The first of six racing days of the rally raid in Kazakhstan was completed at the bivouac in Kenderli; the first stage route led the peloton from Aktau to the shore of the warm azure bay of the Caspian Sea.
The first special stage was almost identical to last year’s one – steppe highways, allowing to reach maximum speed, and sections with a stony surface. Recent and abundant rains in the region brought some diversity into this picture; water streams made large ravines on the track and along it, requiring increased attention from the crews. Unfortunately, in one of them, literally a few kilometers from the start of the special stage, KAMAZ of Eduard Nikolaev fell on its side; Dmitry Sotnikov, the team-mate, helped him to get on the wheels, but Nikolaev could not continue driving – the truck suffered serious damage to the chassis, but the crew was not injured.
It should be added that the racing day start that was scheduled at 8:00 was shifted an hour later for safety reasons – helicopters could not take off because of the strong wind, they help to monitor the route safety.
The Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah decided to take revenge for last year’s failure and became the leader in overall standings. He was ahead of the Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi, the last year’s Rally Kazakhstan winner, by just two seconds, but during this time the Qatari also had time to replace the wheel, spending absolutely unreal time – 1 min, 4 seconds – to it! But in the classification after the first day Al-Attiyah is listed on the second line, because he exceeded the speed limit in the neutralization zone and received the penalty minute that was added to his result of the day.
The second group of leaders consisted of the Pole Jakub Przygonski (finished third with a lag of just over three minutes from Al-Attiyah) and the Russian Vladimir Vasilyev, who in turn lost to the Pole about five minutes at the finish of the day.
Vladimir Vasilyev, driver, “The day was not bad – the car behaved well, there was a small technical problem, but everything was fixed. Toyotas once again performed well, drove fast; they had an advantage in the power of the engines and therefore they went quickly, well done. The special stage practically repeated the last year’s route with an abundance of high-speed straight sections, where there wasn’t much to steer, but to go to the “top speed”; at the beginning and closer to the end of the special stage there were winding roads. From the start we drove along the steppe, then descended to the coast of the sea and after that returned to the plateau. Probably ten kilometers along the sea there was a clear trial driving by the stones. It was interesting”.
On Tuesday, 28 May, the organizers will offer the participants the longest special stage of the race – 414.22 kilometers from the start and finish near the Kenderli bivouac. T3 vehicles do not have the opportunity to take fuel on board for such long distances – the capacity of the fuel tanks does not allow it, so a refueling zone is provided for them.
In the first part of the second day route the co-drivers will need to monitor the movement closely, as the steppe roads cross many forks. After 126 kilometers of races across the steppe, a real trial will begin with large stones, cliffs along the track and the recent ravins, where you need to be extremely careful. This road, jangling nerves, will lead the crews to the first sandy massifs, although the course along the sands will be slightly more than ten kilometers. In the final part there will be riding on a plateau with high-speed steppe roads again.