Sunday, March 01, 2009

Russian Baja ramping up for International Racing Event FIA 2009 Schedule, Boris Gadasin wins the Saint Petersburg – Northern Forest Baja 2009

Boris Gadasin wins the Saint Petersburg – Northern Forest Baja 2009

"The first day of spring became decisive for the participants of the “Saint-Petersburg – Northern Forest” Baja 2009, as it was on Sunday stages that they had to cover about 2/5 of the competitive distance. No wonder that Leg 3 saw some big changes in categories standings.
The leaders of Day 2 applied the same tactics for today, but it was caused by different reasons. For Boris Gadasin it was necessary to preserve the propshaft he borrowed from his arch-rival Ruslan Misikov who in his turn had no desire to push too much if he was going to take important points for the championship. But even despite such a “cautious” approach both drivers once again beat their opposition. The leader of G-Force Motorsport was fastest on two runs through the stage, while the founder of Nart-Time once finished second and took third time on the final pass. In contrast to the two dominant drivers, other crews swept places throughout the whole day. The two-times winner of “Northern Forest” Aleksey Berkut went off the road on SS5. The engine of his Mitsubishi stalled at 140 km/h, the car slipped from the track and rolled. And though he managed to conclude the stage, big damages meant retirement for the titled driver. Another victory contender, although among T2 crews, also faced a pity fiasco, when his Nissan Patrol stalled just 300 metres after the start of SS6 and refused to continue. That meant a big disappointment for the young driver, who had dominated the Baja since the first special stage and seemed to be in full control of the race.
However, most fascinating was the fight between Alexander Mironenko and Miroslav Zapletal for the final podium place. Hundreds of spectators along the stages and dozens of journalists in the media centre witnessed their fight, but to a big disappointment of the Russian fans Alexander couldn’t keep third position overall. On SS5 the crew hit a snowbank twice which cost them more than 5 minutes and fell behind his opponent. On the next stage there was no drama, but the Czech crew of Zapletal and Nemajer was just faster again – this time by 2 minutes. However, despite Zapletal took bronze in the International classification, Mironenko deserved his own cup in the national championship.
Another international guest – Italian Giovanni Manfrinato – managed to climb up to fifth place from the seventh position he kept after Leg 2. But even though he got used to his Megane Proto car and was able to improve his speed, such a result was mostly down to the misfortunes of his main competitors that we described above. Positions from 6th to 8th were occupied by the representatives of GeoRaid-RSG – Bogdan Novitskiy, Artem Varentsov and Sergey Savenko. These results, comined with Varentsov’s victory in the T2 category that he inherited from Denisov, meant the team took the glory in the teams’ standings. So, the first round of the International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas concluded. We have first winners, they got first prizes. The debut of “Northern Forest” in the series proved to be quite successful, as not only spectators but also the sportsmen themselves enjoyed the race. Roll on to the next edition!

Race Report:

"Gadasin: "Frankly speaking, the day was not so easy. During the first 5 kilometers we had an old propshaft with a bad vibration and when we were accelerating up to 200 km/h, it broke down. On the first loop we had only the front-wheel drive, but it was a good training, then we got used to the track. After the service we put a new propshaft and we had to attack to win back the lost time. The only thing that didn't give us the opportunity to drive with pleasure was snow, much snow. That is the reason why the studs didn't reach the surface. The car was amazing! I enjoy driving, learn to drive. With this engine it is more important not to push but to ease off at the right moment."

Zhuravlev: "Of course, we are not satisfied with the day's results. We didn't drive every stage till the end and didn't get the marks at checkpoints. We realised that it was necessary to save the car. Now everything depends on mechanics. We hope that we'll manage to restart tomorrow."

Misikov: "Considering the snowfall, the snow appears on the route again even after two passes. There're also deep ruts in the forest, and that makes driving more difficult. There're a lot of cars which are more narrow than our, and that's why it's not that easy to follow the right lines. On plain parts of the stage they drive as they can and it means that the visible trajectory is not always the best, and it's not very safe to follow them. We're second now, and we must understand if we can attack Boris (Gadasin) tomorrow of we'd better keep our current position. We'll take the decision when we see the results of other competitors."

Mironenko: "Up to the moment everything is Ok. We' ve improved throught the day. As for me, we managed to drive quite fast. If we can, I'll try to push tomorrow."

Berkut: "Unfortunately I don't know the day's result. But the feeling is that we learnt to drive this car. Though we drive not on high speed. We always have some problems, today the brakes were damaged on the last stage, we were driving the most part without brakes at all."

Oleinikov: "The track changed its character after the first loop. We're not satisfied, and our engine is not up to its best form yet as we've just revamped it. The route is very tricky, especially the first part of the "Northern Forest", where any slightest mistake can be your last one."

Loginov: "I wasn't satisfied with the first loop, it went better for the second one, and I almost liked the last pass through the stage. That means we're getting used to it, even despite the track changing radically after each pass. On the first one it was very slippery, on the next we had a better grip. I was getting used to the car."

Manfrinato: "I think our results are not very good. We pucntured a tyre and lost 6 minutes for changing it. However, we posted a very good time on the last stage. So, the evening turned out to be quite successful for us, and we have a good feeling for tomorrow. Just pity that the weather isn't consistent enough."

