Gas-powered KAMAZ: 10 African challenges

February 17, 2017


Sergey Kupriyanov (pilot)
Alexander Kupriyanov (navigator)
Anatoly Tanin (mechanic)

Andrey Karginov (pilot)
Andrey Mokeev (navigator)
Dmitry Nikitin (mechanic)

On December 31, 2016, Africa Eco Race 2017, the ninth edition of the Africa Eco Race rally, had its official start in Monaco. The KAMAZ-Master team was represented in the race by Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew1 on a gas-fueled KAMAZ and Andrey Karginov’s crew2 on a diesel-fueled KAMAZ.

The route of the African rally consisted of 12 stages spanning more than 6,500 kilometers, of which some 3,800 kilometers were high-speed special sections. In the truck category, our team had to compete with racers from the Czech Republic, Portugal, Hungary, and France. In keeping with the established tradition, the finishing point of the rally was at the famous Lac Rose (Pink Lake) in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

“Africa is a place where nature is always in motion: heat, cold, rains, floods, and winds change the landscape beyond recognition in a short period of time. You can never know what tomorrow will bring, but that teaches us to believe in and rely on ourselves, teamwork and our dependable vehicle,” said Sergey Kupriyanov, pilot of the gas-fueled KAMAZ.

Gazprom’s participation in Africa Eco Race is especially symbolic this year. The EcoGas brand, registered with the purpose of selling natural gas as a vehicle fuel, was presented to the public for the first time. By recognizing natural gas as a retail product for the vehicle fuel market, Gazprom made a remarkable step forward. Brand marks were placed on the body and cabin of the sports truck. As usual, the vehicle was refilled with eco-friendly fuel thanks to Gazprom Gazomotornoye Toplivo’s mobile filling station, which also came to Africa as part of the technical support team.

After the ceremonial start, a caravan of vehicles moved to the French city of Sete to take a ferry to Nador. Next stop: Morocco!

  1. Africa Eco Race kicks off in Monaco

    (duration: 3:02) Rossiya 24, January 1, 2017

  2. Africa Eco Race kicks off in Monaco

    (duration: 1:47) Match TV

Challenge 1: Sharp stones of Morocco

January 2, 2017 (stage 1)

Nador / Domaine Moulay. Total: 610 kilometers. Special section: 86 kilometers

The first stage near the Moroccan city of Nador was short: it was only 85 kilometers long.

The special section was largely roadless terrain. The path was rocky and covered with gravel. Navigators and pilots had to be especially cautious and alert there, since at that very section several crews had fallen out of the race in the previous years.

“All in all, we’re pleased: we’ve made it! It was our first time driving on Moroccan stones with our new tires. The rubber is tougher and more slippery. We had to get used to that,” said Sergey Kupriyanov.

In an unwelcome surprise from the stony roads, racers had to change a tire during the rally.

“We overtook two trucks very quickly, but somewhere along the 22nd kilometer our tire got punctured. We stopped to change it. Got behind as a result. So, we couldn’t make up for that big lag on the short section. But that was only the first stage. That makes the race even more interesting,” the pilot said.

  1. Anti-tank ditch and punctured tires. First stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:20) Match TV, January 3, 2017

  2. Russians win first stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 2:49) Rossiya 24, January 3, 2017

Challenge 2: Difficult navigation

January 3, 2017 (stage 2)

Domaine Moulay / Tagounite. Total: 393 kilometers. Special section: 370 kilometers

At the second stage, racers overcame new difficulties during a 370 kilometer-section across Moroccan plateaus, encountering their first dunes and roads covered with gravel and sand. Nevertheless, despite a hiccup with navigation, the gas-fueled KAMAZ was second on the finish line. Andrey Karginov’s diesel-fueled truck came first.

“When everything goes smoothly, with no problems at all, instead of waiting for the finish line you want the section to go longer. There was one tricky thing today, though: we encountered two similar tracks and took the left one at first, but we quickly realized that we were moving in the wrong direction and changed our route. We saw around ten cars gathered in search of the right path. We overtook two trucks and several off-road vehicles and gained the lead,” said Sergey Kupriyanov.

  1. Africa Eco Race: Russian racers take lead

    (duration: 3:19) Rossiya 24, January 4, 2017

  2. 370 kilometers of rough terrain and camel caravans. Second stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:40) Match TV, January 4, 2017

Challenge 3: Radiator problems

January 4, 2017 (stage 3)

Tagounite / Assa. Total: 525.35 kilometers. Special section: 433.07 kilometers

At the third special section, Andrey Karginov’s crew once again came first in the truck category, while Sergey Kupriyanov’s gas-fueled truck lost about 90 minutes of precious time repairing a broken radiator.

