For Andrey Karginov‘s crew of KAMAZ-master, yesterday became a real disappointment. Having lost about 10 minutes in the starting trap, the truck number 500 was coming closer to the leader with every kilometer and made a decisive attack in the final third of the distance, showing the best time at the stage. Unfortunately, the first victory at the Dakar 2021 did not happen: the stewards penalized the Russians for the missed navigation point, and a 20-minute penalty threw Karginov back to seventh place. Arriving at the bivouac, the crew’s navigator Andrey Mokeev told what had happened on the way.
“It was a very difficult day in terms of navigation. A lot of people wandered and quite seriously went off the course – as cars, so bikes and quads. Five trucks met in one place – they confused each other, interfered. It happened, because it was purely my mistake. We missed a hidden point somewhere. We will sort it out not happen this in the future, and try to correct everything. This happened in the area of the fifth or sixth kilometer, where a lot of points were. They are of different levels and caliber. Unfortunately, we missed the hidden point that did not open in the GPS,” – described the situation Mokeev.
Thursday turned out really harsh for the Dakar contestants. Experienced navigators of four-wheeled crews and representatives of the bike category noted that the organizers made the stage difficult to the maximum, and navigation – a real lottery, where, beyond knowledge, one had to count on good luck. But that was yesterday. The sixth stage of the rally-marathon promised to be not less extreme.
Everyone who has ever been to the legendary Dakar will say that it exhausts people both physically and psychologically. And as far as moving to the north of the Arabian Peninsula, the weather conditions also change. Nighttime temperatures drop to 8-10 degrees, while sub-freezing values are not rare. Taking into account the fact that many racers have to spend the night not in campers, but in tents, a comfortable rest between starts is out of the question.
The town of Al-Qaisumah, which is close to the local same-named airport, and that has become a haven for the rally caravan, is a small village in the east of Saudi Arabia. The border with Kuwait is only over 100 kilometers away, and the coast of the Persian Gulf is a little further. Al-Qaisumah is a historical point on the map of the kingdom. In 1950, the Transaravian oil pipe line was opened here. In transit through Jordan and Syria, it connected Al-Qaisumah with the port terminal of Sidon in Lebanon and became the largest at that time in the world. The last barrel of oil, which has become the main source of income for Saudi Arabia, was pumped to the other end of the peninsula 31 years ago, and in 2002 maintenance of the 1214-km pipe line was completed.
The first half of the Dakar 2021 is also coming to an end. Friday’s 448-kilometer special stage, leading athletes to the long-awaited rest day in Ha’il, has undergone serious corrections: the 113 km long appendix has been cut and replaced by an 11-kilometer straight section. This decision was made by the Dakar organizers due to late arrival of many race contestants the day before and the desire to make the raly program slightly easier for today. Bikers more than likely appreciated this change, because initially according to the route description they were frightened by incredible difficulties and a possible overnight stay in the desert.
At every stage the truck crews are separated by a few seconds and minutes at the finish line. And in such situation command tactics play an important role. KAMAZ-master team discusses it on a daily basis and adjusts it depending on the events in the race. Before the marathon stage, scheduled for Sunday and Monday, it is very important not to lose the gained advantage and, if possible, strengthen positions in the general classification.
The starting list for Friday was perfect for four crews on trucks KAMAZ-43509. The leader of the Dakar 2021 Dmitry Sotnikov went for a mixed start at 12:10 after 19 cars and three buggies, and Anton Shibalov, second in the overall standings, started at 12:14, two minutes behind Aliaksei Vishneuski. Fighting for the podium Airat Mardeev went at 12:20, Andrey Karginov – two minutes later. Thus, the last crew from Naberezhnye Chelny took the role of a fast assistance, not forgetting about their own high result.
Already during the stage, it became known about the withdrawal of Siarhei Viazovich, who had spent more than a day in the desert, trying to fix the gearbox, but the “field” repair was beyond the power of the Belarusian crew. Considering the fact that the bronze prize-holder of the Dakar 2020 is in the priority list, moving him to the category Dakar Experience is excluded.
Remaining contestants in the race were awaited by dunes and sands, which made up 90 percent of the route. And the further the crews moved towards Ha’il, the higher were the sandy hills, reaching the third level of difficulty. For KAMAZ-master team these conditions are well known: the drivers know how to overcome dangerous and unpredictable dunes, the navigators suggest the right course, and the mechanics constantly monitor the vehicle’s performance and select the required tire pressure.
The high level of leaders in the truck category once again presented the fans a beautiful fight for victory at the stage. On the first waypoint, Aliaksei Vishneuski showed the best time, being 20 seconds ahead of Dmitry Sotnikov. At the next mark, Sotnikov was the first in the virtual table, while Vishneuski was 44 seconds behind, and Airat Mardeev and Anton Shibalov wedged in between them. Another reshuffle did not make them wait long – the exchange was intercepted by Mardeev’s crew. By the middle of the way, only 10 trucks remained within 10 minutes from KAMAZ, and the closer they were to the finish line, the more difficult it became for other Dakar contestants to keep the pace of the leading racers. In the area of 120 km, at a mandatory stop, Martin Soltys lost about 30 minutes, Ignasio Casale also showed up nearby, chalking up about 10 minutes. Perhaps it all happened because they got stuck on a dune.
The second half of the special stage was in a quieter mode and finished with a Russian podium. Airat Mardeev won the stage at the Dakar for the first time since 2018, increasing their number to five – 4 hours 8 minutes 52 seconds. Dmitry Sotnikov lost 1 minute 18 seconds, Anton Shibalov – less than five minutes. After their finish, numerous KAMAZ-master fans began to closely monitor the time of Martin Macik and Ales Loprais – rivals of the crew No 509 for the third place in the overall standings.
Airat Mardeev, pilot of crew No 509: “It was a good special stage. From the very start we began to attack, as there were dunes and Loprais was in front of us. We understood that he was the closest rival in the overall. Together with him we caught up and passed Soltys by, and then we overran Loprais. Then the task was to break away, but he kept tight of me like a tick, did not let go and stayed behind. On the sandy impassibility, we added a pace and broke away from him. We kept this pace until the finish line, and when we learned about the victory, we were happy. It was a pleasure that we could “bring” a lot to Macik and climbed to third place. The rest day is ahead, I hope to God to continue a stable drive and keep our positions.“
Dmitry Sotnikov, pilot of crew No 501: “The day was lonely for us, we did not see almost anyone on the track. We started first among the trucks, occasionally meeting cars. We fought with the track, tried to keep our position and pace. All in all we did it, there was no problems with navigation. The road was sandy and hilly, in the middle there were a few high-speed straight roads. It was a working stage.”
Ales Loprais and Aliaksei Vishneuski were separated by only 7 seconds in the fight for the fourth position. Andrey Karginov finished the day on the sixth line (+6 minutes 52 seconds). Martin Macik finished seventh (+12 minutes 30 seconds). Thus, Airat Mardeev pushed two rivals in the table at once and rose to the third place. Dmitry Sotnikov strengthened his leadership, Anton Shibalov was on the second line. Andrey Karginov played one position back – now he became the ninth.
Truck category. Ranking of the 6th stage. Top-10
|8||506||Martin VAN DEN BRINK||RENAULT||04:29:16||00:20:24|
|9||515||Pascal DE BAAR||RENAULT||04:41:45||00:32:53|
Truck category. General classification after the 6th stage. Top-10
|7||506||Martin VAN DEN BRINK||RENAULT||26:36:47||02:10:29|