Challenging African desert: online diary

February 24, 2016

Africa Eco Race 2016

Start in Monaco (December 27, 2015)

The official start of the Africa Eco Race 2016 rally raid took place in Monaco on December 27. Our racing vehicles – gas-fueled KAMAZ numbered 403 and diesel-fueled KAMAZ numbered 400 underwent tech inspection successfully and were sent by ferry to Morocco, the venue of the first stage of the speedy race.

This year, 7 trucks, 30 jeeps and 29 motorbikes were participating in the rally. In the truck category, our athletes had to compete with Miklos Kovacs on Scania (Hungary), Tomasz Tomecek on Tatra (Czech Republic), Elisabete Jacinto on MAN (Portugal), Joe Adua on Mercedes (France) and Samir Benbekhti on MAN (France).

The participants passed through 12 special stages with most diverse landscapes: 5 special stages in Morocco, 6 – in Mauritania and the final, rather symbolic stage in Senegal. Mauritania with its thickest and most pathless sands on the planet was the most challenging part of the race as expected.

This year the African rally raid received exceptional media coverage – five TV channels – Match TV, Russia 24, Lifenews, Eurosport and Euronews – arranged its broadcasting in Africa. From December 27 to January 10, Russian fans had an opportunity to follow the impressive competition of the car and motorbike racers against the picturesque backdrop of the African landscape. The winner awarding ceremony was held on January 10 at the famous Pink Lake (Lac Rose) near Senegal’s capital Dakar.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “Africa Eco Race is not just a crucial rally event, it is a demonstration of exceptional team spirit and vehicle technologies harnessing the desert sands. We are both competitors and teammates at the same time. The team spirit prevails over the desire to win, because we are all equal under the cunning of nature. We came here to challenge the desert once again – the gas-fueled KAMGAZ has become more powerful and reliable. We have been preparing for this race the whole year and we are ready to prove once again that natural gas is an efficient fuel.”

KAMAZ-Master crews (from left to right): Anatoly Tanin (car mechanic, crew 403), Alexander Kupriyanov (navigator, crew 403), Sergey Kupriyanov (pilot, crew 403), Anton Shibalov (pilot, crew 400), Robert Amatych (navigator, crew 400), Almaz Khisamiyev (car mechanic, crew 400)

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Sands of Sahara and tricky roads of Morocco: Africa Eco Race kicks off in Monaco

    (duration: 3:35) Russia 24, December 27, 2015

  2. Africa Eco Race: making it to the finish line, covering 6,000 kilometers

    (duration: 3:35) Match TV, December 27, 2015

  3. Intercontinental rally starts in Monaco

    (duration: 3:08) LifeNews, December 27, 2015

  4. Africa Eco Race sets out from Monaco

    (duration: 1:23) Euronews, December 27, 2015

Transfer to Africa

Arrival in Morocco (December 29, 2015)

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. By broom wagons and ferries – Africa Eco Race riders arrive in Morocco

    (duration: 3:21) Russia 24, December 29, 2015

  2. Africa Eco Race riders get to Morocco

    (duration: 2:11) LifeNews, December 29, 2015

Warm up before hitting track

Stage 1 (December 29, 2015)

It’s a rare occasion when a rally raid starts according to schedule and Africa Eco Race is no exception. The arrival in the Moroccan city of Nador was delayed and the customs formalities took longer than expected. Therefore, the organizers decided to cancel the first special stage for motorbikes and shorten it for cars. As a result, the finish was on the 47th kilometer instead of the planned 100th. The liaison here was 545 kilometers. According to race numbers, jeeps were the first to start and 15 minutes later trucks joined the race.

The route was full of unexpected turns that were hard to see because of the vehicles running in front of us. The Moroccan landscape here is made up of sharp stones so the racers had difficulties with overtaking.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “Although the first stage was short, and we may call it a test area, we saw three jeeps off the race track. They had flashers on and one of them was with a punctured tire. Another jeep, apparently due to a navigation error, ran into a big gully at a high speed and its wheel came off. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
At the finish we were met by Jean-Louis Schlesser, a race organizer, who said: “Think of today as a prologue for you to wake up and refresh your memories about Africa! Tomorrow you will have a full-on riding along a special stage of 313 kilometers that will start with a large ridge of sand dunes near the town of Merzouga.”

