The Russian team won all top three places in the class of trucks at the annual rally. This was the KAMAZ Master team’s eleventh win and the second time they won all three top places.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I congratulate you on your latest success – even if all our auto-racing fans, and even you yourselves, have grown used to seeing your victories as commonplace. How many times now have you won the Dakar Rally?
Vladimir Putin: I know that any victory of this kind always feels like the first. Because it is won through an enormous amount of effort and hard work, and requires a great deal of courage. Even if all our auto-racing fans might think that it’s easy, you, like nobody else, know that it is not.
So I congratulate you on this truly outstanding result. I hope that the strength and freshness of the victory will not decrease, and that on the contrary, you will always be able to concentrate and achieve new successes and victories.
As for the trucks, I understand their performance was just as good this year, and perhaps even better, than usual.
(To Vladimir Chagin) Please, share your impressions. Your team has changed significantly, hasn’t it?
Head of Kamaz-Master team Vladimir Chagin: Indeed, you have rightly noted that each time feels like the first. This is the first victory for our young team, as all three drivers come from the team’s youngest generation: Eduard Nikolayev, Airat Mardeyev and Andrei Karginov – all three are Dakar prize winners.
Their first rally was in 2012. But that year was not very successful for us; although two vehicles were in the top five, we did not make it to the podium.
They had to train very seriously for a whole year – prepare the trucks and work on their reliability. There were many drills and a lot of training, we specifically took them to dunes and over rocky trails, and here is the result.
Of course, Dakar was not all fortuitous, they were in sixth, eighth, twelfth, thirteenth place in the first days… and gradually, with every passing day, they were getting closer to the top five, and then to the top three.
After the second half, they already held one top-three position, and there was already hope that we could hold a spot on the podium. The leaders were losing more than our guys. As in previous years, they were really set on not letting the KAMAZ team get to the podium, but their mistakes caused them to trail behind us.
And so, in just three days, we made it to first, second and third place, although there was no certainty that we would stay in those positions until the very last metre of the race course.
Gerard de Rooy is a very experienced driver for the IVECO team who has won many awards and he was in fourth place. On the last day of Dakar, he was only four minutes away from third place. He did everything to take that position away from us, but our boys fought for every metre of the track and were able to maintain their lead.
Andrei Karginov even had an incident 9 kilometres from the finish line, his front tire was punctured and he had to pass through the narrow mountainous section without a front wheel, because if they had stopped to change the tire, that would have taken 10 or 11 minutes, which would have immediately pushed them back at least to fourth place. We made the decision to try to get there on only one front wheel, although we’d never had this experience.
Vladimir Putin: How many kilometres?
Vladimir Chagin: Nine kilometres on the all-wheel drive truck on a narrow mountainous road without a front wheel. First, the tire deflated and went bursting into pieces in every direction, then only one disk remained…
Vladimir Putin: You made the drive on that disk?
Vladimir Chagin: We didn’t just make it, we were even about two minutes ahead of fourth place. And that way, we were able to win the third place. The competition was intense for every position, not just for the first place. The guys demonstrated great selflessness, and you could say they won with the spirit of courage. They did a great job!
Vladimir Putin: I watched how the media covered your entire way to success and sometimes, I was amazed: the slightest move forward by your opponents (in the truck category, but in other categories as well) was thoroughly analysed by the media, particularly in competing nations, but they said almost nothing about the KAMAZ team. As soon as you pushed forward, nearly all information about it disappeared, as though the truck category didn’t even exist. I was very surprised…
How do you yourselves assess the performance of your vehicles? We know that the drivers were outstanding, courageous, and achieved success, as we know from the results. But what’s your assessment of the equipment?
Vladimir Chagin: In my view, the equipment performed outstandingly. Of course, there were problems. Not a single team gets through the rally without breakdowns or problems. But we had an outstanding team there and our boys were able to deal with the defects.