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Race along Silk Road: Amul Hazar 2018 intl rally ends deep in Karakum Desert with surprise victory

The Amul Hazar 2018 rally has finished in Turkmenistan with 83 crews having braved over 1,000 kilometers, from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the Karakum Desert. The dramatic race ended with a sudden change in the race leader.

The overall winner was Spaniard Nani Roma. Russia’s KAMAZ driver, Ayrat Mardeyev, finished the race in the top five.

Journey along the Silk Road

The Amul Hazar rally is an important highlight in the world of motorsport. The competition entered the world calendar of motor racing in May, replacing the rally marathon which was originally set to be held in Bulgaria.

All fans of motorsport were looking forward to the event. The route of the race directly followed the ancient Silk Road, which goes across the sands of the Karakum Desert.

The total distance of the Amul Hazar route is 1158 kilometers. The crews had to complete five stages (September 11 to 15), from the town of Hazar on the shores of the Caspian Sea to the ancient town of Amul, deep in the Karakum Desert.

Rallies in the desert are considered especially difficult for the crews, as it is easy to get lost in sand dunes, which is why the Turkmen organizers prioritized safety concerns. Along the route four camps were set up along with spacious dining rooms, press centers and even concert halls.

In addition to that, the crews were accompanied on land and monitored from the air, with multiple medical and rescue teams on standby.

Another concern was environmental safety. All the crews were provided with special green fuel produced in Turkmenistan, in order to minimize pollution in the Karakum Desert.

Change of leader

The race saw a total of 150 racers (83 crews), from 21 countries, compete for the champion’s title. Among the favorites were some internationally recognized stars including Britain’s Harry Hunt, driving a Peugeot, and Spain’s Nani Roma, driving a MINI.

The truck race saw two KAMAZ truck teams participate – Dakar 2018 bronze medalist Ayrat Mardeyev’s and Dmitry Sotnikov’s. They were competing against Dakar 2018 silver medalists - Belarus’ MAZ team led by Sergey Vyazovich.

The rally was officially opened by the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, known to be a fan of motorsports. The leader of the host nation raced in the 9-kilometer trial driving a car with the number ‘100’.

The rally also had a few surprises. Hunt, a definite favorite, began by winning three legs out of five, despite having to change his co-driver. He raced Amul Hazar with Holland’s Wouter Rosgaar.

However, Hunt’s engine broke during the next stage of the race, causing his team to finish 10 hours later than the new leader, Nani Roma, who went on to win the entire rally together with his co-driver Alex Haro. Second place was claimed by Czech racers Miroslav Zapletal and Marek Sikora driving a Hummer.

The Belarusian MAZ crew of Sergey Vyazovich finished first in the trucks category, while the two KAMAZ teams claimed silver and bronze medals – Mardeyev’s and Sotnikov’s respectively. In the overall standings, Vyazovich came third and Mardeyev fifth.

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