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race 2016 rally raid officially starts in Monaco

    (duration: 2:14) Russia 24, December 29, 2015

  2. Africa Eco Race 2016: stage 1, first losses

    (duration: 1:31) Euronews, December 30, 2015

  3. Kupriyanov’s KAMAZ takes lead in stage 1

    (duration: 3:43) Match TV, December 30, 2015

  4. Morocco hosts stage 1 of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:28) Russia 24, December 31, 2015

First African traps

Stage 2 (December 30, 2015)

For the first time in Africa Eco Race, today’s special stage started right in the dunes of erg near Merzouga. This is a popular tourist spot, which attracted a lot of spectators and fans at the start line and along the first few kilometers of the track. Moreover, we were expected there! Standing at the starting line were the hosts of the mini hotel, where the team had stayed last year while training in this area. Wearing the KAMAZ-Master team scarves, the Moroccans warmly welcomed our crews.

Overall, the special stage, as the organizers had promised, was diverse, dynamic and rather challenging. As Almaz Khisamiyev said after the finish, “We had a fine day! There were harsh gullies, stones, straight sections and the sand. The dunes at the start looked daunting, but the track ran at their bottom and we had no problems with them. During the ride, I was thinking of only one thing: the wheels! There were plenty of sharp stones and one of them finally punctured our front wheel’s tire. Fortunately, it happened three kilometers away from the finish line and we finally got there by constantly pumping up the tire. Besides, the navigation was difficult today as there were a lot of places that could easily mislead us.” And this is exactly what happened to Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew: they wasted their time twice on complicated references in the road book.

Following the daily results, Anton Shibalov’s crew won in the truck category, while Sergey Kupriyanov and his team finished second.

Sharing his impressions, Anton Shibalov mentioned long sections of the route, passing through dry sandy riverbeds. It is a real challenge for car engines, but KAMAZ trucks, especially the hybrid one, show excellent performance. The most memorable thing for Sergey Kupriyanov was a motorbike stuck in the loose sand, half-buried with only one wheel remaining on the surface.

The organizers prepared a special stage of 450 kilometers for tomorrow, calling it ‘hard and exhausting’. Yet, nobody canceled the New Year!

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race: first acid test in Sahara

    (duration: 3:28) Match TV, December 31, 2015

  2. Africa Eco Race: thousand kilometers left behind

    (duration: 3:28) Lifenews, December 31, 2015

  3. Shibalov’s KAMAZ topping the truck ranking

    (duration: 3:28), Euronews, December 31, 2015

Race is getting tougher

Stage 3 (December 31, 2015)

The distance of special stages in Africa is increasing, the racers find more sand and dunes. One third of today’s 450 kilometers long route was made up of sandy elements – viscous soils of parched rivers, high and small dunes. Nearly a quarter of the route consisted of stone tracks, passes and stony creeks. The rest was hard dirt roads massively pitted and hilled. The crews did over a five-hour shaky ride, but felt happy upon arriving at the finish line. The day ran smoothly, with no problems or failures, although the constantly changing landscape of the drive kept the racers in suspense.

Today Anton Shibalov’s crew was the first in the truck category (5 hours 11 minutes) and Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew came second (5 hours 18 minutes).

Sergey Kupriyanov: “There is no breakdown, only the tires have got heavily damaged on the rocky areas and need changing. The strongest impression of today is a huge salt marsh, as flat as a table, where the racing caravan had to cover 10 kilometers. There we saw a mirage – when you drive closer, you get a feeling that its surface is flooded with water. But this is an optical illusion, you can go straight without any fear and ‘the water’ recedes. Perhaps, we just felt the New Year coming. Although we are in Africa and far from home, we will have the New Year tree at the bivouac! There will be warm congratulations from friends and teammates, calls from home. And tomorrow morning – back into action!”

