The start podium of the international Dakar Rally took place on January 4 in the ancient city of Jeddah, located in western part of Saudi Arabia. To this Middle Eastern country the multi-day marathon moved after 11 years in South America.
In the history of the Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia has become the 30th country, hosting the race. And the organizers tried to arrange a real festival from the starting ceremony, choosing for this a picturesque coast of the Red Sea. A giant-screen podium, a peculiar concert stage designed from sea containers, special light effects, live music and songs, shows of dancing fountains - all this became a single puzzle before the start of the main event of the year.
Despite the comfortable weather — during the day, the thermometer hardly exceeded 26 degrees Celsius — start of the ceremony, which began at 16:00 Moscow time, did not attract a spectator interest. But as soon as the sun went down beyond the horizon, the large space in front of the podium was rapidly filled with fans of rally-raids. The audience, most of which were local residents, enthusiastically welcomed contestants of the race. Athletes thanked the audience for their warm welcome and shared their expectations with them from the upcoming multi-day sports marathon.
In total, 342 vehicles will toe the starting line of the Dakar 2020. Of these, 46 crews are represented in the truck category, 129 - in the car category and 167 are bikers.
KAMAZ-master team will be represented by four crews:
500 Driver Eduard Nikolaev, co-driver Evgenii Iakovlev, mechanic Vladimir Rybakov
501 Driver Dmitry Sotnikov, co-driver Ruslan Akhmadeev, mechanic Ilgiz Akhmetzianov
511 Driver Andrey Karginov, co-driver Andrey Mokeev, mechanic Igor Leonov
516 Driver Anton Shibalov, co-driver Dmitrii Nikitin, mechanic Ivan Tatarinov
“Administrative checks and scruteneering went well. Today was the ceremonial start of the Dakar, and already tomorrow the first special stage awaits us. By the mood of the contestants of the truck category and preparation of the vehicles, it is apparent that everyone plans to show a good result, many crews want to be on the podium,” said the current winner of the Dakar Eduard Nikolaev.
“The battle will be serious, the organizers made many innovations in order to equalize capabilities of the teams in navigation. Considering, that Saudi Arabia is a new region and its landscapes are little known, everything in the race can start from scratch,” added the five-time winner of the Golden Bedouin.
A pleasant event for the KAMAZ members was the visit of the Consul General of Russia in Jeddah Bagavudin Aliev. “Our Russian diaspore was looking forward to your arrival. We are very pleased to meet with the famous KAMAZ-master team and enthusiastically welcomed arrival of the Russian trucks. We sincerely and wholeheartedly wish all crews from Naberezhnye Chelny a successful performance and look forward to victories at each stage. And in the capital of Saudi Arabia, we will wait for the victorious finish,” said Aliev, addressing to the team.
“I consider that after the historic visit of the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to Russia and the return visit of Vladimir Putin, very wide spaces and possibilities for mutual cooperation and investment will open. Including for KAMAZ plant. Taking into consideration the terrain and the weather, the products of the Chelny plant will be high-demanded in Saudi Arabia. The country knows about the sports achievements of KAMAZ-master team; it is very popular among residents. I’m sure that KAMAZ trucks have a great future here,” he added.
When darkness fell over Jeddah, the turn to become full-fledged participants of the international event came to KAMAZ-master team: to the applause of the fans the trucks crossed the starting arch.
On Sunday, January 5, the race contestants will have to head north and start on the Dakar without a warming-up: the first stage on the route Jeddah - Al-Wajh includes 433 kilometers of liaison along the coast and 319 kilometers of speed section a short distance from the Red Sea. Third of the distance is sands and dunes, the same as ground, a rocky surface occupies 25% of the route. The start of the truck category is scheduled for 11:50.
The race contestants during 12 stages from January 5 to 17 will have to see a lot of sand on their way. It covers 75% of the route from almost 5000 km of special stages, while the total length of the rally-marathon is almost 7900 km. A novelty of the current Dakar will be hand-out of road books a few minutes before the start of some stages, which will complicate the already difficult work of navigators and will require maximum concentration from the
PHOTO BY DPPI, Red Bull Content Pool