The head and lead pilot of the MAZ-SPORTauto team, Sergey Vyazovich, despite a lot of problems, took third place with his crew at the Silk Way Rally Marathon. During the race, we talked with Sergey about the difficult conditions in which the MAZ factory team is now forced to work. Recall that she was not allowed to the Dacre-2022 due to sanctions imposed by the European Union against the plant.
“They just don’t want to talk to us”
– Sergey, let’s start with last year’s events. How was the situation with the Dakar and the entry fee paid for the race to which you were not allowed resolved?
– The situation is on hold. And the point is not whether the money was returned or not returned – and they, by the way, were not returned – but that there is no dialogue. They just don’t want to talk to us. And if a conversation turns out, then it is unofficial, in which the organizers of the race say that they are glad to see us at the Dakar. But for obvious reasons, things do not reach official negotiations and official correspondence. They just don’t answer us.
But no matter how the world political community treats us, the entire motorsport world is watching the battle between MAZ-SPORTauto and KAMAZ-master. They wanted to see this battle on the Dakar, but in the end they will watch it on the Silk Road. We know about this because we receive a lot of personal messages with words of support from athletes who cannot publicly express it, but are watching the races and waiting for our return.
“The situation has crossed the line!” MAZ was not allowed to enter the Dakar, and the money is not returned
— Against the backdrop of the sanctions imposed on Belarus and Russia, how is the situation with the purchase of the necessary spare parts for racing equipment?
— We were the first of the sports teams to find themselves in such a situation, because the Minsk Automobile Plant came under sanctions just during the Silk Road 2021, and for a year now we have been living under sanctions. There are also practically no solutions, with the exception of switching to spare parts of those manufacturers that you have access to. These include Belarusian companies, China and those countries that are ready to work and cooperate with us.
Now we are working on the transition to new suppliers. There is no need to be under illusions – this is an inevitable development of events that can affect the technical level of the team both in a negative and positive direction. We will have to go through this, and perhaps we will even benefit from it. Just because, in my opinion, things don’t work that way when everything is mixed in one heap.
– In light of this situation with spare parts, how have your trucks changed this year?
Yes, they haven’t really changed. Fortunately, we managed to assemble a new car, on which Aleksey Vishnevsky drove the Silk Way. This truck was supposed to compete at the Dakar-2022, and following the results of this, perhaps successful race for us, we thought that the whole team would switch to this type of car, but it did not happen. Therefore, the “Silk Road” has become a test of the novelty.
Alexey’s car was made in accordance with the regulations of the International Auto Federation FIA for racing trucks, and I have some changes that were made based on the results of the Archeda baja. We reequipped my car a little, but still Vishnevsky’s truck has significant differences from mine.
— What are the main differences between your trucks?
– The balance of the car has changed and the suspension has changed, to put it bluntly. In our sport, these are the most important elements. I would not like to go into technical details, because the car is new and we are not ready to reveal everything yet.
“KAMAZ-master” answers: what about the hood, domestic spare parts and “Dakar”?
“We didn’t even feel like we were driving on ice!”
– Dakar is heading for alternative fuels – the organizers are betting on hybrids, electric vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles. If anything, are you ready to build a truck according to new requirements?
– Most likely, the transition to at least hybrids is inevitable. But in the current situation, we are not engaged in such projects, because their expediency is not clear. If there is some kind of clearance and prospects for returning to the Dakar, then we are ready to create such a truck. MAZ already mass-produces a number of vehicles, electric buses and trucks, in which such solutions are implemented. Therefore, having the knowledge and experience of designers of road electric vehicles and hybrids, we will be able to translate them into a racing hybrid truck in the shortest possible time. But at the moment, MAZ-SPORTavto does not carry out such work.
What about future plans for this season?
— We want to drive the remaining stages of the Russian Rally Raid Championship. We would love to take part in other competitions, but, unfortunately, this is not our choice. But in fact, we say so, because the situation forces us to do so.