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. AER 2016 pilots going to pass a difficult section

    (duration: 04:13) Russia 24, January 1, 2016

  2. AER 2016. Russia channel camera crew trapped in sands

    (duration: 03:42) Russia 24, January 1, 2016

  3. Africa Eco Race: lady biker finishes in the top three on rally stages

    (duration: 00:54) Euronews, December 31, 2015

  4. Africa Eco Race: rally participants see the New Year in

    (duration: 03:42) Match TV, January 1, 2016

Day of tire fitter

Stage 4 (January 1, 2016)

Plenty of stones and punctured tires – such was the fourth day in Africa. It was almost impossible to save the tires. Anton Shibalov’s crew, which scored its third victory in a special stage today, had two tires go flat. The crew changed one damaged wheel and managed to get to the finish with one punctured tire.

The hybrid KAMAZ of Sergey Kupriyanov (third place) had to stop four times during the special stage.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “First time – to help a motorbiker. He fell down and, apparently, hit himself so badly that he could hardly stand on his feet and was unable to lift his bike. We made two stops in order to change the wheels, and the fourth one – because the pumping tube was cracked by stones. 70 kilometers away from the finish, we had no spare tires left and had to drive with utmost caution, and for good reason. Standing on the track was our colleague Yury Sazonov from the Kazakh team Mobilex with no spare tires left. He was waiting for someone to pass by and give him a spare. Just before the finish, we caught up with Mathieu Serradori driving his buggy, number 210. He was slow and we were about to overtake him, but saw him going on three wheels and let him pass the finish line first.”

The description of stages suggests that the teams have overcome the rocky part of Morocco. Tomorrow they will face the sands! 454 kilometers of sand routes surrounded by trees and bushes, instead of the long-familiar rocks, are awaiting the Africa Eco Race competitors tomorrow!

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race: sharp stones change the racers’ plans

    (duration: 03:46) Russia 24, February 2, 2016

  2. Africa Eco Race: how to stay on the route

    (duration: 01:45) Match TV, February 3, 2016

  3. 3. Russian participants of Africa Eco Race fix their car amid the Sahara desert

    (duration: 03:20) Lifenews, December 20, 2016

  4. Africa Eco Race: lucky day for Anton Shibalov and Anastasiya Nifontova

    (duration: 01:00) Euronews, December 20, 2016

In good pace across Moroccan plateaus

Stage 5 (January 2, 2016)

The racers were very much surprised when they saw a start list for the day. Taking into account the kilometrage of the speed stage and the liaison (454+240), one might expect an early start. But the organizers set the start time for the first car at 9:00 AM. It was only after getting on track that the racers realized what it was all about.

Nearly the whole day they drove across absolutely smooth (in the context of rally raids) plateaus connected by rocky slopes to each other. It was possible to cover at least 400 kilometers of today’s special section at the top speed. In trucks it is limited to 150 kilometers per hour, but jeep drivers ‘put the pedal to the metal’ – engine at full capacity, top gear and gas pedal to the floor. The results were decent. Anton Shibalov’s crew was the first among the trucks and Sergey Kupriyanov was the runner-up with a 1.5 minutes time lag. However, in the general ranking they could only qualify for the 12th and 13th positions, respectively. Such was the specifics of the 5th stage.

Tomorrow is a rest day, which means that the entire team will have to work all day long. Extended maintenance operations, check-up of all components, scheduled replacement of springs, etc. The team will have things to do on the Atlantic coast near the city of Dakhla.

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race: Ullevalseter and Shibalov keep on leading the way

    (duration: 01:07) Euronews January 2, 2016

  2. Kanat Shagirov from Kazakhstan wins stage 5 of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 0:27) Russia 24, January 3, 2016

  3. Stage 5 of Africa Eco Race ends in Morocco

    (duration: 04:29) Russia 24, January 3, 2016

  4. Africa Eco Race: punctured tire and KAMAZ gone astray

    (duration: 04: 34) Match TV, January 3, 2016

Day for technical checks

Rest day (January 3, 2016)

One would think: it’s Sunday, a day off, the beach and the sun – time to relax. No way! No resting here! The camp only looks deserted – the teams just walked away in different directions. Only a few racers made time to go to the coast. It’s hard to deny yourself a pleasure when you are surrounded by such a beauty of nature.

