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Northern Forest: Russian Winter Baja started with big ceremony.

The "Saint-Petersburg - Northern Forest" Baja 2009, the 2nd round of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas started tonight (26.02.2009) with a grand opening ceremony held in the historical centre of St. Petersburg at St.Isaac's square. The start ceremony took place at one of the biggest and one of the most beautiful squares of the city, surrounded by real masterpieces of architecture.

It's not often that a hosting city can offer such a spectacular urban area as a venue for the start of a big international event. But the Organiser of the Northern Forest Baja 2009, with a help from Saint-Petersburg government and the Sport Committee of our city managed to do so, thus underlining its status of not only a cultural, but also a motorsport capital of Russia. Annually Saint-Petersburg hosts around 80 different sports events at world championship or cup level, but as for motorsport it must be the first time that such a unique and prestigious competition is held in the area.

A special column of competitors led by road police vehicles was organised to guide the crews from the place of scrutineering in the exhibition centre Lenexpo to the core and heart of Saint-Petersburg - the square in front of the biggest cathedral in our city - St.Isaac's. Its columns are made of solid pieces of granite; and as strong and reliable they are - as confident and strong the cars of competitors there were during the start ceremony.

It began at 20:00, still a dark time for the last days of winter here, in the North-West of Russia. But all the guests who were present at the ceremony didn't complain about the bad weather (though it snow-rained much) or a cold wind, as they were fascinated by a warm atmosphere which surrounded the square this evening. And like said in a fancy modern song, where it's always "in and out of love", the crews making their way up to the stage and down from it, could feel like coming in and out of lights - so many colourful projectors surrounded the ramp, and so illustrious the whole design concept was.

Combined with a genuine beauty of the historical sights, it created a special atmosphere of a fairy tale about some northern heroes. Here the Kingdom was the ceremonial start venue, the Knights were all those crews who came here to greet their teams, fans and spectators, while the "far-far-away" land is the route of the Baja, which the competitors will tackle from Friday to Sunday beginning with tomorrow's Super Special Stage. It was especially pleasant for both the organisers and the competitors looking down from the ramp, to see the happy and delighted faces of the guests who came from different countries, including some southern and really hot ones.

Despite an uncomfortable climate, they kept on standing and admiring the bright event. And they all (even those few pedestrians and passing by people who didn't know what was going on) treated crews in the same, characteristic for Russian people, warm manner - and the reigning Russian Rally-Raids Champions Ruslan Misikov-Sergey Talantsev, and the guests from the Czech Republic Miroslav Zapletal-Vladimir Nemajer, and the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas 2007 winner Boris Gadasin together with his experienced co-driver Vladimir Demyanenko, and the newcomers to the Northern Forest Baja - the Italian crew of Giovanni Manfrinato and Carlo Pisano, more renowned for their GroupN victories in rallying. It's impossible to recall all of those brave hearts, who are eager to compete on high-speed forest tracks of the Leningrad region, but we do really hope you won't miss the opportunity of watching their fight live or via internet during this weekend.

The real competition starts on Friday February 27th with the prologue held to the East from Saint-Petersburg in Kirovskiy district of the Leningrad region. After the stage, which also counts for the Governor's Cup, and the respective prize-giving, crews will be free to go to the "Igora" resort in Priozerskiy district of the Leningrad region, where the HQ of the Baja will be based during two days of the main fight. Where? Of course, in the Northern Forest. No, it's not a name of our Baja we're repeating. It's a precise description of the area where the stages will be run.

2009/02/27 | 16:26 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Northern Forest

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