“Today we passed through sands quite easily, but we bumped into a dune with our protector and damaged our radiator. Coolant leaked out. We had to stop to replace the fan and repair the radiator. In short, it was a lot of work,” said Sergey Kupriyanov.

The day before, truck crews reduced in number: the only woman in the rally, Portuguese pilot Elisabete Jacinto, had to drop out of the race due to an engine breakdown. Africa is always unpredictable.

  1. Karginov and Vasilyev in lead after third stage of Africa Eco Race 2017

    (duration: 2:57) Rossiya 24, January 5, 2017

  2. Three Russian crews on top after third stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:00) Match TV, January 5, 2017

Challenge 4: Top speed

January 5, 2017 (stage 4)

Assa / Remz El Quebir. Total: 409.22 kilometers. Special section: 409.22 kilometers

This stage was a success for the gas-powered KAMAZ crew, who were the first to reach the finish line. Yet, Moroccan roads still have some nasty surprises for contenders: on the way to the finish, Andrey Karginov’s crew had two tires punctured.

“Today’s stage went great: in one sweep, without stopping or changing tires, we won! It was very tough, actually: 409 kilometers of rocky and sandy roads, Moroccan style. We’re narrowing the gap with our competitors!” said Sergey Kupriyanov.

After the special section, Sergey Kupriyanov was first and Andrey Karginov second in the truck category.

  1. Africa Eco Race 2017: vehicles driven by racers

    (duration: 3:56) Rossiya 24, January 6, 2017

  2. Vasilyev and Zhiltsov finish second in fourth stage of Africa Eco Race
  3. Russian crews left with no spare wheels. Fourth stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 2:48) Match TV

Challenge 5: Marathon distances

January 6, 2017 (stage 5)

Remz El Kebir / Dakhla. Total: 696.31 kilometers. Special section: 456.67 kilometers

The first half of Africa Eco Race was over. The longest stage, with a special section of more than 450 kilometers, ended in Dakhla on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Contestants had to travel a total of 700 kilometers that day. Even though the route was treacherous and lengthy, our racers were up to the challenge: Sergey Kupriyanov and Andrey Karginov finished the stage first and second, respectively.

“Morocco is behind us! Today, we drove through the special section at full speed. The KAMAZ trucks came to the finish line one after the other. We keep recovering the time lost on radiator repairs! We’re off to Mauritania, which will show the real standing of the race,” said Sergey Kupriyanov.

  1. Africa Eco Race: halfway through

    (duration: 3:13) Rossiya 24, January 8, 2017

  2. KAMAZ-Master crews victorious again. Fifth stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:03) Match TV

Mechanic Day

January 7, 2017 (rest day)

A day on the ocean coast in Dakhla was a rest day only in name. Teamwork continued, but this time it was focused on mechanical works: it was planned to replace the truck springs, as they had been subjected to heavy loads during the first half of the race, and inspect the vehicles.

The gas-diesel truck’s compressed gas equipment underwent a checkup. Racers could finally refuel their vehicles in the daylight: normally, they did it late at night at bivouacs after every stage. Gazprom Gazomotornoye Toplivo’s mobile filling station provided the truck with natural gas. The filling station traveled along the whole route of the rally as part of the technical support team. With its engine operating in a combined gas and diesel cycle, the truck could cover 600–700 kilometers on a full fuel tank.

  1. Africa Eco Race’s one and only eco-friendly truck

    (duration: 2:22) Match TV

From Morocco to Mauritania

January 8, 2017 (stage 6)

Dakhla / Tiwilit. Total: 744.42 kilometers. Special section: 172.54 kilometers

The sixth stage represents a cross-border area between Morocco and Mauritania, with a special section stretching for 172 kilometers.

3. In the evening we learned that it was Dmitry Agoshkov from Russia. The engine of his motorbike fell apart and he had to withdraw from the race.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “We traveled that stage last year, and it was clear today that it would be extremely fast. Maybe the fastest part of the race. There is a reason for that, considering the border crossing procedure and possible delays. The special section should keep the race competitive without creating any problems. Unfortunately, problems did occur. We saw a biker standing still3. We also saw one of the leaders in the off-road vehicle category, Thierry Magnaldi, fixing his car.”

In the sixth stage, Karginov came first and Kupriyanov finished second 2.5 minutes later.