The work is in full swing at the camp of the KAMAZ-Master team. A lot of things have to be done before the next stage – there is no rest on the rest day. The vehicles undergo full technical maintenance until late evening. Practically every component is tested.

Fueling the gas-powered KAMAZ is no easy task. The truck is unique and has no equals at the African rally.

In fact, KAMAZ–Master is a step, or even two steps, ahead of its competitors. Eco-friendliness of a vehicle engine is becoming a necessary criterion for admission to races. In this regard, our KAMAZ is a perfect example of what a professional racing truck should be.

It has to be noted that the hybrid engine doesn’t restrict the truck’s capacity, but rather, on the contrary, increases it.

Our crews (from left to right): Anatoly Tanin, Almaz Khisamiyev, Robert Amatych, Sergey Kupriyanov, Anton Shibalov, Alexander Kupriyanov

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race – well-deserved rest day

    (duration: 01:11), Euronews, January 3, 2016

  2. Africa Eco Race: camping out by the ocean

    (duration: 03:43), Match TV, January 4, 2016

From Morocco to Mauritania

Stage 6 (January 4, 2016)

Today the crews and service cars left the bivouac in Dakhla early in the morning in order to cross the border between Morocco and Mauritania. Last year this process had taken much time and the stage had been cancelled. To everyone’s surprise, the formalities at the two borders took no more than 40 minutes instead of 6 hours spent last year. The organizers did their best and persuaded the Mauritanian authorities to ease the customs formalities. On the border the racers just had entry stamps placed in their passports upon arrival in Mauritania, and the border guards brought a ‘mini-office’ to the bivouac in Chami to issue visas for the racers, who could receive them after the special stage.

The press group was waiting for the racers at the start line and photographer Sergey Polivets did a nice photo session with all Russian athletes participating in Africa Eco Race: KAMAZ-Master crews, Alexander Terentyev and Alexey Berkut (RE Autoclub), Anton Grigorov and Roman Yelagin, Anastasiya Nifontova (VEB Racing), and Dmitry Agoshkov (Troyka Team). All the Russian crews are still in the race, no one has dropped out yet, and everyone keeps on fighting.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “Today’s 174 kilometers long track was very fast again! We drove 56 kilometers at the cruising speed of 130 kilometers per hour, made a turn, covered another 78 kilometers with 180 kilometers per hour and the last section to the finish – with 130 kilometers per hour. That is all. Of course, there were flips, sometimes dangerous, sandy intersections, winding roads across the dunes, and thick sands. We had to sort out the changes in the road book before the finish, but still, we covered practically the entire route at the top speed. The average (I mean it!) speed of our crews was 126 kilometers per hour today. We reached the finish almost at the same time, just as we started – one by one.
We hope that on tomorrow’s special section our cars will be able to demonstrate their best qualities. The Chami – Azougui stage represents 414 kilometers of sand-covered roads, sands and dunes. By the way, the weather in Africa is much warmer this year. When we arrived at the Chami bivouac, our thermometer showed 34 degrees above zero. It will be hot on the track tomorrow too, in all senses!”

At the end of the day, Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew was the first among the trucks. Anton Shibalov’s crew came second by less than a minute. It made no changes to the overall standings.

