With just a couple of days left before the start of Dakar 2013, Russia’s Kamaz-Master hopes to regain former glory by putting its greatest champion, Vladimir Chagin, in charge of the team.
The Dakar Rally has always been one of year's first major sporting events and, despite many changes, Kamaz-Master remain the hot favorite in the truck category.
The Russian team has taken part in 22 out of the 34 rallies so far and can boast a wealth of trophies, having won 10 times.
The legendary Vladimir Chagin quit driving in 2011, shortly after clinching his record-breaking seventh Dakar victory.
It's hard to imagine the blue truck without Chagin behind the wheel, but this year will still be special for the 42-year-old as he now leads one of the most successful teams in the sport.
“I was surprised to be appointed team head,” he told RT. “I’ll do everything I can to be useful, and hope my experience will help. Our trophy cabinet is proof that our tactics work – and will remain the same.”
Known as ‘The Tsar of Dakar' – Chagin replaced another legend at the helm – his former navigator and team founder, Semyon Yakubov.
Chagin’s move up has cleared the way for young drivers to come through.
And 65-year-old Yakubov himself has made room for the former driver at the top, keeping all-important continuity inside the crew.
Chagin knows the key to success – having been fundamental to Kamaz Master’s winning run, since his first triumph in 2000. But he also knows he can rely on the support of the former chief.
“There've been some hard days for Chagin, as his role in the team has changed and he’s learned something new every day,” Yakubov stressed. “I help him without interfering in his job. In a couple of years’ time, he'll become a successful manager.”
This year's Dakar will mark five years since the endurance race swapped Africa for South America.
The 8.000-kilometre route passes through Peru and Argentina, before finishing in Santiago, the capital of Chile.
In 2012, the formerly dominant Kamaz team suffered a setback when they failed to make the podium for the first time in eleven years.
This time, three trucks with young drivers will be supported by a technical truck carrying a ton of spare parts.
And, although driver Eduard Nikolaev was disqualified in the previous race after a crash, the 26-year-old doesn’t feel under any pressure.
“This year the race starts in the dunes of Peru. It’s the hardest part of the route,” he explained. “All the contenders for podium places will be determined during the first few days. We’ll do everything we can not to let Chagin down as he has done everything to become a good boss. Yakubov teaches him like Chagin teaches us.”
“I've spent lots of time in the passenger’s seat this year, teaching our young drivers. I think they’ve got the talent and the potential to perform successfully,” Chagin said.
The Kamaz team has lost some of its prestige over the past two years. But it’s widely anticipated that Chagin’s students will soon get it back on the winning track.
For the first time, Kamaz is competing in two parallel events – the Dakar Rally and the Africa Eco Race and they hope their blue trucks will make the headlines at both events.
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