ARTICLE OF THE ISSUE
"AMUL - HAZAR 2018" - 1571 KILOMETERS OF THE GREAT KARAKUM CHALLENGE
A festive parade of participants of the international rally "Amul - Hazar 2018" was held in the city of Turkmenabat on the eve of the rally start. President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who was on a working visit to Lebap province, attended the event.
In his welcome speech, the head of state noted that Turkmenistan made a great progress in developing motor sports in the country in a short time. The Turkmen leader stressed that "Amul - Hazar 2018" motor racing would expose the guests to the historical and natural sights of the country and help them learn more about Turkmenistan and the Turkmen people.
Then, the participants of the international rally "Amul - Hazar 2018" took part in the festive parade. Over 80 crews from more than 20 countries proceeded past the special stands. The Turkmen team consisting of 15 crews wrapped up the procession.
The Director of the International Rally Raid "Africa Eco Race", Jean-Louis Schlesser, who is one of "Amul - Hazar 2018" rally organizers, also held a final briefing in the city of Turkmenabat, during which sportsmen received his latest instructions and explanations ahead of the rally start. Jean-Louis Schlesser focused on security issues. He called on sportsmen to take care and provide mutual assistance.
At the start of the international rally "Amul - Hazar 2018", President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov covered 9 kilometers of the route in a qualification round - a prologue - on a sport car under number 100, thus kicking off the actual rally.
After the qualification round, the head of state talked to Director of the International Rally Raid "Africa Eco Race" Jean-Louis Schlesser, who is one of "Amul - Hazar 2018" rally organizers. The Turkmen leader wished all the crews the success and victory in the rally.
"Sport is always good, b ecause it brings peoples and countries closer to each other, meaning stability and peace all over the world. I believe that the current competitions that brought together many sportsmen from different countries is a great event," the Turkmen leader said.
Then, the first stage of the rally began. The distance of this stage was 247 kilometers. The rally cars accounting for 83 crews lined up at the start of the first high-speed section and set off at equal intervals.
Four bivouacs were set up for racing cars, including "Mary" in Mary province, "Garagum alkymy" (Radiance of the Karakum) in Akhal province, "Altyn Asyr Trkmen Kli" (Turkmen Lake Altyn Asyr) in Dashoguz province and "Sport Meydanasy" (Sport Grounds) in Balkan province.
The entire race route was 1571 km long. The race was scheduled to finish on 15 September in the National Tourist Zone "Avaza".
The rough terrain of the Karakum desert knocked a number of racers out of "Amul - Hazar 2018" rally. Thus, about twenty crews dropped out of the rally by the end of the first stage of the competition. 55 racing cars arrived at the start of the second 228-km long stage from the bivouac "Mary" located near the administrative and territorial boundary of Lebap and Mary provinces. In the evening of the same day, the racers reached the second bivouac "Garagum alkymy" (Radiance of the Karakum) located in Akhal province.
According to the racers, the first part of the road was not easy. The second part proved less complex, as pilots got used to the sands of the Karakum desert and reached the bivouac "Radiance of the Karakum" without too much difficulties. In the overall standings, the Spanish crew of Nani Roma and Alex Haro continued to hold leadership. Having outrun the Spaniards at the finish, British pilot Harry Hunt and his navigator Wouter Rosgaar won the second stage of the rally. This success helped the British crew to advance to the second place in the overall standings, pushing the Turkmen duo of Khodzhaguly Annamammedov and Gaigysyz Akmyradov to the third place. Only a few minutes separated the leaders of the race in the overall standings.
In the truck category, two Russian KAMAZ crews piloted by Ayrat Mardeyev and Dmitry Sotnikov were the first to cross the finishing line of the first stage. They were followed by the Belarusian MAZ crew piloted by Sergei Vyazovich.
The Turkmen-Belorussian MAZ crew consisting of Alexander Vasilevsky, Dmitry Vikhrenko and Begnazar Nuryagdyev ranked among top ten fastest cars in the truck category. They managed to improve their standing by 5 points in the second stage of the Amul - Hazar route.
At the bivouac, the rally racers enjoyed generous food and a cultural program. They also had an opportunity to get acquainted with one of the most popular sights of our country. The rally organizer, Jean-Louis Schlesser, was congratulated on his birthday anniversary at the bivouac. The legendary racer celebrated his 70th birthday on the Turkmen land.
Having completed the third 236-km long stage of the race, the participants of "Amul - Hazar 2018" rally arrived at the bivouac near "Altyn Asyr" lake in the very center of the Karakum desert.
In the sports utility vehicle (SUVs) category, the Spanish crew of Nani Roma and Alex Haro was traditionally the first to cross the finishing line. They led both in the intermediate and general standings, increasing their break away from rivals in each stretch of the race.
In the truck category, KAMAZ pilot Ayrat Mardeyev won the third stage of the race and became the leader in the overall standings, followed by the Belarusian MAZ crew of Sergey Vyazovich. The crew of Dmitry Sotnikov, another representative of KAMAZ-Master team, held the third place.
