If we were surprised yesterday seeing Yazeed Al-Rajhi winning the prologue, we can be even more surprised today after the rally driver from Saudi Arabia is dominating the snowy tracks of the Baja Russia – Northern Forest! Al-Rajhi won both specials and extended his lead over his closest rival, Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev who is now more than four minutes behind.
Vasilyev lost some times because of two punctures on the day’s first special, but managed to recover valuable time in the afternoon so at the end of the longest stage of the Baja Russia – Northern Forest he occupies the second position. Reinaldo Varela slipped back to third overall on the day’s second special but he was still happy with his result.
Another happy man in the field was Boris Gadasin, three-time winner of the event, who lost all chances for a fourth victory (and probably also for a podium finish) right on the first special after he had to complete 80 km out of the total 100 in rear wheel drive after he broke a driveshaft but managed to clock the third fastest time in the afternoon. Despite this all, Gadasin told about his day with a big smile on his face and seemed to be very happy with the performance of his car.
Poland’s Marek Dabrowski and Martin Kaczmarski stood just behind each other in the overall standings after the morning special but switched places in the afternoon, Kaczmarski being fourth and Dabrowski fifth by the evening, both without any major problem.
Ruslan Misikov, one of the founders of the Baja Russia – Northern Forest, occupies the sixth position after hitting a tree in the first round and having punctured in the second. Behind the BMW driver Dmitriy Ievlev, Andrey Cherednikov, Yuriy Sazonov and Boris Gadasin rounded up top 10. Yevgeniy Firsov experienced minor problems and complained about not being able to find the right rhythm in his Toyota Hilux. PEC Team’s driver ended Saturday’s stage in 11th position hoping for some improvement tomorrow.
Czech Miroslav Zapletal and his Polish co-driver Maciej Marton started out first today and lost some time in the morning because of “cleaning” the road for the others. Their race ended prematurely in the afternoon due to engine problems.Defending T2 World Cup champion Alexander Baranenko is out of the race due to an accident but the crew is unhurt.
Let’s say some words about the drivers who compete only in the Russian championship. The one most important to mention is actually not a Russian, but Finnland’s Tapio Suominen. The young driver of an ex-factory Mitsubishi L200 is second (!) in the overall, in front of two Minis and two Toyotas. Team mate Ilya Kuznetsov, former T2 World Cup champion and reigning Russian champion hit a tree in the afternoon special and had to retire with suspension problems.
Gustavo Gugelmin, Varela’s co-driver: It was a bit better now. We pushed a little bit harder and I think that the track was better too. Quite good in general.
Marek Dabrowski: The stage was good. No big problems, no surprises. Nice stage!
Andrey Cherednikov: This stage far faster and more interesting than the previous one. More ground opened after first lap, and road grip improves. I’m satisfied with this competition day.
Boris Gadasin: This stage is fine. Vehicle lost some extra-weight (we lost the bonnet) and became faster. After today’s first stage I hit a tree, but mechanics fixed it all, and second stage was much more fun – we enjoyed it a lot!
Vladimir Vasiliev: Today’s first stage, which we drove, it wasn’t very good for us. We punctured two tires with the stones, so we changed the wheels, then had to catch up. During SS3 there weren’t any incidents. Wheel are safe and sound, although there weren’t going in a proper mode. My co-driver told me to go like as we drove to the picnic, so I had to drive as I was driving to the picnic.
Ruslan Misikov: In the very beginning we punctured a tyre, and had to stop to change. We were going and looking for a place to stop, as it was narrow in the forest, so we had to go quite slowly. Then we changed the wheel and then went on without incidents. But, of course, time was lost.
Dmitrij Ievlev: My impressions from the day of the race are the best. All is fine. I liked everything.
N16 (Dmitriev): What happened with the hood? Hmm. Is that so obvious? (Laughs) We decided to make a tiny cutting. It was very slippery, so we didn’t fit into the turn and flattened it a bit… In general, everything is good but slippery.
N30 (Kolembet): Today we have positive impressions only. First stage was a bit too tough, of course, but the second one was trodden. I think that we made better timing, at least hope so.
N20 (Sazonov): The day is super, the race is super, the special stage is good. It seemed to us that the second time was much faster. Everything is good, everything is super!
N18 (Moroz, Shagirov’s co-driver): We liked SS3 more, because we put on the speed. The track became somewhere easier, and somewhere it’s on the contrary harder, because in some places there was already the upturned track heavily, and vice versa, there were some places where it was better to drive the car.
N17 (Chekalev): The last stage was much better than previous. Moreover, we didn’t have to repair wheels. We sped up significantly this time. This vehicle is relatively new for me, but second lap showed that I got used to it. The only thing remains – we shouldn’t be afraid of route and vehicle. The route is much better after the first lap. The first day is great, everyone is happy. When adrenalin will settle down we’ll analyze results of the day.
N15 (Fomin): We have wonderful impressions of the day. The track is very good. We are the last, and our task is to test the car, we test how it accelerates, we pass «bumping heads». Everything is great. Both our impressions of the road and the car behavior are perfect.
N36 (Lisyak): Everything is very hard, there are many pits, roots. All along it’s shaking, it wears out. This «Northern forest» is not typical at all. It smells like in spring. It’s slippery, but interesting. We have done our best all we planned.
N40 (Melnikov): The second time was much easier, we knew what to expect, so we drove a little bit faster. The second time all passed easier without any problems. In general we are satisfied, especially with the last fast part of the route.
N44 (Volkov): All is great. The track was interesting. My co-driver liked it very much.
N35 (Suominen) Too many slow cars in front of us and they don’t give a way. Driving is far much better, didn’t face any problems. But other competitors need to watch their mirrors. I did the stage good but angry because other guys don’t give a way, they see nothing.
N26 (Rudskoy): We did it well, but it was tough – the road was pretty much as wasboard after 60th km and we drove 50 km/h maximum, our car tossed and shaked. I’m not sure how long my back and shocks will last. In general we didn’t make any serious mistakes and didn’t stop anywhere. Maybe we’ll make top-three.
N32 (Frolov): We had a head-to-head struggle with our rivals – we overtook them first, and then they overtook us. Usually there are not too much overtakings, but today there were four! The route is bumpy and it’s harder for the vehicle.
N23 (Terentyev): It’s ok. We didn’t exceed the time limit and decided to exercise in tire assembling. Now we can even establish a tire shop. We got it down to a fine art and replaced two wheels.
N48 (Golubkina): The track is really extremely rough now. We awfully hit three times. And also there were huge rocks in our way, almost like bears! Everything else was fine.
N39 (Sokolov): We bended an arm. We were fast in the beginning, and then missed a big hole, struck it and had to slow down.
RISE Network, Official Media Partner of Baja Russia