Baja “Russia – Northern Forest” has finished today in the Republic of Karelia, where the Qatari driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah became the runaway winner.
This year the three-day race on the snow-ice surface did not leave any driver indifferent and every finished crew gave positive feedback and thanked the organizers.
This year, the weather did everything to ensure that the race would be at an excellent level – the frost and the large amount of snow that fell in the last month, allowed to prepare the perfect track. The frozen ground and densely rolled snow were not worn down even by the multi-ton KAMAZ that acted as an “opening” safety car, checking the track before the first participant start.
Each racing day is rich for events and emotions, and the final day of the rally put in places all those people who arrived to the Karelian forests to feel the speed and drive of the only snow-ice round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The second 229-kilometer competitive day consisted of two special stages that racers studied yesterday – today they have passed them in the opposite direction.
Tapio Lauronen, who was in the third position in the half way classification of the first two days, dropped out of the fight at SS-4 for a technical reason – the driveshaft breakdown cannot be repaired in the course of the special stage.
As for the rest, the final day passed without any adventures.
In T2 standings the podium became international. The first place was secured by the Russian crew of Alexey Titov and Andrey Rusov; guys have confirmed the previously won title of Russian Champions in these standings. The second and third positions were divided between the crews from Portugal and Qatar – Bruno Oliveira / Paulo Marques and Adel Hussain Abdulla / Nasser Al-Kuwari.
This year the T3 standings entry list was longer that the last one, although the participants have much inconveniences during the race, because these small cars in the normal configuration do not provide for windows and heating.
Claude Fournier, this year’s DAKAR bronze medalist in SSV class, took with him the experienced Szymon Gospodarczyk – the owner of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies in 2016 in T3 category. Szymoncomes to Russia for the third time and his knowledge and experience have their effect – victory over the Russian competitors came easier than last season.
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel in Toyota Hilux Overdrive won the first round of the FIA World Cup. Their rich experience of victories in world competitions and performances at the winter races in the World Rally Championship (WRC), as well as the leading position after the second day, left not much chance of winning to opponents.
- Nasser Saleh AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) / Mathieu BAUMEL (FRA) – Toyota Hilux Overdrive
- Martin PROKOP (CZE) / Jan TOMANEK (CZE) – Ford F150 Evo
- Vladimir VASILYEV (RUS) / Konstantin ZHILTSOV (RUS) – MINI ONE
- Aleхey TITOV (RUS) / Andrey RUSOV (RUS) – Ford F150 Raptor
- Bruno OLIVEIRA (PRT) / Paulo MARQUES (PRT) – Nissan Double Cab
- Adel Hussain ABDULLA (QAT) / Nasser AL-KUWARI (QAT) – Toyota LC VDJ 200
- Claude FOURNIER (FRA) / Szymon GOSPODARCZYK (POL) – Polaris RZR 1000
- Dmitry PONOMARENKO (RUS) / Kirill SHUBIN (RUS) – Polaris RZR 1000
- Maria OPARINA (RUS) / Taisiia SHTANEVA (RUS) – BRP Maverick Atmo
Nasser Al-Attiyah, driver, crew number 1,
“It was a good rally for me, because for the first time being here in Russia, we are leading the rally. I’m quite happy to win, I’m sure all the people are happy; I have a lot of fans in Russia. I’m happy. Thanks for the organization, for the marshals; it was a nice start of the season. And, of course, thanks to Toyota, it’s the best team!”
Mathieu Baumel, co-driver, crew number 1,
“The most interesting is that the roads here are wonderful. The rally is too short; we want to compete more – tomorrow, after tomorrow and after-after tomorrow! We need three more days. The rally is fantastic, the forests and driving on the ice, snow. Nasser did it very well and we enjoyed the route. Now we need to wait for one more year to come back!”
Martin Prokop, driver, crew number 4,
“Nothing really happened on this leg, because we went quite comfortable on the second position and enjoyed the race. It was a very nice rally, I'm very surprised with the stages, it was more than I expected. I’m happy with the weekend and I’m happy with a lot of points for the Championship. The experience is amazing, next year I really would like to come again if it will be the World Cup, I will come for sure! I only will bring better tyres and fight for the victory”.
Vladimir Vasilyev, driver, crew number 6,
“Well, it’s not possible to catch up a gasoline car if you drive a diesel one! It’s really difficult to resist gasoline engines; the drivers are very good and you just can’t catch them with the diesel engine. If you look at the statistics, the next diesel car is Jakub Przygonski; he loses a lot even to me. Although he is also a fast driver. At the beginning of the day we were determined to catch up Tapio Lauronen, who was in the third position. Only a few seconds divided us from him, but unfortunately his car broke down, so he gave us a place not in a fight, but for technical reasons. I’m very happy that the race took place, there were certain difficulties. It's great that everything turned out well, the weather was fine, and the organizers were able to do the impossible, thanks to everyone! It’s great this year star drivers showed their interest in Baja, they force the competitors to be stronger. Such races allow Russians to raise their experience level – the Championship of Russia participants were able to assess their strengths and capabilities. To be honest, we are, the organizers, have been thinking, “Isn’t it the time to stop making this race?” Although my partners in the organization, especially Ruslan Misikov, who also participated in it, and me really like the rally. But this year the entry list and the struggle on the track have exceeded all expectations: many spectators, good road, and excellent weather! We have learned to organize the race (laughing)”.
Jakub Przygonski, driver, crew number 2,
“The last leg of the Baja “Russia” was quite good for us, because we were pushing and our car was in the best condition. We found quite good suspension settings, it was hard for us to find the best position of the car, but now it’s the best of those five stages. We are happy that we are on the finish line without any mistakes. I enjoyed this race, it’s so nice to race here, because the roads are really nice to drive – you drive really fast, you jump a lot, there are lots of corners, we really enjoyed! If we come here next year, I will have to go for some training and testing on the snow, because I didn’t have any experience on the snow until now, but I will try to come here next year, because it’s so nice race”.
Alexey Titov, driver, crew number 27,
“Everything is fine; the race is super, thanks to organizers so much! Everything is just like last year, only better. All the forest parts of the tracks were difficult in terms of the surface; there were some rocks and gullies that could not be driven quickly. And this year those tracks, all parts, were actually faster. Today is the second day, and of course, there’s a rut, so it was more difficult. But on the other hand rut is holding you. Everything is super!”
Yasir Saiedan, driver, crew number 20,
“It’s not boring to pass the stages again, because each time they are different. The first stage was slippery, because it was snow last night. On the second stage it was too much grip, we had fun, and we were much faster than before. Everything is new for me – a new car, I was driving a car of this class for the first time, but I really enjoyed it, it’s a very good car, it’s easy to drive, but I need to practice more on the snow. I have to come here again. I don’t know if it happens, but I like to drive on the snow, especially at the “Northern Forest”.
Szymon Gospodarczyk, co-driver, crew number 9,
“It’s my third time here in Russia, but the coldest one. I don’t know why, I prepared everything, but it was very cold this time. We did very good job, today we drive very fast, much faster, than yesterday. We changed settings for a fast section, so we are very happy to be here. The driver is also happy; it’s his first time on the studded tyres”.