There was drama on day one of the 2018 Silk Way Rally. After 7 months out of competition, Nani Roma (MINI John Cooper Works No 104) had to retire ill from the first day, forcing him to turn back after a chaotic start. The Spanish driver made straight for the medical tent and hopes to rejoin tomorrow, despite having said goodbye to any chance of featuring well in the overall results right from the start.
‘‘I don’t know what happened exactly. We started on some really nice tracks but after kilometre 25 something like that I started to feel bad. I stopped 4 times. Then I stopped at CP1 to try and recover a little bit, drank some water and saw a doctor there and she said to me that I had to stop racing today. I feel pain in my eyes and in my head. I try tomorrow if it is possible,’’ Roma said.
FIRST CAR OVER THE LINE
The wonderful sounding Toyota Hilux of Nasser Al Attiyah was victorious over the stage, establishing a narrow advantage over the pot holed opening 100kms and then held on by a small margin to finish first over the line in the cars.
‘‘Yes it was a hard stage. It’s a long time since we did a stage like this – bumpy and fast. Because we opened the road we didn’t know the speed to go. We were worried we weren’t fast enough but now its more than 2 minutes and nobody else has arrived, so it looks like we had the good speed. The Toyota Hilux is really working well and also the BF Goodwich tyres were really good on this kind of sandy and muddy terrain. We are quite happy. We finished the day without any problems and now we try and fix something on the suspension side and tomorrow will be another day,’’ he said.
ROUTE FOR THE BUGGIES, BUT PUNCTURES PREVAIL
If it was a route that suited the buggies, a right rear puncture dashed the hopes of Harry Hunt (Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi No107) mid-special. Hunt's debut in the Maxi Peugeot was strong. However, he lost a few minutes with a right rear puncture, though he still managed to win time back by stage end.
“I think the stage quite suited the buggy – quite bumpy. Hotter than I thought it would be and we got one puncture but never mind it was good,” he said. The British driver finally finished second on the day, 2:30 behind the winners.
Same problem for Yazeed Al Rahji (MINI John Cooper Works No 103). Setting off on a false rhythm and also victim of a puncture, the Saudi gave away more than 20 minutes. Fighting for the 3rd place on the day, until just 15 kilometres from the finish, Mathieu Serradori (Buggy SRT No 108) ended up losing nearly one hour after repeatedly running out of petrol due to as yet unexplained heavy fuel consumption.
TRUCKS: SOTNIKOV SAVES THE DAY
In the truck class everyone was expecting an orderly procession of Kamaz at the finish. In the end it failed to materialise. First on the road, Dmitry Sotnikov (KAMAZ-MASTER No 300) was passed by his team mate Eduard Nikolaev (KAMAZ-MASTER No 301) closely followed by Dutchman Martin Van Den Brink in his Renault Mammoet. But the charge at the front wouldn’t last long. Running into hydraulic problems, Nikolaev would lose more than an hour, while a fuel leak followed by an errant front wheel would put an end to the Flying Dutchman’s ambitions.
While Airat Mardeev (Kamaz-Master No 303) struggled with his diff lock and then his power steering, Sotnikov continued on his way to win the stage and save Kamaz’s honour. Second on the day, the Belarus Viazovich (MAZ No 302) finished just 6 minutes behind the leader with Andrey Karginov (Kamaz-Master No 309) completing the podium. The stage not only saw a win for the Kamaz trucks, but a stage where 5 of the 6 were in the top 7 places.
"We come to Astrakhan practically every year but the organisers managed to surprise us with a first special that was almost unknown to us! It was however a nice surprise! It was an incredible day. We have more experience with the new engine. We have been using it for a year now. We are happy to finish this long and difficult stage without the slightest problem. That proves the capabilities of our team and underlines our ambitions on this 2018 Silk Way Rally,’’ said Sotnikov.