Vasilyev/Kuzmich win Northern Forest Cross-Country Baja opener

Vasilyev/Kuzmich win Northern Forest Cross-Country Baja opener

Vladimir Vasilyev, the reigning champion of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, has taken victory on the opening round of the 2021 series with Alexey Kuzmich alongside him in their BMW X3. The duo claimed the win by eight minutes and 29 seconds over rallying brothers Andrey and Vladimir Novikov. The final podium position went to double Baja World Cup winner Boris Gadasin, and co-driver Dmitry Kozhukhov, a top result for the G-Force T3GF crew who also claimed victory in T3.

Held in the north-west region since 2003, the event was based out of the world class Igora Drive Sports and Entertainment Complex, with the route taking the contenders to the Priozersky and Vyborgsky districts for three days of competition. Friday’s opening leg covered two long 94-kilometre sections while the second day took in much shorter sections over fast and interesting tracks. Sunday’s final day was a repeat of Friday’s action, in reverse.

Vasilyev made his mark from the outset, claiming victory in both of Friday’s long sections to overnight with over four minutes in hand to Novikov. On Saturday, blizzard conditions and heavy snowfall left the leading BMW crew acting as a snowplough for those behind and it wasn’t until the repeated afternoon stages that they could get back to stage winning ways. They took victory on the final three stages of the day to retain their lead, albeit with Novikov having reduced the deficit by 33 seconds. In the final leg, Vasilyev and Kuzmich once again dominated both stages, resulting in Vasilyev claiming his third win on home soil and Kuzmich taking a maiden overall win.

The Novikov brothers were looking to go one step further after finishing runners-up in 2020, but while the G-Force BARS crew pushed Vasilyev hard and won two of Saturday’s stages, they were unable to topple the reigning champion over the concluding kilometres. Gadasin and Kozhukhov spent the opening day getting used to their T3 vehicle and put in a fine performance throughout to take the final podium position. The duo also claimed five of the 10 stage wins in the T3 category.

On an event where conditions were tricky and many went off into snowbanks, Evgenii Sukhovenko and Kirill Chapaev finished just off the podium, fourth overall. They headed the T3 crew of Anastasiya Nifontova/Ekaterina Zhadanova - who finished fifth with the best-ever result for an all-female crew on the event - and sixth placed Andrey Rudskoy/Evgenii Zagorodniuk. The T4 category win was claimed by the French crew of Claude Fournier and Sébastien Delaunay in a Can Am Maverick X3.

The second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas sees a dramatic change of conditions; from the only snow and ice Baja run in sub-zero temperatures, the contenders head to the dunes and plains of the Al Qudra desert for the Dubai International Baja (February 18-20).

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