI John Cooper Works No 104), Mathieu Serradori (Buggy SRT), Martin Van Den Brink (Renault Mammoet) and Akira Muira (Toyota Land Cruiser Autobody)…
Cars: Al-Attiyah tries to find the right pace….
Opening this first stage, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthei Baumel (Toyota Hilux No 101) spent the whole day without seeing another competitor. On a track that was sometimes hard on the suspension, the duo struggled to find the right pace against the competition that wasn’t spared their fair share of problems and bad luck. First to run into difficulties was Nani Roma (MINI John Cooper Works No 104) victim of stomach problems that forced him to turn back at CP1 (km 118) after a chaotic start. Returning to the bivouac, the Spanish driver made straight for the medical tent and will most likely restart tomorrow morning, despite having said goodbye to any chance of featuring well in the overall results right from the start. If it was a route that suited the buggies, a right rear puncture dashed the hopes of Harry Hunt (Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi No107) mid-special. The British driver finally finished second on the day, 2:30 behind the winners. Same problem for Yazeed Al Rahji (MINI John Cooper Works No 103). Setting off on a false rhythm and also victim of a puncture, the Saudi gave away more than 20 minutes. Fighting for the 3rd place on the day, until just 15 kilometres from the finish, Mathieu Serradori (Buggy SRT No 108) ended up losing nearly one hour after repeatedly running out of petrol due to as yet unexplained heavy fuel consumption.
Miura breaks down, Nifontova takes the lead
The T2 category for production vehicles also had its share of upsets. After only 20 kilometres of special stage, the Japanese driver Akira Miura (Toyota Land Cruiser Autobody No 120), the favourite on the race, was forced to turn back with gearbox problems. A gift for the Russian driver Anastasia Nifontova (Toyota Land Cruiser No 132) who takes the early lead on her first race in the desert on four wheels. The ex-motorcycle champion leads the Turkmen competitor Shamyrat Gurbanov (Nissan Patrol No 141) and the Chinese driver Zi Yun Gang (Toyota Land Cruiser No 134) by over an hour. In the T3 class it is the Frenchman Nicolas Duclos (Polaris RZR No 117), 7th overall, who posts the fastest time ahead of the Russian female pairing of Mariia Oparina and Taisiia Shtaneva (Maverick X3 No 115). The Bulgarian Petar Cenkov (Quaddy YXZ No 130) completes the day’s T3 podium.
Trucks: Sotnikov saves the day
In the truck class everyone was expecting an orderly procession of Kamaz at the finish. In the end it failed to materialise. First on the road, Dmitry Sotnikov (KAMAZ-MASTER No 300) was passed by his team mate Eduard Nikolaev (KAMAZ-MASTER No 301) closely followed by the Dutchman Van Den Brink in his Renault Mammoet. But the charge at the front wouldn’t last long. Running into hydraulic problems, Nikolaev would lose more than an hour, while a fuel leak followed by an errant front wheel would put an end to the Flying Dutchman’s ambitions. While Airat Mardeev (Kamaz-Master No 303) struggled with his diff lock and then his power steering, Sotnikov continued on his way to win the stage and save Kamaz’s honour. Second on the day, the Belarus Viazovich (MAZ No 302) finished just 6 minutes behind the leader with Andrey Karginov (Kamaz-Master No 309) completing the podium.