- Finnish crew Tapio Lauronen / Toni Tapio Lauronen intercepts lead in the race
- After the second day the crew Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov leads the Russian Rally Raid Championship
- On the final day the crews will have to overcome 230 km competitive kilometers
The world’s only snow and ice Baja “Russia – Northern Forest 2019” is held in Karelia from 15 to 17 February. The competition is the 1st round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and the 1st round of Russian Rally Raid Championship. The entry list includes 44 crews from 15 countries.
The settled warm weather in the region has greatly complicated driving, and not all crews were able to overcome the short distance of the first day. Crews from Argentina and Oman were the first to experience the cunning of slippery Karelian roads. Having received a provisional penalty, all crews were classified after the 1st leg. The Russian crew Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov took the lead in the race after the Prologue.
It froze a little overnight, and it was enough to keep the track level and to maintain good grip. All participants unanimously noted a well-prepared track that is a pleasure to ride. The second leg consisted of two special stages – 104 and 170 km respectively.
At the first special stage the crew Leonid Petrov / Anton Pletenev lost control and got stuck in a snowdrift, and VAZ 21213 (starting No. 610) of Artur Shvyryaev rolled over. The leadership in the race passed to the Finnish crew of Tapio Lauronen / Toni Tapio Lauronen.
By the time of the third special stage start the upper part of the ice road surface melted under the influence of the sun, and it became incredibly slippery. The slightest mistake could lead to run-off from the track, and the drivers had to find a balance between high speed and reliability. Multiple rally champions of Russia Sergey Uspensky and Marina Danilova in Nissan Navara, and Tatyana Sycheva with Alexander Alekseev in CAN-AM Maverick X3 No. 226 were detained at the special stage of snowy Karelia.
The best results at the second and third special stages were shown by the Finnish crew No. 207 Tapio Lauronen / Toni Tapio Lauronen. They were ahead of Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov by more than 2 minutes. The Lithuanian Benediktas Vanagas with his Polish co-driver Bartolomiej Boba speeded up on the second day; after two hundred competitive kilometers they are ahead of the Czech Miroslav Zapletal by only 32 seconds.
Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov lead the Russian Rally Raid Championship 1st stage classification.
On the third day the crews of the “Russia – Northern Forest 2019” Baja will have to overcome almost 230 km of distance. Severe struggle is expected in all categories.
Konstantin Zhiltsov (Russia), co-driver, crew No. 201, T1 standings
The track surface is rather slippery, the paths are all worn-down by the “iron division”. But we knew where we were going, and we were ready. As we drive first, we don’t know the results of the main rival, it’s difficult for us to keep pace, but the struggle continues. Tomorrow we are going in the opposite direction, it will be harder than today because of the surface condition, so we must be extremely careful. We eliminate minor technical problems and prepare for tomorrow’s fight.
Benediktas VANAGAS (Lithuania), driver, crew No. 208, T1 standings
We got pleasure from the track today. More than 200 km of superb racing road; even the World Rally Championship round in Sweden doesn’t have such track. This is our first time on this route, so we are trying to be careful. I won’t show my courage. We aren’t making plans now, we will see later what happens.
Tapio Lauronen (Finland), driver, crew No. 207, T1 standings
Today is a good day, of course! Yesterday we lost a lot of time due to technical problems, so today we had to push hard. Everything is fine today; the car and the road are good. This was reflected in the second special stage result. At the third special stage it was a bit uncomfortable to drive because the car was adjusted too low and the roads were broken a little bit. By tomorrow we will raise the car by 1 cm, so that we can quickly drive along the formed ruts. And we’ll apply our standard motorsport tactics - full throttle!
Classification after day 2
1. Tapio Lauronen / Toni Tapio Lauronen (Mitsubishi Pajero) 2:58:19
2. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (MINI One) 3:01:05
3. Benediktas Vanagas / Bartolomiej Boba (Toyota Hilux) 3:09:01
4. Miroslav Zapletal / Marek Sykora (H3 EVO VII) 3:09:33
5. Andrey N. / Vladimir N. (G-Force BARS) 3:12:29
Baja “Russia – Northern Forest 2019” schedule for 17.02.19 (GMT +3)
08:20 Leg 3 start/PF exit (for the first participant)
08:35 SS4 start (for the first participant)
09:54 SS4 finish (approximately for the first participant)
11:30 SS5 start (for the first participant)
12:35 SS5 finish (approximately for the first participant)
13:00 Podium (approximately for the first participant)
19:00 Prize giving
The traditional partners of Baja “Russia – Northern Forest 2019” are the companies “Nart”, Nart Time, “R-Industria”, “Rus”, “Igora Drive”, “Orekh”, “Bar Motor”.
This year the Technical Center “Vostok” with the brands “KAMAZ” and “Gas Diesel Systems” joined us. The connection is provided by Neokom and Megafon. Accommodation of guests and officials of the race is provided by “Astra” business travel agency, “Gardarika” country club and hotels “Chernye Kamni” and “Tochka na karte. Sortavala”. The Ceremonial opening of the race will be held with the Ruskeala mountain park support. The airport of Petrozavodsk acts as a technical partner, providing the “Sortavala” landing area (Helyulya settlement) for the organization of the Service Park.
The 5 th year title sponsors are the Government of the Republic of Karelia, the Olympic Council of the Republic of Karelia, and the 100 Years of Karelia project. Informational support is provided by Ex-Road Media and 4x4 All-Wheel Drive magazine.