While most of Kazakhstan is covered with snow and fighting gusty winds, the Presidential Astana Dakar Team races through dust, mud and sand on the other side of the planet in South America as a participant in the prestigious off road race Dakar Rally – Dakar 2014.
The 13-stage Dakar 2014 race being held Jan. 5 through Jan. 18 runs through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile and offers plenty of adrenaline and adventure.
The Kazakh team is holding steady in the race standings, but has faced plenty of challenges. On day two, one of the Kazakh crews lost their vehicle. A tire on Bauyrzhan Issabayev and Gabdulla Ashimov’s Toyota ignited at 150 km/hr and within moments had engulfed the vehicle in flames. Issabayev and Ashimov barely escaped the fire.
“It is a pity and it hurts,” Aidyn Rakhimbayev, pilot of the fastest Kazakh crew in this year’s race, commented on his Facebook page about the incident. “Each year dozens of cars burn and wreck during Dakar. We just didn’t expect it to happen to our team.”
Rakhimbayev’s crew with Vladimir Demyanenko as his co-pilot, also in a Toyota, were in 13th position as of of Jan. 14. The crew’s best finish so far was on day four when they started the day in 21st position and finished the day in 10th place.
“We could not even believe it when the result it was announced. … [We] broke out in a sweat,” Rakhimbayev commented on his Facebook page. Another Kazakh crew made up of Denis Berezovskiy and Ignat Falkov in a Nissan were in 40th position as of Jan. 11.
Rakhimbayev went on to describe what it feels like to be in the race. “Both the speed and drivers are crazy. When your helmet hits the roof or body of the car, your head doesn’t only hurt, it rings inside like after boxing. … Dakar is [like] the Olympics of motorsport.”
In nine days of the race, participants covered 6,263 kilometres, which is about two thirds of the way. Out of 150 teams that started the race, only half is still in the race. The race is also gruelling not only for vehicles, but also for crews who typically get to sleep a few hours every night before early morning starts.
Writing on his Facebook account, Rakhimbayev said the race has moved from Argentina’s high mountains to Chile and that he expects the race to be different now with next three stages heavily dominated by sands.