Baja Russia Northern Forest ‘15
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, round 1
February 20-22nd, 2015
For immediate release
Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
OVERDRIVE RACING’S SUOMINEN AND NASMAN TAKE MAXIMUM POINTS IN GRUELLING RUSSIAN NORTHERN FOREST ‘15
KARELIA (RUSSIA): Overdrive Racing’s Tapio Suominen and Toni Nasman claimed maximum points in the opening round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies after finishing as the top crew in the FIA section of Baja Russia Northern Forest ’15.
Snowdrifts, deep ruts and treacherous conditions made the event a real test of man and machine and a fitting way to kick start the 2015 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The Brazilian Overdrive Racing crew of Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin reached the finish in third overall, but a final stage accident cost Poles, Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor, valuable time and they slipped to ninth place.
“We made a good race with no mistakes and no problems,” said Varela. “We kept on the track and everything was fine. The weather conditions were better on the last stage, so we could go faster.”
Dabrowski was a little disappointed not to finish higher: “We had a small accident. It was difficult to keep the car on the road in one of the drifts and we dropped on the roof and lost some time.”
“I would compare this with the Arctic Rally, where you can go off the track so easily,” said Suominen from Hyvinkää, in Finland. “I was pleased with our performance and know that I was on a competitive pace from the start to the finish.”
Russian Andrey Zhigunov edged into a slender five-second lead over Suominen through the opening 9.5km Prologue stage on Friday afternoon. Dabrowski was fourth, 19 seconds behind, and Varela carded the 12th quickest time and dropped 54 seconds to the leading Russian on the slippery, snowy stage.
Soft snow, deep ruts and slippery conditions made the opening 158km selective section demanding for the entire field, despite studded tyres, and Suominen held on to take the fastest time and the outright lead, as the route wound its way through the Republic of Karelia and close to the Finnish border, near Yartsevo.
The flying Finn clocked the third fastest time of 1hr 48min 38sec and that pushed him into the outright lead in front of the surprise Finnish performers, Tapio Lauronen and Jouni-Matti Ampuja, who were chasing points in the Russian Championship.
Varela was fourth and Dabrowski was seventh after a puncture in the Team Orlen Toyota. But it meant that the three-strong Toyota team was in a superb position to challenge for the win heading into Sunday’s third selective section that wound its way north towards the district of Suojärvi.
“It was a nice special and we are going quite well,” said Suominen. “We drifted two times into snow banks and lost something like 30 seconds, but no drama. I enjoy.” There were numerous spins, drifts and accidents amongst the chasing group. Defending FIA World Cup champion Vladimir Vasilyev clouted a rock and lost three minutes changing a wheel.
Three crews failed to start the third 158.38km selective section and Suominen took a seven-second lead over Ampuja into the timed test. Lauronen was the early pacesetter after 34km, from Vasilyev, Ampuja and Suominen, but Dabrowski inverted the Team Orlen Toyota and lost his chance of taking a podium finish and Lauronen’s rally ended in a ditch.
Ampuja managed to stay in front of Vasilyev and Suominen to confirm the stage win and outright victory over Suominen by the margin of 1min 58sec. But Suominen’s consolation was a useful haul of FIA World Cup points, as Ampuja was not registered for series points.
1. Tapio Suominen (FIN)/Toni Nasman (FIN) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 3hr 37min 10sec
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing 3hr 38min 17sec
3. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 3hr 44min 27sec
4. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Martol (POL) Hummer H3 Evo 7 3hr 49min 11sec
5. Erik van Loon (NED)/Wouter Rosegaar (NED) Mini All4 Racing 3hr 50min 38sec
6. Andrey Novikov (RUS)/Vladimir Novikov (RUS) G-Force Proto 3hr 53min 02sec
7. Evgeny Firsov (RUS)/Vadim Filatov (RUS) Nissan 4hr 03min 55sec
8. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Arslan Sakhimov (KAZ) Hummer H3 Evo 4hr 12min 36sec
9. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 17min 51sec