Red Bull Motorsports
Kamaz v VW on the Yellow House Jump
Ouninpohja, Finland. A special stage so compellingly awesome that Colin McRae even named his racehorse after it. But recently, some very different types of horses tackled the heart-in-the-mouth crests that make this legendary Rally Finland road unique.
On the one hand, the 318-horsepower Volkswagen Polo R WRC: a car that has won in Finland three times. Then, more unusually, the iconic Kamaz 4326 truck that is the undisputed King of the Dakar, with close to 1000-horsepower. On a narrow road in the middle of nowhere. Featuring an enormous jump.
At the wheel of the Polo was ‘Flying Finn’ Jari-Matti Latvala: just like his car, a three-time Rally Finland winner. Close behind him in the Kamaz was Russia’s Ayrat Mardeev, who won the Dakar truck category in 2015 and claimed a podium finish on two further occasions. Most recently, he emerged with a truck win in the Silk Way Rally from Moscow to China last month. So a 10-tonne truck versus a one-tonne car, with a 16.5-litre diesel engine doing battle against a 1.6-litre turbo petrol.
The inhabitants of Ouninpohja are of course used to encountering high-powered machinery screaming past their front doors: especially the occupants of the well-known Yellow House, which marks the launchpad for one of the biggest jumps in the sport. But they had never seen anything quite like this before.
Who remembers Stephen Spielberg’s famous 1971 film Duel, in which a car driven by an increasingly desperate Dennis Weaver is pursued by an avenging truck? Well, Latvala and Mardeev just took that concept to a whole new level, with the Kamaz relentlessly hunting down the Volkswagen on the stage.
When you accelerate in the car, the power goes down so quickly that it takes some time for the truck to catch up. But the funny thing is that under braking, when the truck is coming a bit closer, you really feel like you want to run away. You don’t want it to touch you.
It’s Duel all over again. No surprise that you feel the fear when you’re being pursued by a true monster.
This really is a huge, massive machine and when you sit behind the wheel of such a powerful truck, it’s an incomparable feeling: you feel the full power of the truck as soon as you start the engine, while all the vibration is transferred to your hands and your body.
The normally tranquil Finnish countryside reverberates to the sound of two highly tuned competition engines chasing each other through the forest. And then silence, as both the car and the truck fly gracefully through the air over Ouninpohja’s classic crests, defying gravity as motorsport somehow meets aerial ballet.
I was surprised how far the truck jumps. It’s really quite something; I got goosebumps.
Of course, on the rough roads of the Dakar, launching the enormous Kamaz through the air is just part of a normal day’s work. So the intrepid Russian remains unflustered, which is more than can be said for the unsuspecting inhabitant of the famous Yellow House…
“In rally raids this happens all the time: during the day we lose count of how many times we jump and fly,” adds Mardeev. Yet at the same time this particular jump was very special, as it took place in the spiritual home of rallying. Ouninpohja is basically the Holy Grail for any rally driver.
“This place is one of the most legendary in the whole championship,” explains Mardeev. “Maybe not even so much for the jump itself, but more because of its location and its importance for the championship. So for Jari-Matti and me it’s the meaning of our lives. We can’t live without it. You could call it an adrenaline addiction.”
Watch the video below to find out more about the legendary Ouninpohja stage.
Ouninpohja: the toughest stage in WRC
For Latvala, seeing the truck miraculously fly through some of the most iconic scenery of his homeland has raised some intriguing possibilities for the future. After all, a number of WRC stars have gone on to continue their careers at the Dakar, from former Dakar winners Ari Vatanen and Juha Kankkunen, to stars such as Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen in more recent times.
“I have to say that now I’m excited: maybe after my rally career I should go to the Dakar and drive a truck,” concludes Latvala. “That would be a good experience for me and then I would have it in my museum later on. I know that Loeb and the others have been driving the Dakar cars, but actually I’m more excited about the trucks now…”