Russian motobiker Anastasiya Nifontova (VEB Racing)

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race competitors enter a post-apocalyptic zone

    (duration: 02:57) Russia 24, January 5, 2016

  2. Africa Eco Race: dangerous area

    (duration: 04:59) Match TV, January 5, 2016

  3. Africa Eco Race: Housieaux – surprise of Monday

    (duration: 01:15) Euronews January 4, 2016

  4. Africa Eco Race riders cross a dangerous area on the way from Morocco

    (duration: 03:18) Lifenews, January 5, 2016

Fight goes on

Stage 7, (January 5, 2016)

After yesterday’s fast and comfortable journey, the organizers prepared a long and exhausting day for the racers. Everyone had to work hard – pilots, navigators and mechanics. The track was a combination of small, but tricky and cragged dunes, narrow roads amid the dense vegetation, and large plateaus. The pilots had no time to take a breath, they had to be concentrated and continually manipulate the wheel. They had time for a drink only at checkpoints within the speed limit zone. The navigators had to stay on the right track among poorly noticeable branches from the main road. And mechanics went through a lot of trouble when three cars stopped at once on the wheel marks filled with sand and Sergey Kupriyanov’s attempt to bypass them on the right side down the slope of a dune was not successful. The truck got stuck in the soft sand with a risky left side incline. The left side wheels sank into the sand by more than a half.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “Anton Shibalov gave a helping hand. It was impossible to pull back the truck. The mechanics unwound and connected four towing ropes while Alexander Kupriyanov was digging out the wheels. Only after that, it was possible to get the car moving. We passed the rest of the route rather smoothly. There was a timing belt lying on the sand. It was clear that the owner must be somewhere nearby. That’s it! A kilometer away, a buggy was under repair.”

Many jeep racers had to use dovetails and shovels today. Anton Shibalov had to tow his car again just after the finish and Yury Sazonov from the Kazakh team Mobilex ran out of petrol.

Today’s results for the truck category: Anton Shibalov’s crew is the first, Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew is the second with the time lag of 34 seconds. The overall standings haven’t changed.

Tomorrow the racers will have to overcome 377 kilometers, rocky plateaus, crossings of blind creeks, sand with stones and some dunes. We keep on fighting!

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race: route’s stage 7 left behind

    (duration: 01:03) Euronews, January 5, 2016

  2. Africa Eco Race – sands of Mauritania

    (duration: 5:07) Match TV, January 6, 2016

  3. Russian lady biker hits a goat at the Africa Eco Race rally

    (duration: 02:13) LifeNews, January 6, 2016

Challenging rocky trial

Stage 8 (January 6, 2016)

Today the organizers prepared a brutal stage for the racers. The assistance staff didn’t have to move to a new place as the route had a circular form. The athletes were joking in the morning: “Why there is no lunch for the racers at the bivouac, but only for the assistance? The stage is only 387 kilometers long, we will be there by lunch time.” Nothing of the kind!

Starting right from the center of a Mauritanian village, where the locals surrounded the racers offering them knick-knacks, the track led them along the sandy riverbed to a high rocky ridge. The racers had to drive some 160 kilometers at the low speed, steering around big and medium sized stones and boulders. It was clear that today’s journey would not be fast or easy.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “We drove in this way until the 300th kilometer – wide sandy riverbeds with thick sand and rocky plateaus where you can’t pick up speed. There was also the Mauritanian sand fine like flour. It was a short section, but very difficult for passing. We saw small and irregular-shaped dunes with soft sand. In front of us, 7 or 8 jeeps were waiting to be dug out. Our trucks didn’t get stuck, but stopped in order to assess the situation and to choose the best way. It took us a while to get out of this trap. A hybrid engine is especially good in such complicated situations.”

After 300 kilometers, we got on a straight section. It seemed to us that the organizers would let the crews to take a breath before the finish, but we were wrong again. First, Sergey Kupriyanov’s truck had the rear right tire punctured.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “A safe place, smooth road, no signs of problems, a challenging rocky trial was left behind. But our front wheel picked up a stone from the road and it cut the sidewall of the rear tire. We stopped for a replacement and moved on again. We thought it was all over but the shouting. Not this time again! 20 kilometers away from the finish, there was an unclear reference point. We should take course 10, going around the hills of sand, than we would change it for course 60. But when exactly should one do this? It wasn’t specified. We follow the trail and it turns to course 60. After a half of a kilometer, we see five jeeps moving towards us. The wrong track. We get back, find the right turn and here it is, the long-awaited finish!”

