17 september 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits Maikop, speaks with drivers participating in the Silk Road Challenge, the Dakar Series


The prime minister surveyed the trucks and SUVs participating in the rally. As he was told, up to 200 trucks follow the competing cars - support, maintenance and equipment vehicles.

"How did you manage to drive 4,000 kilometres from St Petersburg to Sochi? Were you going in circles?" the prime minister joked. The answer was that the racers were looking for off-road terrain, which is much more difficult to find now, and so took roundabout routes.

"Rough terrain? We should have enough to spare," Mr Putin laughed.

When he asked a French driver about his impressions of off-roading in Russia, the driver answered: "I enjoy it here!"

Mr Putin replied: "We might trade in our roads for French ones."

"It looks like a spaceship!" he said about a SUV that caught his attention. The vehicle covers up to 440 km a day at high speed. The prime minister praised its design. He was shown how the car retreads during a race: a device inside the car raises it high enough to replace a wheel in only a few seconds.

The prime minister gave a welcome speech to the racers next.

Vladimir Putin's address:

Good afternoon, dear friends.

I want to give you a warm welcome here in Adygea and generally in Russia. This is the second time that we are hosting a marathon rally of the Dakar series, and we are glad that the participants and guests approve of the organisation of this event, and it is no exaggeration to call it international. This marathon off-road rally demands special vehicles and unique human qualities. It is not incidental that the best brands in the world are participating in this event. I am also glad that it has attracted the top drivers from around the world. They are really the best of the best, those who have come to Russia for this event. And this is a sport that demands professionalism and courage.

We only regret that accidents do sometimes occur. As you know, a Russian crew had an accident today. Both the driver and the navigator were injured. We wish them a speedy recovery. And I wish all of you a successful end to this race. You have a small but very important part of the rally tomorrow - the final stage. We are certainly fans of the Russian team but we have the utmost respect for and interest in how each of our guests performs.

We wish you every success. Thank you. Come to Russia more often!

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The second Silk Road Challenge, the Dakar Series, began on September 11. Its 4,000-kilometre route connects St Petersburg with Sochi, the venue for the 2014 Olympics. There are teams representing more than 25 countries. The caravan of SUVs and trucks also visited the sites of memorable battles of World War Two - particularly the Battle of Stalingrad, the steppes of the Volgograd and Astrakhan Regions, the Kalmyk deserts and branches of the North Caucasus Mountain Range.

The annual rallies of the Silk Road Challenge in Russia were established on Vladimir Putin's initiative to attract attention to Olympic projects. The races will be held annually until the opening of the Sochi Olympics.