Rally officials carried out initial route reconnaissance last October and will put the finishing touches to the new road book in April, but have confirmed that 93% of the inaugural route has been modified. Three of the selective sections in the world’s ninth largest country will be completely new and one day’s action will incorporate a tricky Marathon stage.
The experienced Irish rally organiser and former co-driver Ronan Morgan steps into the role of Clerk of the Course for the first time to work alongside Dmitry Makhenya, Rally Director and Chairman of the Organising Committee, and Andrey Cherednikov, Deputy Clerk of the Course and Chief Safety Officer. The team is running under the management of Marat Abykayev, President of the Automotorsport Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, who will take part in the event once again.
The rally will be open to FIA T1, T2, T3 and T4 classes and is based in the western city of Aktau, situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Rally formalities will be based at the Caspian Riviera Grand Palace Hotel and the event’s Service Park will be located just 50 metres away. The event also counts towards the 2018 Kazakhstan Cross-Country Cup.
Entries open on March 1 and officially close on May 18. Pre-inspection checks for T2 competitors will be carried out on May 26 and the remainder will take place on May 27 prior to the official pre-event press conference. Scrutineering will be held at the Toyota Centre Aktau on May 27.
The competitive route will be divided into six selective sections and around 1,900km of competition in a route of circa 2,500km. Stage one (280.35km) heads south from Aktau City to the Kenderly Caspian Sea Resort in Kenderly, a tourist destination located around 210km south-east of Aktau.
This plays host to the event’s bivouac for the second, third and fourth legs. Second day action (414.12km) loops through the deserts to the east around the town of Senek, before the third leg (327.47km) heads deeper into the area east of Kenderly. Stage four (398.57km) skirts around the nearby oil city of Zhanaozen and returns to Aktau City.
The final two stages (298.04km and 148.52km) head out of Aktau City to the north, with the final stage passing along the shoreline of the Caspian Sea before the ceremonial finish outside rally headquarters at 15.00hrs on June 2.
Aktau City is located on the Mangyshlak Peninsula, is the only major sea port in the country and has direct international flight links with several major European and central Asian cities, including Moscow, Istanbul, Baku, Kiev, Tbilisi and Yerevan.
“We were delighted with the success of the inaugural event in 2017 and have worked hard to make subtle changes to the rally this year,” said Marat Abykayev. “Cross-country rallying is one of the most popular motor sport disciplines in the world and we are proud to have such challenging terrain at our disposal to offer a real test to competitors of all levels.”
Kazakhstan’s first event in 2015 won by Kazakh Yuriy Sazonov and navigator Arslan Sakhimov in a Mobilex Racing Team-run Land Rover. Success in the official candidate event in June 2016 was earned by Andrey Cherednikov and Dmitry Tsyro in a Polaris RZR 1000 running under the Team OFF ROAD Kazakhstan banner.
Victory in the inaugural round of the FIA World Cup last May fell to Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French team-mate Matthieu Baumel in an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, but the FIA World Cup champion was pushed hard on several stages by the likes of Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Poland’s Jakub Przygonski.