Cross-Country – Vasilyev/Kuzmich lead on home soil | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

Cross-Country – Vasilyev/Kuzmich lead on home soil


Silk Way Rally - round 3 of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies

Vladimir Vasilyev and Alexsei Kuzmich have taken the lead of the Silk Way Rally, the third round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, after the second day of competition. The Russians head the all-French crew of Guerlain Chicherit and Alexandre Winocq by just 13 seconds with Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr only 20 seconds further adrift.

The event got underway competitively on Friday with a short 87 kilometre section from Omsk to Novosibirsk, in Russia. It might have been the shortest of the rally, but tricky navigation caught out most of the crews. Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov were the early leaders in their MINI John Cooper Works Rally and led the crews into today’s 132 kilometre section which took them on to Gorno-Altaisk.

Today, however, it was their fellow countrymen, Vladimir Vasilyev and Aleksei Kuzmich, who took control. The MINI Cooper Countryman crew won the section by a mere 49 seconds to take a 13 second advantage into the third leg. Chicherit, who won the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies in 2009, is back in action after a five-year break and he and navigator Winocq are hot on Vasilyev’s heels, second in the stage and second overall on their first outing on the Silk Way Rally.

Al-Rajhi and returning co-driver Orr are third in the Toyota Hilux. The Saudi Arabian driver won the event in 2018 and took a steady start yesterday, happy for another crew to open the road today. They were second in SS1 but dropped time today running in the dust of road opener Denis Krotov, but third fastest in the stage leaves them just 33 seconds adrift of the lead. Krotov dropped to fourth today and he is comfortably ahead of the French MD Optimus crew of Jerome Pelichet and Pascal Larroque.

Sixth overall and leading T4 are Sergei Kariakin and Anton Vlasiuk in a Can Am Maverick. They won both stages and have over two minutes in hand to Eugenio Amos/Paolo Ceci who hold eighth overall and second in the category. Pavel Lebedev and Kirill Shubin lead the T3 contenders. The Russians won the opening stage and finished third today to maintain the category lead and seventh overall. Ninth is held by Jean-Luc Pisson Ceccaldi and Jean Brucy, second of the T3 competitors in their PH Sport Zephyr. Rounding out the top 10 is Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin in their T4 Can Am Maverick.  After a disastrous first stage, Anastasia Nifontova and Ekaterina Zhadanova bounced back to claim today’s T3 stage win, but the duo are down in 18th position overall.

The organisation has now had to modify its route, due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in Mongolia and the closing of that country’s border. Tomorrow’s third leg will see the contenders complete a Marathon Stage from Gorno-Altaisk to Kosh Agach, where only they will be able to service their vehicles.

The health and welfare of the Russian and Mongolian populations, as well as the competitors, organiser and all personnel associated with the event, is the ultimate priority and, as such, the rally route remains in Russia. In support of the Mongolian population, all bivouacs and infrastructure prepared for the Mongolian stages will now be placed at the disposal of the state and local authorities, to enable them to set up anti-COVID-19 stations to help fight the pandemic. Mongolia will also receive humanitarian supplies, delivered on behalf of the Rally Directorate.