Today’s track was very diverse: an exhausting rocky trial, sandy riverbeds with thick sand and sharp slopes, the Mauritanian fine sand, punctured tires, navigation problems. Nevertheless, we have made it to the finish and the riders of the gas-fueled KAMAZ are resting at the bivouac together with their teammates, eating mushroom soup and getting ready for tomorrow’s ordeal.

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. AER 2016: KAMAZes go on the offensive

    (duration: 05:00) Russia 24, January 7, 2016

  2. Africa Eco Race: saving the crew

    (duration: 05:33) Match TV, January 7, 2016

  3. AER 2016: Ullevalseter, Shagirov and Shibalov keeping the lead after stage 8

    (duration 01:11) Euronews January 6, 2016

Mutual aid in sandy prison

Stage 9 (January 7, 2016)

The gas-powered KAMAZ came third to the finish line today and Anton Shibalov’s crew was the fourth finisher.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “We thought it had been a tough day yesterday. Wrong again. The race started well. The trucks simultaneously passed the dunes at the start of the section and had no problems with it, although many jeeps got into sand traps there. The first troubling sign came when Anton Shibalov was stuck on a dune with wet sand. Hardly had we unwound the towing rope when a buggy of the MD Rally team flew off a dune and rolled onto the roof. We helped the crew and put the car on the wheels. After that, we dealt with the problem of Shibalov.
However, in all this hustle we didn’t notice a sidewall cut on the rear left wheel of our truck. It played a bad joke on us. When the sands started again, the tire on the wheel blew out and, of course, at the most inopportune moment when we were at the bottom of a sand hole. The two crews were digging out and lifting the car for two hours in order to change the wheel. It was a great time loss.”

Fortunately, the time margin that our teams built up allowed them to keep their positions in the truck standings. Two more stages, completely unpredictable, still lie ahead.

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race: getting out of dunes

    (duration: 3:31) Match TV, January 8, 2016

  2. Africa Eco Race: Mauritanian desert wrong-foots the racers

    (duration: 2:59) Russia 24, January 8, 2016

  3. Conquest of the Sahara

    (duration: 2:08) LifeNews, January 8, 2016

Passing test of African sands

Stage 10 (January 8, 2016)

Sergey Kupriyanov: “Our crews set off one by one today. In spite of fast ride and difficult navigation, we managed to reach the first dunes. The biggest pile of sand in Mauritania was ahead of us. The expected difficulties were there to overcome. They were not connected to piloting or navigation, but to the vehicle itself.
We encountered technical problems, which we couldn’t handle right on the spot. The truck that had worked flawlessly for many days, refused to go further. The engine clutch broke. With great difficulty we reached the first checkpoint and realized that this section would be covered by the reduced team. Shibalov’s crew rushed down the special section, and Kupriyanov and his team, moving at one gear, which they could engage, made a shortcut right to the finish. We lost some time, but the destination is still some distance away and the race goes on. Tomorrow is the last stage included in the classification.
It was a hard day not only for us: the car of our friend Anton Grigoryev (VEB Racing) rolled over and, making two turns, broke down. He left the race.”

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race: among harsh sands

    Match TV, January 9, 2016

  2. Our racers in Africa

    Lifenews, January 9, 2016

  3. Africa Eco Race: Shibalov’s crew still in the lead in the truck standings

    Russia 24, January 9, 2016

Final dash

Stage 11 (January 9, 2016)

The repairs of KAMAZ 403 lasted until the morning. Replacement of an engine clutch is a time-consuming process, but everything was ready by the start.

On the last day officially included in the race, the organizers decided to facilitate the task for the participants. The special section was easier than last year’s. It consisted of several dunes 30 kilometers away from the start, fast roads at the top speed and a narrow passage leading to the finish line – a total of 207 kilometers.

