Vladimir Chagin’s record-breaking rally-raid career earned him the nicknamed of ‘The Tsar of the desert’. Now retired from driving for Team Kamaz Master the seven-time Dakar winner remains a key part of the Russian set-up in his role as Team Leader. We asked Vladimir to share the secrets of his team’s continued success at the Dakar Rally…
RedBull.com: Following a 1-2-3 result for Kamaz at the previous Dakar has it been necessary to change your truck at all for this upcoming edition of the race?
Vladimir Chagin: It’s true that the Kamaz 4326 has been giving us good results but we have still been able to add several technical innovations to our vehicle that have been developed throughout the year. For example, all our trucks are now equipped with improved brakes that we have developed alongside Wabco and Knorr-Bremse.
At the last Dakar our young drivers really raised the bar.
We have also had to consider the new regulations on emissions that are in place for the 2014 Dakar and going forward the engine capacity of the race trucks will be limited to 16.5 litres from 2016. Therefore we are taking two engines to this Dakar, a new Liebherr model as well as our tried and tested Yaroslav engine (YAMZ- 7Э846). We have also been working on better weight distribution on our trucks and the assembly of our fuel tanks.
RB: Will these innovations affect the way your crews will operate at the Dakar?
VC: In terms of tactics we will be sticking to what has worked for us in the past. Each of our race crews is given all the support they need to achieve the best result they can. At the last Dakar our young drivers really raised the bar by taking all three spots on the podium. This will be an extremely difficult result to repeat but we will all be working hard not to disappoint our fans.
I watch how each driver interacts with their individual crews.
RB: How do you work with the drivers in your role of Team Leader?
VC: The whole team works towards the Dakar throughout the entire year. I work with all of our drivers and I’m usually in the cabin with each crew during our testing sessions. I watch how each driver interacts with their individual crews to see that the necessary teamwork is taking place. I try to share all of my experience with them and help them out in whatever way I can. I’m there to answer questions during our tests in the Astrakhan region of Russia and more recently in Morocco.
RB: How many team members does it take to maintain a race truck at the Dakar?
VC: There are two mechanics assigned to each race truck that perform the technical service on the vehicle at the end of each stage. The driver has a responsibility to work on his machine as well as the two other guys in the cabin – a navigator and another mechanic. In addition to this team we have technicians who work across all our race trucks such as an engine specialist, electrician, welder etc…
The support that we receive from back home in Russia is so important.
RB: And aside from the crew that travel to the Dakar who else is responsible for your success at the race?
VC: The support that we receive from back home in Russia is so important to the whole team. It seems the whole of Russia is closely watching the performances of the team. The big city of Naberezhnye Chelny, home to the Kamaz factory, is always hooked on the Dakar. Our victories give positive emotions to a lot of people and this is what drives us to constantly improve our development at the Dakar.