With the 2023 Dakar Rally looming but the Russian invasion of Ukraine seemingly continuing to crescendo with the former’s mobilisation, more Russian potential competitors have continued to separate themselves into those able to punch their tickets to the race or letting their loyalties get in the way. In an interview with RBC Sport, Anastasiya Nifontova placed herself into the former camp.
Since April, the FIA has required Russian and Belarusian teams and drivers to sign a declaration denouncing the internationally condemned invasion and standing in solidarity with Ukraine. The terms also state competitors must race under a different nationality, as is the case with Dakar co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov acquiring an Israeli passport or Formula 3 racer Alexander Smolyar competing under the generic FIA flag. Zhiltsov’s driver Denis Krotov also intends to do the same.
While Zhiltsov and Krotov are well on the path to Dakar, Nifontova refuses to join them.
“I will not race at Dakar, because this is a World Championship for which you need to sign a declaration that I do not support the special operation, that I am not for Russia and that I support Ukraine. I can’t sign it because I don’t agree with it,” said Nifontova. “In this context, participation is impossible, I cannot but support my country.”
Nifontova is the first Russian woman to compete at the Dakar Rally in the Moto category in 2017, where she finished second among female riders. Following the invasion, the two-time FIM Women’s Cross-Country Rallies World Cup has focused on domestic competition in the Russian Rally-Raid Championship, where she pilots an SSV in the T3 class.
Those echoing Nifontova’s sentiment include fellow SSV driver Sergei Kariakin, a staunch supporter of President Vladimir Putin, who declared the FIA policy to be a “double standard.” Various Russian outlets like state-owned RIA Novosti have shared diatribes with the same thought, though others argue it is merely a “piece of paper” that does not define one’s political views; following Kariakin’s comments, the Telegram channel for his SNAG Racing team was subject to a days-long debate between fans, with one critic of his decision calling it “‘ultrapatriotic’ nonsense.”
The invasion is currently in its 215th day, while a “partial” mobilisation of the Russian populace began on 21 September.