  1. Africa Eco Race: competition moves to Mauritania

    (duration: 3:10) Rossiya 24, January 9, 2017

  2. Karginov and Kupriyanov lead race in Mauritania

    (duration: 3:23) Match TV, January 9, 2017

Challenge 6: Mauritanian sands

January 9, 2017 (stage 7)

Tiwilit / Tiwilit. Total: 439.54 kilometers. Special section: 414.27 kilometers

The seventh stage had a loop route. Mauritania’s famous sands, which are soft and impassable, represented a special feature of the rally. That part of the route was the most difficult and tricky one. Sand caused vehicles to get bogged down, slow down, and even stop, which was to be avoided at any cost.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “We got stuck in sand once. The vehicle fell off the beaten track to a flat surface, where sand had a different density, which is common for Mauritania. This caused the vehicle to stop. Well, we will keep that in mind tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, Mauritanian soft sands were not the only obstacle for Kupriyanov’s crew. A mere 15 kilometers from the finish line, they had to change a tire.

4. Czech racer Jaroslav Valtr on TATRA truck

We lost around 25 minutes when we got bogged down, then we regained about five minutes with Valtr4, as evident from our speed throughout the special section. But then, 150 kilometers from the finish line our tire got punctured. We kept on moving by constantly inflating the tire. However, with 15 kilometers left, the tire got shredded into pieces. It was impossible to continue the race. We had to change the tire and lost another 11 minutes,” said Kupriyanov.


  1. Africa Eco Race: organizers put pressure on KAMAZ

    (duration: 3:45) Rossiya 24, January 10, 2017

  2. How do punctured tires look like in Mauritania? 7th stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:51) Match TV, January 10, 2017

Challenge 7: Extreme piloting

January 10, 2017 (stage 8)

Tiwilit / Amodjar. Total: 453.69 kilometers. Special section: 425.44 kilometers

The next stage through Mauritania was expected to be sandy as well. However, that high-speed section turned out to be fundamentally different, as the racers were faced with dunes. The KAMAZ-Master crews entered the sandy area one after the other, backing each other up in crossing the difficult section. Although the crews coped with it successfully, it was a tough stage.

5. Czech racer Tomas Tomecek on TATRA truck

“The temperature in the cabin was quite low today, just 33 degrees Celsius, but the racing was blistering. We had to catch up, so we drove as fast as possible, slowing down only to cover really complicated sections. Pretty soon, we got ahead of Tomecek5. But then we faced a dangerous situation: we did not have enough power to drive up a dune and the vehicle rolled back down the slope to the right and stopped. The truck was at a very steep angle, but it held out and did not stall because the wheels were turned in the direction of the movement. Otherwise, the truck might end up lying on its side. Everything worked out fine, but the situation was really dangerous,” said Sergey Kupriyanov.

The crew led by Andrey Karginov remained the leader in its category and Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew came second.

  1. Vasilyev retains leadership in Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:29) Rossiya 24, January 11, 2017

  2. Cardboard house and off-road vehicle. 8th stage of Africa Eco Race

    (duration: 3:40) Match TV

Challenge 8: Focused attention

January 11, 2017 (stage 9)

Amodjar / Akjoujt. Total: 464.35 kilometers. Special section: 390.96 kilometers

With only a few days away from the finish line, the race stages became more complicated and dynamic. Most of the route ran through dunes and camel grass. Pilots had to be especially attentive and cautious when covering this stage.

“Today’s dunes were very difficult to drive over because of their rugged relief and soft sand. We did it without much trouble, although it was not that easy. Sometimes, after climbing to the top of a dune, the vehicle faced an almost vertical drop as high as a two-storied house. The route went down and up again. The sand was soft. So, you had to slow down the vehicle because the dune was almost vertical. At the same time, you had to pick up speed to go up again on another dune. In total, there were about ten such dunes. We managed to drive through all of them. Just once, we had to back down,” said Sergey Kupriyanov.

When crossing a dune, the racers almost got into a serious accident. It was avoided thanks to a special device, which was installed in each competing vehicle in accordance with the rules of the Africa Eco Race. In case of emergency, a pilot had to press a button on the device. Then other racers approaching the immobilized vehicle received a signal that an accident had taken place nearby and they had to be extremely careful.

6. Off-road truck

“Before ascending the highest dune, we heard a signal that a car was bogged down nearby. We drove up, moved over the dune ridge and saw the crew led by Konstantin Khoroshavtsev6 from Russia. They were only a meter away from us! We were very close to crashing into their car. It was a dangerous situation for their crew as they did not mark their presence on the dune ridge, they just sent a signal via that special device,” said the pilot of the gas-fired KAMAZ.

