Before the prize-giving ceremony at the Baja “Russia – Northern Forest 2018” in the Park Hotel “Gardarika” a press conference with the race winners and the race head was held.


Jordi Parro Vidal, Race Head

Nasser Al-Attiyah, driver, crew number 1, Baja winner

Mathieu Baumel, co-driver, crew number 1, Baja winner

Martin Prokop, driver, crew number 4, Baja runner-up

Jan Tomanek, co-driver, crew number 4, Baja runner-up

Vladimir Vasilyev, driver, crew number 6, Baja bronze medallist, “Northern Forest” LLC co-founder

Konstantin Zhiltsov, co-driver, crew number 6, Baja bronze medallist

The press conference host:

Lina Arnautova, head of the press center; PR director of Baja “Russia – Northern Forest”

Lina Arnautova, “You are running the coldest cross-country rally in the FIA World Cup for the second consecutive year. What is special about it and how was the competition for the judges this year?”

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Jordi Parro Vidal, “First of all I would like to note the activities of the organizer, first of all Sergey Lebedev and his team – it is a perfectly organized race! And I would like to congratulate drivers who managed to reach the finish line. Especially those who finished in the top three. Nasser Al-Attiyah, having come here for the first time, secured the first place – this is an excellent result!”

L.A., “Tell us, please, about the competition dynamics and what has changed in it with your arrival – in organization or refereeing? You also attend other FIA World Cup competitions, what is the fundamental difference in the preparation for the race for the judiciary?”

J.P.V., “For the first time I came here as the FIA observer, then as the race head and now again. This year, despite the fact that the organizer was given very short preparation time, the whole team coped well, the tracks were prepared perfectly and we were very lucky in terms of the weather.
Of course, there is a difference in the competition preparation in winter and summer. In winter it’s easier to close the roads for extraneous traffic and control the movement of spectators. The basic measures and safety systems, such as monitoring the movement of crews using gps-devices, tracking accidents and other sports incidents – are the same. But the preparation of the tracks for the cross-country event is different. In winter you need to clean the roads, monitor their condition if snow falls – this is a definite challenge for the organizer”.

L.A., “We would like to address to the winning crew of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel – congratulations on the first place! It’s great to see you here, we admire your talent and would like to know how interesting was this race for you?” 

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Nasser Al-Attiyah, “I would like to thank everyone, thank the organizers, they did everything to host this race! All the vehicles arrived from the “Dakar” rally just a week ago, for example, Martin and I sent our cars by plane to catch this race. We’ve heard a lot about this race. When I arrived, I worried a little about how the cross-country car would behave here, everything was new to us. But after two or three kilometers on the snow cover we got used to it and just enjoyed the driving and everything that happened around. At one point, I said to Mathieu,“You understand, another special stage and the rally will end!” We really would like to drive another extra special stage to enjoy and extend the pleasure. Because Karelia is a fantastic place for Baja”.

L.A., “Each day there were two special stages, and they actually repeated each other. Was it boring to drive on the same road that you have passed in the morning?”

N.A.A., “You know, I did not think so. Days two and three were “turned” in different directions, and this feature imposed additional requirements for each crew. I think the organizers made an excellent route”.

L.A., “Before you visited the Baja “Russia – Northern Forest”, what was your favorite race in the FIA World Cup series?”

N.A.A., “You know, I have participated in many races, and to be honest, I will say that we fell in love with this race – it’s very, very special! Because this Baja is held only once a year, and the other series races are similar. This is either a crossed terrain over sand or dunes, or it can be a Baja in the forest and in the rain. We do not like rain, but I love the snow (laughing)”.

L.A., “Mathieu, Nasser is too fast driver, and before that in winter racing you were sitting in the right chair only at the stages of the classic rally (WRC). How did you feel without the pace notes at such a high-speed race? Did you want to start reading something different than the Road Book instructions?" 

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Mathieu Baumel,“I would like to say, this is my first experience on the snow and ice, and Nasser is not such a bad driver, he said earlier that he had driven a lot of races. This week was fantastic for me! I was watching as he precisely drives a car between snow parapets and trees, jumps, drifts a little on the ice sections of the track, and enjoying this skill. We really wanted to go another special stage or even an extra day of the race, and it’s very sad that the Baja ended so quickly, we will have to wait another year to derive this pleasure again”.

L.A., “What race from the FIA World Cup series is the easiest for you in terms of co-driving?”

M.B., "In general, you do not have any complicated navigational tasks at the Bajas; you just need to inform the driver about what is ahead and accurately track the number of kilometers covered. But here in some places there are tricky positions and very few landmarks, there are almost no bindings to the terrain, such as fences, road signs or something like that. It’s very easy to make a mistake, having left the wrong way at the fork. So you need to be very careful, but the road book gives excellent instructions, it is well compiled. So we will be happy and ready to come again to this race”.

