Russian round, opening this series – "Russia – Northern Forest" Baja – is the only snow and ice rally raid in the world; it is especially interesting for racers, got used to off-road competitions in deserts and prairies.
There are 31 crews from 10 countries. A "real Arabian Prince" arrival attracted interest of Karelian female audience: Yasir Seaidani from Saudi Arabia is indeed an Arab sheikh. For the rivals he is interesting as a multiple winner of the World Cup rounds.
It is a mistake to underestimate racers from southern countries who are not familiar with snow and ice, and the strongest Russian crews will not make it. For example, three years ago, Yazeed Al-Rajhi arrived to "Russia – Northern Forest" Baja for the first time and won the first winter rally raid in his life, beating his northern rivals. This time Saudi Arabia is represented by two crews; racers from France, Poland, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Qatar, Belarus, Finland, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan have also arrived to Karelia.
After the ceremonial start in Sortavala crews went to the first special stage – a Prologue. Usually at these races the Prologue is short and closed in a circuit for the convenience of numerous fans. Three-kilometer spectator special stage with many turns forced drivers to work hard: on the eve and on the race day there have been heavy snowfalls in Sortavala region, and the rally raid track was loose and slippery.
A Polish crew of Aron Domzala and Szymon Gospodarczyk set the best time at opening stage among the FIA World Cup participants. Andrey Rudskoy and Evgeny Zagorodnuk from SUPROTEC Racing team were the best among all crews (Russian Championship round is a part of the "Russia – Northern Forest" Baja). They were awarded the Republic of Karelia Head Cup for the most striking performance. Prizes were specially made for the race of healing Karelian shungite stone.
Racers were able to choose the starting positions for tomorrow by the first special stage results. This is a separate element of race strategy, when each crew determines the most favorable position in the field for themselves, depending on the track conditions, weather and the skills of their competitors.
The selected starting positions for 25 February:
1. Tapio Lauronen
2. Vladimir Vasilyev
3. Andrey Novikov
4. Aron Domzala
5. Miroslav Zapletal
6. Vladimir Frolov
7. Jean-Paul van Bohemen
8. Marcin Lukaszewski
9. Victor Khoroshavtcev
10. Alexander Terentyev
"Russia - Northern Forest" Baja second racing day kicks off on Saturday at 9:30. Crews will have to overcome about 240 competitive kilometers in Sortavala, Suojarvi and Pitkyaranta regions of Karelia.