Nikita Mazepin became the main star of the Silk Way Rally Marathon. The pilot not only radically changed his discipline, changing the asphalt tracks of Formula 1 to the off-road of multi-day rally raids, but also managed to surprise everyone with his debut, winning his first race on an all-terrain vehicle. The driver of the Snag Racing Team spoke about how the Silk Way developed, how the combat Can-Am Maverick proved to be, how he managed to adapt to working with the navigator and what his future plans for rally raids were, the driver of the Snag Racing Team spoke in an exclusive interview with the Championship.

“There was no water – it’s hard to drive for four and a half hours in a heat of 65 degrees”

– For you, it was your debut race in rally-raids — what are your impressions?
– Positive. The last few days of the race we have turned out to be quite problem-free, which is good news. Still, we started the race not quite the way I wanted: we lost time due to unforeseen problems that we did not encounter in the tests. But I am very glad that the team was able to deal with them. The guys had many sleepless nights, and they deserved a rest, but their work – every day they dealt with new problems – deserves respect.

– What was the main surprise following the results of the Silk Road?
– I was surprised by the big difference in landscapes at a distance. In the most literal sense, you drive for half a day, and everything changes: the soil, the type of terrain, the air temperature. Although it seems to have driven a little, but everything has seriously changed. Plus, I was unpleasantly surprised by a large number of technical problems of various types at the beginning of the race. We conducted a lot of tests, and during these days, none of the problems that appeared on the Silk Road manifested itself. We can say that, on the one hand, they got out at the wrong time, and on the other hand, at the right time, because we eliminated them before they could spoil the race for us.

We have a completely new car in all respects, which we built with Sergey Karyakin specifically for the Silk Road. This is the lightest and most powerful car in which we have invested all the knowledge and technology, the latest technology in the T3 class, up to exclusive one-piece castings, a carbon body kit hidden under the livery. Compared to the test prototype, this is a very strong and fast machine, which is designed to conquer off-road.

Nikita Mazepin, Anton Vlasyuk and Sergey Karyakin's team celebrate victory

Nikita Mazepin, Anton Vlasyuk and Sergey Karyakin’s team celebrate victory


– At the finish of the first stages in the Astrakhan heat, did you get the feeling that it was not easy not only for the technician, but also for you? Is the physical load in rally raids higher than in Formula 1?
– It is difficult to compare loads, because in Formula 1 it is more than overloads that act on you from side to side and back and forth, and in rally raids the story is different – both in terms of the nature of the loads and in duration. Those moments that you are talking about came at the stages when I did not have water. It was hard for me to drive for four and a half hours in a heat of 65 degrees inside the car, where there is no air conditioning, but otherwise there were no problems.

– What are the key differences between rally-raid and Formula 1 in your opinion?
“First, it’s very long. If I’m not mistaken, we spent over 30 hours behind the wheel. Secondly, therefore, a completely different approach to the marathon, where in the first three days we had so many problems that in my previous class of racing it would have been possible to stay in the pits for a long time and not go to the track anymore. And third, the importance of teamwork. If earlier I was sitting in the car alone and was responsible for everything myself, then in rally raids in many cases it was more important how the navigator worked. This is a unique person who needs to be trusted. Trust him and his eyes that read the map prepared by the organizers. On the last day of the race, for example, in pure speed we would never have been able to overtake the KAMAZ-master crew, but the skill of Anton Vlasyuk allowed us to win back where our rivals lost.

I had to work on myself. In Formula 1, you work with an ideal, and if you lose a second and a half or fly into the gravel, then it’s all over for you. The most important thing, no matter how the race starts, is to keep believing in yourself. Just as good moments can start early and end quickly, so the opposite can happen: everything can turn upside down at the last moment. In rally raids, you have to have a completely different behavior as a driver and other skills that you use.

– Did the navigator have to upset you and urge you not to drive to the fullest? Or did you immediately find the optimal pace?
– I can’t say that Anton upset me a lot – he didn’t notice this in our joint work. Sometimes he told me where I needed to speed up, where I was wrong, and asked me to correct it. But before that, I worked on piloting in the same car with Sergey Karyakin, who, as a racer, understands more about pace and speed – he probably upset me a little more. In the case of Anton, if I was wrong a couple of times and it was clear that the situation was getting out of control and becoming dangerous, then he made his own adjustments. But it was infrequent. We more or less worked together as a crew.

