Way to go!

January 21, 2015

Everyone’s New Year holidays were different – some were conquering snowy slopes, others – the sand dunes of Sahara. The international Africa Eco Race 2015 rally started on December 28 along the historic Paris – Dakar route. For the first time a gas-fueled KAMAZ sports truck customized with the support of Gazprom and VTB Bank – the official partner of the team, took part in the competition on the KAMAZ-Master team. A mobile gas filling station (MGFS) of Gazprom Gazomotornoye Toplivo will provide for refueling the car during the rally race.


The eco–truck participation in the African rally is symbolic – in 2013 the rally organizers made the rules much more stringent and restricted the acceptable levels of vehicle emissions. The gas sports truck was to demonstrate the potential of eco-friendly and efficient vehicle fuel under extreme conditions.

Sergey Kupriyanov, Press Secretary of the Gazprom Management Committee Chairman piloted the gas-fueled KAMAZ. His crew was comprised of the KAMAZ-Master team members – navigator Alexander Kupriyanov (center) and car mechanic Anatoly Tanin (left).

keep-it-up-03-w700.jpg“In fact, it’s just an ordinary racing KAMAZ. Before me it was driven by pilots Dmitry Sotnikov and Ilgizar Mardeev. Its main difference is four methane cylinders in the central part of the body. In addition to them, the truck was equipped by a pipeline system, a reduction valve and a specially modified fuel injection pump which reduces the supply of diesel fuel during cylinder connection. By adding natural gas we ensure more complete fuel combustion and less smoke,” explains Sergey Kupriyanov.

Before a long journey the MGFS with a capacity of 10.2 thousand cubic meters was refilled at a CNG filling station. This volume is enough for filling up over 110 gas cylinders of the truck. Leaping ahead, we’ll say that within the convoy of the KAMAZ-Master service vehicles the filling station covered over 6,000 kilometers and properly refueled KAMAZ at the end of each rally stage.

Having passed all the required administrative procedures and technical inspection in the French town of Saint-Cyprien, the rally participants headed for Spain to take a ferry to the Moroccan port of Nador, where the first rally stage started on December 30.

This year the KAMAZ-Master team was represented by two crews: Anton Shibalov’s crew on diesel-fueled KAMAZ with number 401 and Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew on gas-fueled KAMAZ with number 404.

Alexander Grigorov from Russia, VEB Racing pilot on Oscar O3 became their fellow competitor.

In addition, for the first time in the history of Africa Eco Race on the VEB Racing team, Anastasia Nifontova, Russian motorcycle racer on Husqvarna motorcycle hit the starting line.

The sportsmen got down from a mall, straight to the ball, or rather from the ferry to the Moroccan land early in the morning on December 30 and, without wasting any time, went to the start of the first stage.

Taking part in the rally were 29 motorcycle drivers, 32 offroader and buggy crews as well as 9 trucks. The seventh Africa Eco Race promised to be the most difficult one in the rally history. The rocky mountains of Morocco, sands of Sahara, dunes of Mauritania, savannahs of Senegal lay ahead of the racers who were about to cover over 6,000 kilometers, over 3,000 kilometers of which was represented by special sections. So, the race began!

Along the whole route the racers were accompanied by the journalists, who, by the way, took active part in the race – they helped to replace tires, push the cars out of sandy traps and just support the fighting spirit of the crews.

The first stage – Moroccan – was preparative for our racers. The crews of both KAMAZ trucks were settling in, estimating their competitors and trying to drive at an average speed and steadily.

After the finish of the second stage, a decorated New Year tree and a festive dinner awaited our racers in the KAMAZ-Master tent. New Year 2015 was closing in, and our racers saw it in according to both Moscow and local time.

In the morning – back into action! The third stage bid both sand dunes and speed sections.

As a result, Anton Shibalov finished first and Sergey Kupriyanov – second. It is well said that a good year beginning makes the whole year good.

Every evening after being inspected by the mechanics, the hybrid KAMAZ was fueled with 200 cubic meters of compressed natural gas (CNG). The full tank was enough for the crew to cover another 600 to 700 kilometers with the engine operating in a combined cycle (gas & diesel). “We are making the most of our resource. The vehicle performs better, it goes well at low speed, which is very important in marshy sand,” says Sergey Kupriyanov. Photo: refueling process.

In spite of the tenseness of the race (one day – one stage), the racers managed to find time for rest and communication.

So, the Moroccan stage of the rally is over. The gas equipment operates steadily. Following the results of five stages, the KAMAZ-Master team leads the standing: Anton Shibalov’s crew is first, Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew, participating in an international rally for the first time, is third. VEB Racing is keeping up – the pilots share their impressions of the race at bivouacs.

On January 4 the racers’ convoy reached Dakhla, where the scheduled Off-Day took place. The technicians were inspecting the vehicles,…

…and the teams were gaining strength and getting ready for the next six stages.

But Mauritania met the racers with a sandstorm. The sixth stage of the rally had to be cancelled due to the weather conditions.

The sands of Mauritania turned out to be really tricky.

Our crews were instructed to keep up with each other in order to give a hand if necessary.

Many participants lost time because of constantly digging their vehicles out.

Even the mobile gas filling station got stuck in the unpredictable sands on its way to the bivouac.

The service vehicle of the Kazakh team shared the same fate.

But Russians from KAMAZ-Master came to the rescue in time.

11 stages have been completed and the crews enter the final straight. 5.5 thousand kilometers of the ride, fighting the elements, ups and downs – and the Pink Lake in Dakar lying ahead!

Not everyone made it to the finish. Almost half of the participants fell out of the race. This rally turned out to be really difficult and exciting. But despite the difficulties, the KAMAZ-Master team confirmed their Champion’s title again: Anton Shibalov’s crew came first, Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew finished second among the trucks. In the overall standing the team took the second and third places respectively.

The gas-fueled KAMAZ proved its efficiency. The gas equipment operated reliably under extreme conditions. The African test was passed!

A victorious finish. Way to go!

Valentina Sufyanova and Natalia Kupriyanova (Gazprom Gazomotornoye Toplivo), Mikhail Lastochkin, Gazprom website Editorial Board

You can find large-size images in Photos.