Belarusian rider Dmitriy Mazanov barred from Baja Portalegre 500 despite opposition to war

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Credit: Dmitriy Mazanov

Dmitriy Mazanov was set to bring his bike to Portugal to take part in this weekend’s Baja Portalegre 500, but the sanctioning body Federação Motociclismo Portugal said otherwise, revoking his entry at the last minute due to his Belarusian citizenship. While the verdict would follow the FIM‘s policies created after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mazanov was able to run other FIM Bajas World Cup events like the Hungarian Baja in August, suggesting the decision mainly came from the Portuguese federation rather than the FIM.

Belarus is Russia’s closest ally and has been involved with the invasion by providing a staging area and allowing Russian troops to launch missiles into Ukraine. This along with President Alexander Lukashenko‘s authoritarian regime have generated significant condemnation worldwide and resulted in a vast array of sanctions on Belarus. A month before the invasion, truck racing team MAZ-sportauto was denied admission to the 2022 Dakar Rally in the wake of state-owned parent MAZ getting sanctioned.

After the full-scale invasion began, many sporting bodies imposed restrictions on Russian and Belarusian competitors. The FIA created a series of “emergency measures” that those of these nationalities were required to sign before they could enter races overseen by the authority. The policies included formally denouncing the invasion, standing in solidarity with Ukraine, agreeing to not place their country’s emblems on their equipment, and racing with a different country or a neutral FIA flag.

While some like Denis Krotov, Robert Shwartzman, Alexander Smolyar, and Konstantin Zhiltsov signed the terms, others have refused including Sergei Kariakin, Anastasiya Nifontova, and KAMAZ-master; Kariakin went as far as to write a letter to FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem lobbying for its end. Opponents decry the rules as a “double standard” that forces Russian citizens to stand against their own country.

In a video released Wednesday, Mazanov explains the FIM simply enforces a hard ban on Belarusian riders without giving them a chance to publicly condemn the invasion. He emphasises that despite being a Belarusian citizen, he does not support the war nor has he lived there in recent times; in fact, he mentions, he has resided in Ukraine and competed under a Ukrainian licence.

“I am a citizen of Belarus, but I am not lived there past few years,” Mazanov says in his video. “Before the war, I often lived in Ukraine, where I trained, took part in competitions, preparing for Dakar Rally. The last three years, I competed with the Ukrainian national racing licence in many countries and competitions, and won many medals and titles.

“My sporting calendar for this year should be started in March with Baja Ukraine in Kherson and went with other races, World and European Rally and Baja Championships. All for one dream: to qualify for Dakar Rally.

“Unfortunately, this spring, FIM has prohibited Belarusian riders from taking part in international competitions, even for those who share the principles of humanism and stand against the war and were forced to leave their homeland because of their position.”

Mazanov also points out Lukashenko’s policies do not reflect the general attitude of the Belarusian population, which was perhaps best shown with the massive protests against his government following the 2020 presidential election widely deemed to be rigged.

“In my opinion, Lukashenko is not equal to Belarusians, because most of Belarusians do not support his actions. That is why the sanctions shouldn’t be against all the people of Belarus.
The FIA, for example, allow drivers who have signed an anti-war declaration to take part in any competition. FIM do not allow this.”

With these in mind, he comments privateers like him do not have the ability to continue racing freely compared to those with factory and government support like MAZ-sportauto. Although also barred from the 2023 Dakar Rally, MAZ-sportauto has competed alongside KAMAZ-master in the Russian Rally-Raid Championship in the meantime.

To make ends meet, Mazanov runs MAD Racing, a manufacturer of roadbook devices for cross-country motorcycle racers. Despite the circumstances, he still envisions being allowed to race at Dakar in 2024

“This hurts athletes who do not receive any support from government and have to find the funds for competitions on their own,” Mazanov continues. “I also pay for my races by producing my own brand rally devices MAD Racing, which have become very popular because it’s better than devices of other brands. At each race, I make sure the devices work perfectly, and I add new features based on my experience and customer requests. On Baja Portalegre, I was going to use the latest update before applying to all units.

“But someone at FMP, thinking that banning my start would stop the war. If so, I hope it will happen very soon.

“In the meantime, I will continue to prepare for Dakar 24 and other rallies and bajas I will be allowed to start. I will also be focusing on my MAD Racing brand to improve my results and results of my customers.”

Mazanov’s video (in English)

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