With KAMAZ-master‘s parent KAMAZ being such a major contributor of personnel and materiel transport vehicles to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it comes with little surprise that not many expect them to be permitted to take part in the 2023 Dakar Rally or any international events for the forseeable future.
However, team head Vladimir Chagin appears to be trying to reverse that. Speaking to Russian state-owned media outlet TASS at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Tuesday, he revealed he is in discussions with race operators to let the organisation compete and continue their stranglehold on the Truck category.
“I am negotiating with the organisers of the Dakar on the participation of our team in the rally,” Chagin told TASS. “They really want to see Russian participants in the race, but they can’t answer anything concrete yet. But we are doing our best to participate in the legendary marathon.”
KAMAZ-master is the top Truck team at the Dakar Rally by a wide margin, having won the class nineteen times including the last six years; Chagin has seven victories to his name. Following the invasion’s launch in February, however, many Russian entrants were limited to domestic competition or had to race under neutral flags internationally under the policies of the FIA, who co-sanctions the rally via the World Rally-Raid Championship.
Outside investors pulled out in the wake of the war such as primary sponsor Red Bull, prompting KAMAZ to up their relationship with state-owned Gazprom, who is responsible for the ongoing European gas crisis. The team also had to sell off old race-winning trucks and begin producing parts locally in their hometown of Naberezhnye Chelny.
In the meantime, the team and their fellow Union State outfits (Russia and ally Belarus) have mainly focused on races at home in the Russian Rally-Raid Championship, and driver Dmitry Sotnikov won the Silk Way Rally overall in July. Later in the month, Sotnikov told Championship KAMAZ-master was still hoping to race at Dakar and would continue their activities—such as finishing the Russian rally raid season and hosting a training camp—like if all was fine.
Whether KAMAZ and similar teams could enter Dakar will heavily depend on the approval of parties like the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), a French company who runs the race, and host country Saudi Arabia. Belarusian Truck outfit MAZ-SPORTauto was barred from travelling to the Kingdom for the 2022 Rally in what they alleged was ASO interference brought on by political pressure. Conversely, Sergei Kariakin of SNAG Racing pointed out in June that Russia and Saudi Arabia have grown closer in recent months as fellow oil superpowers, despite the latter being friendly with Western states providing aid to Ukraine and voting in the United Nations to condemn the invasion, which could be a boon for Russian teams.
The 2023 Dakar Rally will begin on 31 December 2022 and run through 15 January. Meanwhile, Russia’s so-called “special military operation” against Ukraine, whose ranks include former Silk Way competitor Oleksii Reznikov (Minister of Defence) and Ukrainian rally raid veteran Lt. Col. Viacheslav Ponomarenko (Hero of Ukraine), is in its 198th day.