Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Silk Way Rally 2011: Cars preview

The third edition of Silk Way Rally is just around the corner so why don’t we take a look at who’s who at this year’s starting list and what chances do Nissan crews have.

ASO already published the third version within last two weeks but none of them will tell you who will be driving what. Based on known information, a bit of web-digging and Google translating and mostly thanks to my vast knowledge of rally-raid I was able to discover mysteries of entries.

Once Volkswagen has cancelled their Dakar program, another Germany team, that of X-Raid, is ready to take the honors. Stéphane Peterhansel will be driving brand new Mini All4 Racing once again. He won Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with this car, no one can expect anything less than another victory also in a Russia. X-Raid will also plant three BMW X3 CC’s for Leonid Novitskiy, Krzysztof Hołowczyc (yes, who used to drive Nissan before) and Alexander Mironenko.

The only real threat for X-Raid pilots is Boris Gadasin with his powerful G-Force Proto. Last year he was closest to Volkswagens until he crashed pretty heavily. Unless all these drivers made some mistake or became a victim of mechanical failure, all other crews are condemned to fight for the fifth place at the best. Hungarian Balázs Szalay with Chevy powered Opel Antara could be one of them, as well as Bogdan Novitskiy with another G-Force Proto. Then there are plenty of 2WD buggies lead by last year’s class winner Matthias Kahle. Ronan Chabot and Stéphane Henrard will be his main contenders alongside Christian Lavieille.

Yes, that’s another Nissan down. Lavieille was quite good with Dessoude prepared Proto 05, now he will tackle demanding rally behind the wheel of a new BMW-powered buggy. Yet still as a part of a Dessoude Team. Now let’s stay a while with Nissan cars, shall we? Team Dessoude’s Fréderic Chavigny is the defender of T2 class victory from yesteryear. Once again he will start with Nissan Pathfinder. Hardbody Pickup derived Proto 05 will be in hands of Chinese Jihong Zhou, but hardly we can expect him to be in forefront.

Belgian Team Overdrive originally announced two cars to start on SWR 2011, but in most recent starting list there is only Roman Briskindov. He started on ADDC 2011 with G-Force Proto and was pretty fast, yet he ended upside down and in hospital. Rally driver Aleksander Zheludov will start with Nissan Frontier, probably some older evolution purchased from Overdrive. He might be able to make a top 10 result. Then there are four T1 class Nissan Springbok cars by SARL Sodicars team, one of Dakar legends Etienne Smulevici will drive one of them.

For the first time ever a Slovak crew will start on Silk Way Rally. Juraj Ulrich and his wife Danka will take their faithful Nissan Navara Doublecab D40 for its hardest test so far. As usually they will race in T2 class. Probably in the same class will be racing also three Patrols from Turkmenistan and some other Russian Pathfinder and French Patrol.

Now just brief mention on some others. Former biker Thierry Magnaldi will take his chance with single-seater Polaris RZR in T3 class in which he will fight against two Dutch buggies. Loris Calubini doesn’t give up and tries to finish some rally with his tiny Fiat PanDakar 4x4. Let’s see how this attempt ends. Two Czech-built Hummer H3 cars (Toyota powered) will start too, as well as two Mercedes G-Klasse based Lensson CC prototypes from Germany. The only female crew is that of Elena Golubkina and Elena Pravdina with Mitsubishi Pajero.

SWR 2011 cars entries

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