“It’s just a pause.” Why Mazepin believes in returning to Formula 1

“I’m sure my ceiling as a rally raid driver is far from where I am right now”

– In Formula 1, the driver’s schedule is scheduled by the minute, but what about the daily routine in rally raids?
– In rally-raids, of course, with a freer schedule, but you always need to leave a gap in time, taking into account the fact that something can go wrong and you may not arrive at the bivouac at the time you planned. But we get up very early: for example, after the marathon stage, we had a rise at 4:30 in the morning. For me and, I think, for many people, this is not the most usual time for waking up, so I tried to compensate for this by resting in the afternoon. Well, sleep better at night. There were no problems.

– We touched the marathon stage. Even experienced rally-raid pilots note that it is very difficult to drive two days without the support of a team, but how do you like this experience when you need to service the equipment on your own between two racing days?
– First of all, I was very interested. Before the start of the race, to be honest, I didn’t know at all what a marathon stage was and whether we would have it, how to live with it and what to do. But in the end, in terms of time, we managed to drive very well the first day, without technical problems, so no major repairs were required. They inspected the car, replaced the basic consumables – the work took no more than an hour, which could not but rejoice in my first race.

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– Many pilots note that with experience you begin to notice something on the track that you didn’t notice before – have you already got this skill?
– So far I can not answer this question. In rally raids, the golden rule is “If you don’t see, you don’t go”, and this is very different from the races from which I came, because even if you don’t see, you still go. It is important to understand that ten long days of racing does not involve an abundance of risk: once you make a mistake, you will be unlucky, and your race will end.

I come from Formula 1, where seconds count, and there you are as close to the ideal as you as a person can be close to it. In rally raids, I feel like I still have a field in terms of improvement. In the first days of the race, I think we left a lot of time on the special stages, so it’s good that there is a gap and you don’t have to squeeze 100%.

It will definitely be necessary to work on the mistakes following the results of the Silk Road, to analyze the marathon. And I am sure that my ceiling as a rally raid driver is still far from where I am now.

Mazepin sued Haas!  Driver's latest statements about F-1 and his foundation
Mazepin sued Haas! Driver’s latest statements about F-1 and his foundation

“I would very much like to once perform in the crew of KAMAZ-master”

– Before the start of the Silk Road, you noted the openness and friendliness at the bivouac. During the marathon, did you manage to visit someone, chat with someone at the race camp?
– I confess, there was no particular desire to walk. Still, the atmosphere was as friendly as possible before the start of the race, and when it started, it became clear that each of us came here for a white tiger and no one is ready to give it away. But I have good comrades in KAMAZ-master, they are actually my senior comrades, and my guide is Vladimir Gennadyevich Chagin, so we talked with him for a long time. I got to know him better and I can’t help but rejoice, because he is a rally-raid legend. In addition to KAMAZ-master, I also went to MAZ-SPORTavto – very nice and professional guys work there. Well, in my class I didn’t really communicate with anyone.

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Karyakin spoke about Mazepin’s victory on the “Silk Road”

– If we talk about future plans for performances in rally raids … You mentioned that if you like it, you will think about further starts in this discipline. Liked?
– My participation in rally-raids depends solely on whether I enjoy these races. I have a big business that I do every day, I spend a lot of time in the office, developing my charitable foundation “We act as one.” Therefore, for me this is a unique opportunity to escape from sedentary routine work and drive off-road, which I love very much, and see Russia, having arrived in those places, in Kalmykia, Chechnya, Dagestan, where I, perhaps, without good reasons, would not have gone in the near future. the future.

I am in this discipline on a free basis – I am not bound by a contract with anyone, there are no obligations – and at the moment I have received extremely positive emotions. But I do not want to bind myself with chains and say what I will do next. I enjoy the freedom of choice and appreciate it, because as an athlete I have not had very much of it in recent years. I really want to stay in this state for as long as possible.

– But there are a lot of different vehicles in rally raids – from T1 prototypes to T4 trucks – don’t you want to try yourself behind the wheel of something new?
– To be honest, there was such an idea. I looked at the car of Vladimir Vasilyev for the level and quality of the car, and it attracted me very much. These are really fast cars with a high level of technical training, and I would probably like to speak on them. But it’s embarrassing that there are only two people in this class. It’s hard to really understand your level when two pilots are fighting you, and it’s repulsive.

Of course, the kings of rally raids are trucks. I would very much like to once perform in the KAMAZ-master crew. But, after talking with the riders, I realized that they are very experienced and old, so I have nowhere to rush to T4 at my age of 23. I’ll probably stay in my class for a while. I really liked it, I got super pleasure and, probably, I will still find myself in front of you, journalists, in the status of a pilot participating in rally raids.

Mazepin and 5 other Formula 1 drivers who left the teams for the most unusual reasons
Mazepin and 5 other Formula 1 drivers who left the teams for the most unusual reasons

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