Off Road

Silk Way Rally Trucks stymied by ford crossing

2 Mins read
Credit: Dmitry Galchun

In rally raid, drivers and riders are expected to overcome a variety of environmental challenges from the deserts of Dakar to the forests of Europe. Truck competitors in the Silk Way Rally faced a more wet obstacle during Friday’s stage. No, it was not rain, which had muddied the previous day’s leg to the point where the Moto and Quad categories had to cancel their races.

The Friday leg, the ninth of ten in the rally and a 773-km run from Volgograd to Lipetsk, featured a ford shortly after the second waypoint that Truck entries were required to clear before advancing. By comparison, those in other classes like the Cars and Moto/Quad could go around it. River crossings are far from a new phenomenon in any form of rally, but many drivers found themselves either suffering damage to their vehicles or even getting stuck entirely.

Eduard Nikolaev of KAMAZ-master was leading when he crossed the ford and suffered severe damage to his gearbox that left his KAMAZ-435091 stuck in fourth gear. Nikolaev was looking to rebound after missing the podium in Stage #8 as the worst-finishing KAMAZ driver, but instead watched as his five-minute advantage over team-mate Dmitry Sotnikov was erased. He salvaged a third-place finish behind allies Sotnikov and Sergey Kupriyanov but trails the former in the overall by nearly an hour. Barring disaster for Sotnikov or a miraculous comeback by Nikolaev, Sotnikov will likely win his fourth Silk Way Rally and second in a row.

Another KAMAZ driver Andrey Karginov traversed the river at a slower pace than he felt, though it still resulted in misfortune when he began experiencing vibrations shortly after reaching dry land. As it turned out, the fan in his 43509’s radiator had broken while the radiator itself was punctured, resulting in antifreeze leaking. Karginov was able to bring the truck to the finish in fourth.

Alexey Vishnevsky was perhaps the biggest loser at the ford as he got stuck, forcing him to sit and wait until MAZ-Sportauto team-mate Sergey Vyazovich arrived to pull him out. He ultimately had to retire as water delivered terminal damage to his engine, and he was classified last of the Trucks.

“Everything went poorly for us. I did not expect the ford to be so deep and full of holes,” Vishnevsky told photographer Dmitry Galchun, who sat in the river recording the situation. “I was just worried about stalling in this ford, so at the entrance, I just pressed the gas and fell into it. Since we have an air filter here in front under the hood, the whole wave just went into the filter and the engine scooped up water so much that now it doesn’t run.

“We had technical problems since morning. Some teeth on the gears were chipped off and the engine was running loudly. We were actually worried that everything would fall apart and we wouldn’t be able to finish. The engine couldn’t stand it because of the water and that’s it.”

Aleksey Khlebov (sixth in class) described the ford as “most interesting, but the most useless element” of the stage: “When we swam into it, the horizon wasn’t visible through the windshield. We just drove underwater and I didn’t understand whether we would swim out of there or not. When we left it, our windshield cracked due to the temperature difference.”

While Sotnikov leads the Truck (T4) category overall entering the final stage’s dash to Moscow, Vladimir Vasilyev is atop the T1 chart and Nikita Mazepin does so for T3. In the Open class, Alexander Goloushkin is staving off pressure from Vladislav Malikov while Alexey Naumov has challengers like Alexander Gatiyatulin to worry about in Moto.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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