In addition, Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew faced technical challenges: their tire inflation system failed. As a result, the crew finished fourth on that day.

  1. Africa Eco Race: tight competition for second and third place

    (duration: 3:11) Rossiya 24, January 12, 2017

  2. Things that can happen only during Africa Eco Race: 10th stage

    (duration: 3:22) Match TV, January 13, 2017

Challenge 9: Stones and dust

January 12, 2017 (stage 10)

Akjoujt / Akjoujt. Total: 482.31 kilometers. Special section: 423.65 kilometers

The route of the tenth stage was represented by another Mauritanian loop. The organizers made the loop routes more challenging, because it made it easier to evacuate vehicles dropping out of the race due to major problems.

This special stage also stretched through sands and, as before, the Russian crews covered the distance backing each other up.

7. Kazakh crew Andrey Cherednikov – Dmitry Tsyro driving FORD pickup

Sergey Kupriyanov: “In the tenth stage we had to deal with unwelcome surprises. We had to catch up. So, we stepped on the gas, but crashed a rear wheel over a stone on a turn while overtaking a buggy in the dust. The brake system was damaged. New tire, repairs... Finally, we made it to the finish line! However, not everyone succeeded today. The crew of our fellow riders, Cherednikov and Tsyro7, had a serious accident 60 kilometers before the finish line.”

  1. Africa Eco Race: difficulties facing racers

    (duration: 2:32) Rossiya 24, January 13, 2017

Challenge 10: Surpassing oneself

January 13, 2017 (stage 11)

Akjoujt / Saint-Louis. Total: 546.53 kilometers. Special section: 208.02 kilometers

The eleventh stage of Africa Eco Race was the last competitive stage. The route started in Mauritania and ended in Saint-Louis, Senegal. There, the race winners were announced based on the stage results: the first prize in the truck category was awarded to Andrey Karginov’s crew, while the fourth place was taken by the gas-fired KAMAZ crew led by Sergey Kupriyanov.

A total of 6,000 off-road kilometers across Africa was not easy to drive through for the race contenders: 87 racers started off from Monaco and only 63 of them managed through the last special section. Such racers as Thierry Magnaldi in the off-road vehicle category, Elisabete Jacinto (Portugal), the only woman driving a truck, and biker Dmitry Agoshkov (Russia), dropped out of the race.

Sergey Kupriyanov’s crew driving a unique gas-diesel truck fully justified the ‘Eco’ prefix in the name of the rally.

“The truck was powered by a mixture of diesel fuel and methane, which helped reduce pollutant emissions and increase the efficiency of fuel combustion. Nothing but advantages. We managed through all the stages, coped with the complicated route, and handled the truck and ourselves. We overcame all hardships and problems! The crews led by Karginov, Mokeyev, and Nikitin are among the top winners in the truck category! Our team is in the top ten in the overall standing! Those who do not consider this a victory should try to repeat that,” said Sergey Kupriyanov, pilot of the gas-powered KAMAZ.”

The ceremonial finish at Lac Rose was next.

  1. Russians show good results at Africa Eco Race 2017

    (duration: 2:45) Rossiya 24, January 14, 2017

  2. Africa Eco Race on Friday 13th

    (duration: 4:25) Match TV, January 14, 2017

Conquering Africa

January 14, 2017 (stage 12)

Saint-Louis / Dakar. Total: 292 kilometers. Special section: 22 kilometers

Like in the original Paris – Dakar race, the final stage started on the Atlantic coast. The racers traveled a symbolic special section and finished at Lac Rose where the winners were honored.

The gas-powered KAMAZ showed the best performance in the race among hybrid vehicles, came fourth in the truck category, and finished among the top ten out of 52 cars in the overall standing.

Sergey Kupriyanov: “It’s not the first time that we participate in the race on this unique gas-powered truck. The EcoGas fuel used in the vehicle fully complies with the basic concept of Africa Eco Race, the world’s main ecological race. The fact that we participated in the race on an eco-friendly car shows to the whole world that Russia sets environmental standards and promotes alternative fuels in transport.”

  1. Africa Eco Race 2017: Russians win in almost every category

    (duration: 2:18) Rossiya 24, January 15, 2017

  2. Winners of Dakar 2017 and Africa Eco Race speaking about races

    (duration: 15:03) Match TV, January 20, 2017

Photos by: Sergey Polivets, Mikhail Lastochkin, Roman Romanishin (Russia), and Alessio Corradini (Italy).

You may find large pictures in Photos.