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Jeep Drivers Take on Lake Ladoga Challenge

Published: June 5, 2001 (Issue # 675)



  • One competitor struggling with his vehicle on the first day of the course, as the drivers navigated the swamp and mud in the Vsevolozhsk district of the Leningrad Oblast.
    Photo: Seregy Grachev / The St. Petersburg Times

Anyone sleeping in the vicinity of St. Isaac's Square last Sunday morning was awakened to the rude smell of truck exhaust, beer, and the sound of 107 engines roaring as drivers geared up for the Fifth Annual, Botchkarov Trophy, nine-day, off-road race.

The scruffy gathering of monster jeeps, camouflage-clad grease-monkeys toting tools, peering under hoods, and speaking in tongues about chassis, engine volume and piston compression, made an unlikely contrast to the sunny backdrop of St. Isaac's Cathedral and the surrounding square, the race's official starting line.

Announcers barked the names of drivers over a loudspeaker that struggled to be heard over the roaring engines. The drivers then drove their rigs onto a platform to be introduced to the increasingly deafened crowd.

The drivers came from near and far - from St. Petersburg to Kazakhstan to the Baltic States - to face the challenge of grinding their engines though the 1,270 kilometers of mud, swampland and bog that surround Lake Ladoga.

St. Petersburg's Off-Road and 4x4 Club, which has hosted the race for five years, was vague about what the prizes for the winners would be, specifying in the program only that there would be "Prizes and Certificates."

But that didn't seem to matter: the adventure of breaking an axle on a log or blowing out a tire on a rock seemed for the drivers reward enough in itself.

"We like going off road on weekends, but this is the first time we've ever taken part in an official competition," said Alexander Arkhipov, minutes before joining the rally with his wife Tatyana and his 12-year-old son Volodya.

"Of course we're in the Tourism category" he added, standing next to his diminutive white 1998 Niva.

The tourism category is the most forgiving of the three routes for the rally drivers. Second is the speed category, in which teams assemble to race souped-up jeeps of all descriptions through swamps in a race against the clock.

Arkhipov's Niva was a mere speck compared to the thundering pair of Mercedes 4x4s driven by a team from Almaty, Kazakhstan, decked out in camouflage with walkie-talkies hanging from their belts.

"We hope to drive from Dakar to Paris in a couple of years' time," said Aibek Omuraliyev, the team's navigator.

But they will have to make it around Ladoga first.

In the first day of the competition last year, only 13 of the 52 speed category racers even managed to finish the course, race official Olga Orlova states in the press release.

But the most demanding category is the raid category, a sudden death competition where the winner takes all. Drivers maneuver at high speeds through bogs, streams and mud pits. If you get stuck, good luck to you -you're out of the race for good.

The first leg of the rally on Sunday was through swampland near Vse vo lozhsk. Trucks up to their windshields in mud made their way across what was once a World War II front line, with barbed wire and trenches greeting the struggling teams the whole way.

The race will wrap up on June 12, and the drivers that make it will hose down and probably start preparing for next year's race. The rest had better call the tow trucks.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of today’s seminar is “Grammar Practice.”


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at “Professional Growth,” a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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