Usually, the schedule of our team looked about the same as now, with the exception of the Dakar. We traditionally rode the Russian Championship, the Silk Way and Dakar, and now we are going all the same, except for the Dakar. But due to the fact that winter was freed up for us, this year we were able to take part in the Baikal Mile. We have been invited for a long time, but we were always busy in January.
So our summer schedule remains unchanged, but as for the winter… It will be seen. You know, half a year is a long period of time, and perhaps something will change in the minds of people and our teams, both MAZ and KAMAZ, will get to Dakar-2023. Well, if not, then this will not affect our morale and the development of our technology. We already have such experience.
“I’m glad this hell is over.” Pilot of “MAZ” criticized refereeing on the “Silk Road”
— If we dwell on the “Baikal Mile” in more detail, what is it like to drive across a frozen lake in a truck designed for sands and dunes?
“This is a very unusual project for us. We never tested our car on ice and generally went to Baikal without knowing what our maximum speed was, because we simply did not have such a need to measure it.
It is important that we did not specially prepare the car. We just turned off the electronic speed limiter at 140 km / h, but even the restrictor on the engine remained, so we did not use full power. Technically, this is the same Dakar car, only without the speed limit. We even used the same tires – the Russian company AvtoShipovka Tekom simply installed spikes in the tires. The grip was such that we did not even feel that we were driving on ice!
As a result, we set a Russian record for trucks on ice and per kilometer distance, and in maximum speed. At the kilometer, we showed 191.6 km / h, and a maximum speed of 203 km / h. At the same time, there is such a wind on Baikal that it strongly influenced even a truck, so we are pleased with the result.
MAZ-SPORTAVTO on the Silk Road
“It is not clear what is in the minds of the people through whose territories the equipment will pass”
— The Baikal Mile is interesting, but do you consider the Africa Eco Race marathon as an alternative to the Dakar?
– We received an invitation from the organizers of the race back in the year when it became known about our removal from the Dakar, but there was a problem with logistics. Equipment is transported to the marathon by sea, and all these vehicles are usually European, they are also insured by European companies – they refuse to accept cargo from an enterprise that is under European sanctions. And all our equipment belongs to the Minsk Automobile Plant, and this presents difficulties for the carrier.
Well, personally, I would not risk sending trucks in such a situation, because it is not clear what is in the minds of the people through whose territories the equipment will pass. If the trucks suddenly fall under arrest, then this, to put it mildly, is an unacceptable scenario for us. It is easier to avoid unnecessary risk and not take part in activities that can lead to the loss of expensive modern technology that has solutions that we would not like to disclose at all. It’s not worth it.
– Is it hard for the second year in a row to miss the main race of the year and not go to the Dakar?
– At all times, sport has united everyone, including irreconcilable enemies. I personally do not consider athletes of any countries to be enemies, and I am only for healthy competition. And I consider the general trend that has developed in the world regarding athletes from Belarus and Russia to be unacceptable and speaks of the low level of social development of people who make such decisions.
It was hard to miss the Dakar for the first time, but now we have mentally survived it and are not ready to accept unacceptable conditions for us to participate in the race. It is clear that we are a factory team and my decision is not final, but my personal opinion – as a person, and not as the head of MAZ-SPORTavto – the possibility of performing without national flags and mentioning the factory is humiliating.
This is not boasting, but over the past years, our team has improved and was able to impose a fight against KAMAZ-master at the Dakar. No one else has the opportunity to compete with this team, and it was immediately clear that after our exclusion from the race, it would not be the most interesting.
Many ill-wishers, let’s call them that, write that the problem is a small number of participants, but in fact, since 2016-2017, the entire main battle has been between MAZ and KAMAZ, even when there were under 70 trucks. We will only be glad if the rivals come up to us and impose a fight, but at this stage the main intrigue is the battle between MAZ-SPORTavto and KAMAZ-master.
Test drive “KAMAZ-master”: what are the main differences between the new truck and its predecessor?