|Silk Way Rally: Surprise-win for G-Force and Vasiljev, Ayrat Mardeev in Trucks.|
Just one day away from reaching Sochi, where the 3rd Silk Way Rally will come to an end, two Russian drivers took the spoils in the 6th stage from Stavropol to Maykop, marked by a special which was divided into two timed sectors. This may be the reason behind Russian Vladimir Vasiljev's (G-Force Proto) surprise win in the car category, where he beat the rock-solid Peterhansel and Holowczyc. Mardeev took his 2nd stage in the truck category, while Kabirov, with his comfortable lead in the GC, took his time to do good deeds.
Vasiljev saves the G-Force's honour: The Russian pilots had only seized one stage win since the beginning of the race, when Alexander Zheludov and his Nissan Navara prevailed in stage 1. It must be said that the 2011 Silk Way Rally has been especially difficult for the top local team, G-Force. Its leader Boris Gadasin left the race early due to an engine breakdown, and Ukrainian Bogdan Novitsky was disqualified later on.
The Russian team's third and last driver Vasiljev set the record straight during today's stage. The Russian put the pedal to the metal from the very beginning of the stage, and also benefitted from Mini driver Stéphane Peterhansel's flat and fellow Russian Zheludov's cooling problems. He saved the Slavs' honour, finishing 1:14 minutes ahead of "Peter" and 6:48 mins ahead of the overall leader Krzysztof Holowczyc (X-raid BMW).
With a margin in excess of two hours in the overall standings, the Polish driver had more to lose than to gain this morning, so he preferred to drive conservatively during today's fast special. Nevertheless, he still has a very comfortable buffer in the general classification, where he lies 1h 59:28 minutes ahead of his teammate "Peter" and 03:24:33 hours ahead of Zheludov.
The loser of the day was the third X-Raid driver, Alexander Mironenko, who had a scare when he slipped on the hill roads of the second timed sector and finally came to a stop at the edge of a deep hole. But he was stuck because both of his front wheels were hanging in the void! The Russian finished the stage in 18th place and lost 25 minutes. Things could have turned out much worse if the truck overall leader and fellow Russian Firdaus Kabirov had not stopped and towed him to safety.
Belgian Stéphane Henrard (Buggy VW TDi) certainly will not approve of this good deed. He finished 9th in the stage, 15'55" back, and the Kamaz driver's action blew his chances to take the 5th place in GC under normal circumstances.
On the other hand, Russian drivers continue to flaunt their vice grip on the truck category. Today's winner Ayrat Mardeev (Kamaz) took the 5th local victory in six stages, which was also his 2nd individual win in this rally. Nevertheless, he only just beat Dutchman Hans Stacey (Iveco, 21 seconds back) and his teammate and fellow Russian Andrey Karginov (Kamaz, 2:42 mins).
After playing the role of the Good Samaritan on the trail, Kabirov lost 16:11 mins to the stage winner, but this is just a small bite off his lead in the general classification, where he now sits 43:19 mins ahead of Czech Ales Loprais (Tatra) and 01:21:55 hours ahead of Karginov.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the final leg of the 2011 Silk Way Rally. Crews tackle a 227km liaison section and then a short 16km seventh special against the clock. The route runs through a riverbed and includes numerous water crossings. After a further 117km road section, crews arrive in Sochi for what the Monster Energy X-raid Team hopes will be a triumphant podium finish.
2011/07/15 | 18:51 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/SZEKELY-NAGY