ASTANA – The final stage of this year’s 35th annual Dakar Rally, a South American adventure beginning in Rosario, Argentina, finished on Jan. 18 in Valparaiso, Chile.
Kazakhstan’s fastest car crew, headed by Aidyn Rakhimbayev, finished 17th overall; in the truck category, Artur Ardavichus, Alexey Nikizhev and Radim Kaplanek came in 14th.
As usual, the rally was a wild ride for the professionals and amateurs who chose to pit themselves against rocky mountains, sand, mud and other obstacles. One racer and two members of the press died during the event in South America this year. A Kazakh crew of Bauyrzhan Issabayev and Gabdulla Ashimov, driving a Toyota, barely escaped serious injury when their car burned to ashes in minutes on Jan. 6, during stage two.
Since 1978, 27 people have perished while taking part in the rally, which used to be held in Africa and used to be known as Paris-Dakar. In a race with such high stakes, finishing in one piece and with dignity is seen as a significant accomplishment in and of itself. Less than half of all motorcycles, quadro-cycles, all wheel drives and trucks that started the race managed to finish it.
“Mountainous, dusty, serpentine, with incredibly sudden and narrow turns and deep vertical cliffs, a total of 157 kilometres—that was our last Dakar stage,” Rakhimbayev wrote on his Facebook page after the stage.
Rakhimbayev and Vladimir Demyanenko finished 17th among cars overall in a Toyota, coming in 12 hours and 33 minutes behind the winner, Joan “Nani” Roma of Spain. Another Kazakh crew, Denis Berezovsky and Ignat Falkov, driving a Nissan, finished 37th. In 14th place in the truck category, Ardavichus, Nikizhev and Kaplanek snagged the country’s best finish this year. Ardavichus did win bronze in the 2012 Dakar race. All Dakar crews are now part of the Astana Dakar Team that is part of the Presidential Astana Sports Club.
“I was overwhelmed with emotions—we made it!” Rakhimbayev wrote after the race on his Facebook page. “We reached our goal; my 20-year-old dream came true. It has been a tough test and finally I have conquered Dakar on my third attempt. I peeked beyond my capabilities, and it turned out to be rough…” he wrote.