February 24th 2008, 20:16
The second day - short, but eventful!
The last day of the baja УSaint-Petersburg Northern Forest Ц 2008Ф was also the most eventful one Ц news came one after another.
The participants spent the morning and the time before the lunch on two runs through the special stage, but in the direction opposite to that they faced yesterday. One might think they moved along the same route they did 3 times yesterday and so could easily remember how to drive it at full speed. But it’s not actual in motorsport, especially in rally-raids, where crews often go off-road for better results. And who knows what surprises can bring a turn, which yesterday appeared to be harmless. Ditches alongside a track aren’t of the same depth from different sides of the road. And this caught some of the crews out. Well, not – actually nobody could escape mistakes, but the consequences were different. For example, Alexander Oleinikov just damaged a wheel of his Nissan Patrol car, and that didn’t prevent him from finishing not only the special stage, but also the race: assisted by the experienced co-driver Alexey Kuzmich, he took 2nd place in the international T2 category. His colleague Victor Volikov, driving the Toyota Prado, wasn’t as lucky – his rally was over after hitting a tree, and even the strong machinery of his car couldn’t endure the accident. Meanwhile, the destiny favoured the similar mistake by Alexey Berkut, and the driver was lucky enough to escape with just slight damages done to the front of his Mitsubishi. Well, destiny praises the strongest, and Berkut was definitely one of those as he posted the best time on the morning run.
However, the fortune often throws sand (well, snow in those conditions) in the wheels of competitors as if trying their firmness and will to triumph. But this time it failed to crush the will of Binjamin Dzhepaev. He lost some time at CP2 of the SS5 because of a stuck accelerator rope. But the participants of the national class of the Russian championship are all very skillful, and they did manage to make the car run and kept on at the same pace which eventually led them to the class victory. The driver from Uljanovsk (where his car UAZ origins from) was the only one to stop the stranglehold of his main rival Yuriy Borovikon on victories in the “Northern Forest” that he’s been holding for the last 3 years. Moreover, Dzhepaev amazed everyone with his driving style, showing the times in the top-6 overall at some splits of the forest section!
The fight in the international and the most prestigious class T1 attracted no less interest, as the main competitors in any raid they compete in Ruslan Misikov and Alexey Berkut fought for the 2nd place on the provisional podium. Before the start of the penultimate stage the leader of Nart-Time team was just few seconds in front of his rival. It must be mentioned that Ruslan and his co-driver Sergey Talantsev were still getting used to their new car, which they first tried only at the superspecial stage. As the drivers said, the car was much quicker than anything they’d tried before, but it demanded a special approach to the handling. As the result, on the first section Alexey Berkut and Anton Nikolaev took the advantage of their position and moved ahead. But on the final test Nart-Time leaders, having felt the confidence in the car, posted the best time that combined with Berkut’s problems brought them “silver” overall. Moreover, the result, shown by the crew on that pass, was the best over the whole race. Only early leader Boris Gadasin spent less than 50 minutes to complete the distance on the first pass, but even his time was worse than that of his teammates.
And who turned out to be the main heroes of the baja “Saint-Petersburg Northern Forest – 2008”? First of all – the duo of reigning Russian champions Leonid Novitskiy and Oleg Tyupenkin. They proved their status by smashing the opposition already on yesterday’s stages. Today they could afford being more cautious in order not to make a costly mistake, but it didn’t mean they slowed down the pace – second and third times on two final stages perfectly show it. The overall advantage of the crew at the finish of the baja was more than 5 minutes.
The international and national standings in the T2 class did differ a bit. But it wasn’t the case with the crew of two Konstantins – Zhil’tsov and Mescheryakov. Even a 2-min penalization they got for the delay at a TC yesterday didn’t deprive them of victory. In the international classification, as was pointed out above, it was Alexander Oleinikov who took the 2nd place. But he wasn’t actually that fast on the road, as the data of the Russian classification proves. According to it, in the Russian Championship this position was occupied by Andrey and Vladimir Novikovs. They did manage to put a gap of two and a half minutes between them and Oleinikov’s crew!
We can’t pass over the successes of our foreign guests. Czech Republic drivers, Miroslav Zapletal and Miloslav Janachek, finished the raid fourth overall, having lost almost eight minutes to the winners. If not for the yesterday’s spin, they could have probably fought for a better position. But even the 4th place is a great achievement as the baja “Saint-Petersburg Northern Forest” was their first performance on a snow surface.
As soon as the participants crossed the finish line, their teams were ready to serve them in the service park. While the mechanics were repairing the cars so that they could shine at the podium, the officials were trying to attract as much attention to celebrations as possible. As the result, no one was bored: spectators were entertained with different contests and souvenirs, and the crews were met in a warm atmosphere. Afterwards they all dispersed: journalists – to prepare the last reports, drivers – to have a rest after a difficult driving. Then they met again at the press conference, that for the first time in Russian raids history was held in two languages (Russian and English) – specially for the numerous foreign media. The status of the candidate for the FIA International Cup for Cross Country Bajas was proved with honor.
Narrated by Igor Chervonen
Photos by Grigoriy Garbuz and Andrey Chursinov