L.A., “Martin Prokop, this is also a debut race for you. You perfectly adapt and, in principle, are familiar with winter races. How often it was necessary to “turn on” intuition and increased attention at this race?” 

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Martin Prokop, “Yes, you are right, I’m not a novice on the snow, I constantly participate in the WRC rounds in Sweden. And you know, at snow cross-country rallies everything is much more interesting, because the grip is excellent, you can do much more incredible things than in the rally. In winter you can drive as on gravel and even faster. And if suddenly you could not keep on the road, you can “lean” against a snowdrift, and continue moving, pushing away from it. If you do this at a gravel race, you risk going off the road and rolling over. So the snow is much funnier and cooler in terms of driving. But I would like to say that I’m not happy with the second place at this race. I have great respect for Nasser, because he is a great driver, he is the best of the best, but winter races are still my hobby (laughing). I know how to defeat him, and next year I will fight with Al-Attiyah for the victory, to accept the challenge and be the best”.

L.A., “What is your favorite race in the FIA World Cup season?”

M.P., “I can be called a newcomer in the cross-country rallies, I left the World Championship in the classic rally a couple of years ago. Last year was my first in cross-country rallies and Bajas, I can say that I fell in love with the Middle East races in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. I like this type of racing, like sand and dunes, a kind of spirit of locations. This is new and attractive for me. I like the spirit of racing in the Arab countries, plus Russia because this race reminded me of a classic rally atmosphere. The roads resembling Sweden are amazing, but it was the race in Karelia that brought me greater pleasure”.

L.A., “Question to Jan Tomanek: have you prepared in any special way for this race? Before each race you are surely negotiating with the driver a set of standard familiar actions in emergency situations. Is it necessary to prepare for the winter race especially – take the shovels, warm clothes, or a stock of warming liquids?”

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Jan Tomanek, “Oh yeah, really, we have prepared for a cold climate – we have everything inside the car – felt boots and ear-caps from the organizers of the race. And, I believe, five liters of vodka in “drinkers” (laughing)”.

L.A., “There is such a stereotype – Europeans believe that Russia is a balalaika, bears and vodka. Have you met any bears on the route?”

Y.T., “Well, no, it’s possible only after five liters of vodka (laughing)”.

L.A., “Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov secured the third place in the race. Vladimir, in this race you are the leader by the number of awards – the third place at the FIA World Cup round, the first place in the Championship of Russia and the first place in the category. Is it difficult to be hurried by such strong drivers who dictate such a high pace and constantly keep you in increased tonus?” 

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Vladimir Vasilyev, “Yes, the guys distribute the next year positions here, but do not forget: though I am a benevolent host, I will also fight for leadership (laughing)! I will answer the question – this year I also got great pleasure from the fact that such famous racers came here! There have already been a lot of talented drivers at our race, but such titled stars have not yet arrived. I was very pleased to compete with the World Champions in the classic rally. And it was very pleasant to look at their pace and try to match it”.

L.A., “Now it is already possible to say that the initial decision to cancel the race was erroneous and everyone liked the rally so much. How about holding it the next year?”

V.V., “On behalf of the organizer, I will tell you that a question of doing or not doing the race was literally hanging in the air. But since the crews that came to the cross-country rally spoke very positively and the Republic of Karelia promised to provide support again, we have only one option: to hold the race next year. Of course, if the FIA approves it”.

L.A., “Vladimir, please, tell us about your favourite races in the FIA World Cup”.

V.V., “First of all, I really like the Baja “Northern Forest”, it is home for us, and the only snow and ice event in the season. But I also like the two Arab races – Abu Dhabi and Qatar. In Abu Dhabi there are large dunes, sand and heat all days long. If to speak about Qatar, probably, Konstantin like it more because there is a very complex and interesting navigation and more work for him”.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, “Now I like the Russian Baja even more!”

L.A. “Konstantin, what about the navigation at this race? Probably, you have visited the Baja “Northern Forest” stages most of all, and you are the most experienced co-driver here. Do you remember any peculiarities of the route, some twists and turns, or make any notes?” 

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Konstantin Zhiltsov, “I would like to tell you, this race is not very simple, especially for me. I agree with Mathieu that maybe there is no particularly complicated navigation, it is important to clearly track the distances, to read notes on security, pits and everything else correctly and at the right time. But in this case it is quite difficult for me, because participating in the race not for the first time, unfortunately, I have to remember professionally quite a lot of places, turns and similar positions. The winter race peculiarity is that Sergey Talantsev can clean the road slightly to the right or to the left, and this can lead to an absolutely unnecessary accident only because I remember this place in a slightly different configuration. So in this respect, it is just more difficult. But everything else, I think the same as with all professional co-drivers who took part here. They certainly made notes in the book and memorized some places – this is the duty of the profession”.

L.A., “Thank you all very much, your answers are very interesting – we are waiting for you next year!”

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