Brants: "Very difficult, driving over both snow and bushes. We're learning though, and it's a very good school. I have few experience, I have taken part in a winter rally only once, but that was on icy surface, while here it's a completely different story - we're driving on snow., so there's a room for improvement for us. We have to find a good rhythm and keep to it."

Laugalis: "The road is perfect. We didn't get tired. No problems yet."

Hismattulin: "The route drastically changed with every next loop. That's the influence of more powerfult cars. I'm a newcomer to this sport, and it's my first time in such a race, that's why I can't judge the situation competently. However, I can say the following about my impressions - the first loop was used by me to get the feeling, as I have never driven a car in such conditions. When we completed the stage, my co-driver, who is more experienced im motorsport, told me about the mistakes I made. i think that both the 2nd and the 3rd loops were much better for me. The roads themselves are very interesting and twisty. It begins with some inteesting parts and then, when we enter the forest, it seems like that trees are growing just on our way. We successfully made it to the finish though, however we had some big moments. "

Frolov: "It was a unique case - we hit the same tree on two passes through the stage. I've never had such moments in my driving career since 2000. And while firstly we managed to continue further, on the second time we ripped of a wheel's suspension, and the wheel got stuck in a wrong position. Firstly the tyre got shredered, and then the alloy was also destroyed. We had to cover about 40 kilometres like that. Then we put on a new wheel, but it also punctured, but the rim wasn't damaged. We made it to the finish even with such a wheel. Nobody hadn't overtaken us for more than 30 minutes and we were able to accelerate up to 100 km\h."

Savenko: "It started snowing, it was nice. Then EMERCOM helped, thanks to the guys from Petersburg. The road is good, it is plain already. In general, the driving depends on skills and luck because it is possible to leave the route."

Volikov: "The baja "Northern forest" is always nice as winter rally is very pleasant. Unfortunately the visibility was getting worse on every loop and we had to be more careful. On the first loop it was hard because of too much snow. Our main aim was to keep the speed. After driving on the rally "Dakar" it is the main component of success. One shouldn't look back at rivals."

Denisov: "Beginning from the second loop it was much easier to drive and we raised our pace. On the third stage we lost minutes because the track was rough and we just wanted to save our car. Our front reduction gear was not still perfect, we wanted to preserve the car. In general, today we are satisfied."

Varentsov: "The track is rough, a deep rut, but it is even better for our car. We are contented. It will be harder tomorrow as the moving direction on the stage will be changed. We' try to find other tyres."

Zeltins: "On the second loop nothing changed, everything was ok. We haven't learnt the results yet, but I believe they will be all right. We are ready to fight tomorrow.""

Race announcement:

On Thursday, the Russian "Northern Forest Baja", first round of the FIA Baja Worldcup, started with a official press conference in St. Petersburg. From the very beginning the Baja started as a small event, then it grew up to the national championship, then got the international status and then the organisers reached their intitial objective - the race was included into the official international calendar. We were talking to Igor Kan, the clerk of the course.

NF: What were the changes made to the rally's route, what new things did the organizers have to do to suit the international level of the rally?

Igor Kan: So, I would like to say that during the preparations we didn't change the route much, of course we developed that route and I think that we managed to find the best roads for this area. We succeeded in solving a big problem - the safety of people as we drive without speed limits. Usually this route goes through some small and not very small villages. For seven years we tried to find the solution of the safety problem and now we are happy to report that we found the round way that made the route just 3 km longer compared with the previous year.

And another thing we introduced for the first time last year was a so-called spectators area, and the temporary Headquarters of the rally. We made the route along the spectators area much more difficult and we hope that people will enjoy it.

And last year the temperature was approximately the same, but there was much less snow. This year the weather is not very cold and the temperature is also about zero, but we have much more snow and in the corners there is an opportunity to keep higher speed that influences the techniques of driving. Of course there are the weather conditions that influence the "character" of the road, the route surface stays hard,but there are bumps on the plain surface and on the contrary. That's why a good cooperation of a driver and a co-driver is very important .

Question to Fred Gallagher: Mr. Gallagher has probably one of the biggest experience in events' arrangement in different conditions. What is the main difference in the approach to that very special winter event?

Fred Gallagher: I don't think that there is a big difference. The main thing is that you must always have strong organisation, good planning and good people. Of course it's very important that we look after the officials, marshals, the police and we must be sure that the cars have winter tyre.

NF: Speaking about this special winter event. Have many participants ever tried to drive on winter tyres?

Fred Gallagher: I don't really know if they've tested much and how much time they need it but I believe that they ‘ll get the feeling very quickly. I can tell you by my own experience. When I was in the winter rally in Sweden it was impressive to see the grip usage. When it was very slipper slippery the car kept the grip with road.

NF: Can you evaluate the administrative checks and the scrutineering, have you got any special information?

Fred Gallagher: The administrative checks didn't have problems. As for the scruteeniring one car of the international class was moved to the national class and one of the cars was recommended to have some changes with an additional check later, and we think it will be able to start.

Baja Racing