The team’s philosophy was “fighting until the end”! The crews passed the route fast and smoothly without stops and problems and finished almost simultaneously. The race organizer Jean Louis Schlesser, flying his lightweight single-seat plane, followed the KAMAZes on the track. He soared some few meters in front of the large-tonnage vehicle, which moved at the speed of 147 kilometers per hour.

At the finish line – traditional hugs with teammates and former competitors, first congratulations for the winners.

Anton Shibalov took the top win in the truck category and Sergey Kupriyanov was the fourth.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “The race was tough this year. Although we were better prepared, both physically and mentally, and we knew what to expect in Africa, it was very hard. The route was more complicated, for instance, there were more narrow winding stone roads, which are very difficult to drive on for the trucks. The jeep crews were much stronger and we had some bad luck. We had built a substantial cushion of time during the first two-thirds of the race and we spent it in the last two days. The punctured tire in dunes and failure of the engine clutch put us on the fourth position in the truck standings. But this is the African Dakar, everything can happen during the race! This is the experience that you can’t learn from books. And we will be stronger by the next competition!”

Robert Amatych added that “the preparations for stage 11 were especially meticulous: thorough inspection of the vehicles, the road book studied several times, there was no margin for error. A lovely sunny morning and the good mood of sleepy mechanics enhanced our confidence that everything would be fine today. We were very pleased to be greeted by the participants and organizers at the start and the finish of the special stage. Many of them tried to speak Russian to us.”

Anton Shibalov: “The last special stage was very fast, the organizers decided not to exhaust the racers on this day. There were not much Mauritanian sands and we crossed them very quickly and easily. The two trucks crossed the finish line almost at the same time, and this meant that Sergey was the winner of today’s special stage. It’s a pity that his clutch failed on such a bad day. That proves once again how challenging the sands of Mauritania are, it’s an acid test not only for people, but also for high-quality vehicles.”

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race: Anton Shibalov’s crew wins in the truck standings

    (duration: 03:36) Russia 24, January 10, 2016

Gas-fueled KAMAZ at Pink Lake!

Finish. Stage 12 (January 10, 2016)

Today the crews were having a liaison of 230 kilometers that would run through picturesque villages of Senegal, down the road framed by huge baobabs. The section is not an official part of the race, it serves as a tribute to the past Dakar rallies.

The start was announced to be on the coast of the ocean. The motorbikes started first, it was a mass start. After that, the jeeps moved in tens, and the trucks were the last to go.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “We had traditionally hung the flags of Russia and Tatarstan and covered the last 25 kilometers of this race.
At the finish, Russian fans living in Senegal were waiting for us. It seemed that all Russian-speaking citizens of this country came to meet the KAMAZes and other Russian teams. We took congratulations, participated in group photo shoots and signed autographs.
The race was very demanding. We had to deal with technical problems, broken clutch at one of the trucks in the dunes, but the KAMAZes reached the finish line and Anton Shibalov’s crew retained the first position, and this is a real success! We got out of a difficult situation given that such challenges are hardly avoidable during the African Dakar competitions.”

The team won the race, the crews became stronger and are ready for new challenges! The gala podium ended with a prize awarding ceremony – 1st position in the truck category and 1st position among hybrid vehicles like the hybrid KAMAZ, which is fully in line with the ideology of Africa Eco Race.

Sergey Kupriyanov and Jean-Louis Schlesser, organizer of Africa Eco Race rally raid

Congratulations from Jean-Louis Schlesser

TV spots about rally stage:

  1. Africa Eco Race annual rally raid ends in Dakar

    (duration: 03:22) Russia 24, January 11, 2016

  2. Africa Eco Race. Shibalov, Shagirov and Ullevalseter taking congratulations

    (duration: 1:23) Euronews, January 10, 2016

  3. Africa Eco Race: finish in Dakar

    (duration:4:21) Match TV, January 11, 2016

  4. Sergey Kupriyanov about Africa Eco Race

    Russia 24, January 11, 2016

Photos by Sergey Polivets (Russia), Alain Rossignol (France) and Alessio Corradini (Italy)

You may find large photos in the photo album.