|Silk Way Rally: Second stagewin for Holowczyc and Kabirov on SS5 Stavropol.|
Two days from the end of the 3rd Silk Way Rally, the overall leaders of both the car and the truck categories sent a powerful message to their rivals by taking today's special stage. This is the 2nd stage win in the 2011 edition for both Pole Holowczyc and Russian Kabirov. It has allowed them to increase their margin at the top of the table, or even to gain a foothold on the top step of the podium.
Things are looking good! After what were two especially difficult stages, race organisers decided to approve the competitors' request to shorten the route of the 5th stage by 68 km, leaving 621 km of timed sections. But this was clearly not enough to loosen the top drivers' grip on the race.
Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW X3CC), Stéphane Peterhansel (X-raid Mini) and Alexander Zheludov (Nissan Navara) once again fought among themselves for the stage win. It became a handicap race when each of them suffered from mechanical problems. The Pole had a flat tire, the Frenchman had engine cooling issues and the Russian had a GPS malfunction. At the end, it was overall leader Holowczyc who prevailed and took his 2nd stage victory in this rally, 2:49 minutes ahead of Peterhansel.
But the great loser was Russian Zheludov. The former Nissan-pilot held the lead at CP3, but he then had a GPS malfunction and preferred to slow down in order to avoid incurring penalties for speeding or missing waypoints, until the race direction cleared him to progress via Iritrack. Unfortunately, this problem ended up costing him 37 minutes and any reasonable chance of winning back Peterhansel's 2nd place in the overall standing.
One man's sunset is another man's dawn, in this case Alexander Mironenko's (BMW), who contributed to the X-Raid team's complete dominance of the stage: three cars in the top 3. He finished just ahead of Belgian Stéphane Henrard, who once again flaunted his Volkswagen Tarek buggy's performance on fast stages.
Things are now quite clear in the general classification, where Krzysztof Holowczyc has a margin of 2:02 hours over Peterhansel, who in turn is 37 minutes clear of brave Zheludov.
The overall leader in the trucks category also made a big leap towards the final victory today. Indeed, in this especially strong category, Russian Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) made a statement by becoming the first truck driver to seize a 2nd stage win in the 2011 Silk Way. On his way to the win, the leader took advantage of Czech Ales Loprais (Tatra) faltering towards the end of the stage.
Loprais' co-driver suffered from several headaches after having been shaken around at high speed. As a result, Kabirov came in ahead of German Franz Echter (MAN), who was today's runner-up 3:10 minutes behind the winner, i.e., 1:07 ahead of Loprais. Nevertheless, the Czech with the yellow truck is pretty much isolated in 2nd place, 52:08 mins behind Kabirov but 43:16 mins ahead of the other Kamaz in the provisional top 3, that of Andrey Karginov (who only managed to finish 10th today).
But chickens should not be counted before they hatch. Indeed, while the current time differences may seem unassailable under normal circumstances, the race is still not over and the leaders still have the most difficult part before them. They will have to manage their lead until Sochi without making catastrophic mistakes but maintaining a high pace. And all drivers dread this rigorous test of concentration.
Tomorrow (Friday) crews tackle two short special stages en route to Maykop. The day begins with a 36km liaison section to the first 113.68 km timed stage. The terrain features wide, open grassland and narrow, winding paths before heading into a 30km neutralization zone. The second timed section will be extremely fast, according to race officials, and will feature numerous 90-degree bends.
2011/07/14 | 19:20 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/SZEKELY-NAGY