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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, Aug. 20


AmCham gets back to business after a summer hiatus with todays EHS Committee Working Group Meeting. Check their website for more details.



Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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