From the bivouac at the lake in the Karakum the participants of "Amul-Hazar 2018" rally set off for the fourth 244-km long stage of the race, ending at the bivouac "Sport Meydanasy" (Sport Grounds). It was the last stop before the finish in the National Tourist Zone "Avaza".
Having completed the fourth, semi-final stage of "Amul - Hazar 2018" rally, the participants reached the last bivouac "Sport Meydanasy" (Sport Grounds).
The situation was more or less clear in the SUVs category before the last stage. The Spanish crew of Nani Roma and Alex Haro felt comfortable with a good lead. They left the nearest competitors 1 hour 4 minutes behind and remained the likeliest winners the race.
However, in the truck category, the competition was tight. The thing was that Sergei Vyazovich's crew of the Belarusian team "MAZ-SPORT auto" won the fourth stage of the rally and significantly bridged the gap between the leading crew of Ayrat Mardeyev of the Russian "KAMAZ-Master" team. So, in the truck category, everything was to be decided on the fifth, finishing line of the rally.
When the rally participants were celebrated in an official welcoming ceremony at the finishing line in the National Tourist Zone "Avaza", it became evident that the international rally "Amul - Hazar 2018", a grandiose project initiated by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, was a success.
The route of the rally-raid "Amul - Hazar 2018" ran along the historic Great Silk Road. The rally became Asia's largest off-road race in terms of its scale and significance. The competition brought together professional sportsmen and fans of one of the most exciting sports from France, Spain, Russia, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic, Britain and other countries. Turkmenistan was represented by 15 crews in different categories. According to experts, the young Turkmen team showed good results.
Starting their race from the ancient settlement of Amul on the bank of Amu Darya river, the racers covered more than 1500 kilometers across the country from east to west, having faced the most difficult special stages in the open spaces of the Karakum desert. A special 203-km long stage was the fifth and final stretch of the rally-raid that finished on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
In the evening, an official ceremony of awarding the winners of the rally was held at the park of fountains in the National Tourist Zone "Avaza". President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Director of the International Rally Raid "Africa Eco Race" Jean-Louis Schlesser handed the awards to the sportsmen.
The rally winners were awarded special prizes, including sets of commemorative coins "Amul - Hazar 2018" and gift sets of national Turkmen clothing.
The Spanish crew of Nani Roma, the Belarusian MAZ crew of Sergey Vyazovich, the Kazakh crew of Kirill Chernenkov and the French crews of Thierry Pitavy and Ivan-Pierre celebrated victory in their respective categories.
The silver medals of the race went to the crews of Miroslav Zapletal and Ayrat Mardeyev (KAMAZ), the French crew of Herve Dirce, the Kazakh crew of Marat Abikayev and the British crew of Harry Hunt.
Two Turkmen crews of Khodzhaguly Annamammedov and Gaigysyz Akmyradov, as well as the crew of Dmitry Sotnikov (KAMAZ), the French crew of Jean-Claude Rufier and the Dutch crew of Gert Jean Van Der Valk were awarded bronze medals.
Taking the awards from the hands of the President of Turkmenistan, the rally participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come to Turkmenistan and take part in the rally. In his turn, Jean-Louis Schlesser thanked the Turkmen leader for his support in organizing and holding the rally, as well as for the wonderful gifts for the rally winners in good memory of Turkmenistan.
The award ceremony was followed by the festive concert. It culminated with the spectacular firework that lit up the sky above the Caspian coast with colored lights
A few days after the rally-raid finish, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov took part in the official ceremony of awarding the Turkmen team prizewinners and participants of the international rally "Amul - Hazar 2018."
Speaking at the ceremony, the head of state congratulated the national team on good performance in the rally that proved to be a great success for the whole country. Addressing the sportsmen, the President of Turkmenistan noted that their results and victories contributed to the strengthening of the country's reputation in international sports, demonstrated the successes and achievements of the country and the right path of national development.
According to the Turkmen leader, it is important to continue improving the process of raising high-class sportsmen, trainers and other sport professionals to enhance the competitiveness of Turkmen sports. The head of state stressed that development of the human capacity, preservation and improvement of health of citizens and upbringing of the younger generation is the ultimate goal of reforms.
Expressing satisfaction with the outcome of "Amul - Hazar 2018" rally, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stressed that the Turkmen team deserves to take part in motor racing that will be repeated in the country on May 5-12 next year. Then, the head of state signed the decree and the resolution on awarding those sportsmen who excelled in the rally.
By the presidential decree, members of two Turkmen crews that won bronze medals in the rally were awarded new cars. By the presidential resolution, a group of support staff and sportsmen who took active part in the international rally "Amul - Hazar 2018" were awarded commemorative budges.
Then, the President of Turkmenistan announced a decision on the transfer of sports car N 100 that he used in the qualification round of the rally to the Center of Motor Sport of the Ministry of Interior. The head of state also handed a special award of "Africa Eco Race" and a sports outfit that he used in the qualification round of the rally "Amul - Hazar 2018" to the Turkmen Sport Museum.