Spring. Nature is waking, also national rally championships are waking up, that didn’t have a chance to start in the winter. Last weekend, the Ukrainian Championship also woke up from hibernation. It began in the southern part of the country. And at night between the two days of the rally, the hot rally heads ’heads were greatly cooled by the rain. Lots of rain.
In an interview with Rally Week, Karolis Kairys mentioned that returning to this country is always a great pleasure because of the friendliness of the Ukrainians. I can only confirm this because many rally people contributed to the appearance of this article. Thanks to Pavlo, Volodymyr, Yana, and Marina for their help.
Rally Chumatskyi Shlyah is the oldest rally in Ukraine, which was held for the twenty-eighth time this year. Almost thirty years ago, the Ukrainian Rally Championship was born at the Odesa Rally. Chumatskyi Shlyah also had a place in the inaugural season. Since 1996, competitions always start with a parallel special stage, where spectators have the opportunity to watch rivals in duels. As for the winners of this rally, Oleksandr Saliuk has the most titles -he has won here six times. He can be caught by Valeriy Gorban, who has climbed the top podium four times. While the Subaru brand is quite popular here, no Subaru car has won this rally. This event is completely dominated by the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution cars. But there were interesting victories. In 1997, for example, the top ten was occupied by two-wheel-drive Lada Samara cars. But only because the more powerful cars just didn’t reach the finish line. The only foreigner that reached the top – Anton Allen, the son of the legendary Markku Allen. In 2008, Fiat Abarth Grande Punto S2000 driven by Anton left no hope for the locals. And not just for the locals, as that year as many as 7 champions from four different countries came to the rally. Anton Allen represented Finland, Olexander Salyuk, Yuri Protasov, Valery Gorban – Ukraine, Alexander Zheludov – Russia, and Latvia – Janis Vorobjovs and Andis Neiksans. The name Chumatskyi Shlyah itself comes from the name of the trade route where the Cossacks once transported salt and other goods to the Crimean peninsula.
So that’s it about the really rich history of this rally. Now about the rally itself and its specifics. Kherson, which is the city of this event, is located in the southern part of the country, where the Dnieper flows into the Black Sea. The rally itself takes place in a nearby quarry, so the roads there are usually rough, car-demanding, and dusty. The terrain also varies from flat places to hills of various heights. It’s extremely hot there in the summer, which is one of the many reasons why the rally date is sometimes postponed to spring or fall. But sometimes the move of a date doesn’t work well. Instead of the roasting sun that pulls both the cars and the participants from their shoes, in the colder months, nature sometimes feeds the land with rain, which makes mud baths from the roads here. This is what happened this year as well.
So what happened last weekend? The start of the rally was great – dry, full of spectators watching the legendary parallel special stage. Ukraine is divided into three zones according to the number of Covid cases, and Kherson falls into the yellow, where events with spectators are allowed. So this is one of the few places in the World where spectators can watch the competition live rather than on screen. But everything changed at night. The sky was very generous with water and only porridge remained from the quarry roads. The organizers had to postpone the start for a couple of hours because the special stages were simply impassable and after a long winter, the ground showed no desire to dry. One of the course cars remained stuck. But after a couple of hours, the situation improved and the men and women of the rally did not dive into that hell before deciding the main question – what tires to mount on the cars. The more insightful and more experienced assembled cross-country tires that managed to cope with the dirt. Others wore regular or winter tires that drowned in porridge and worked a lot of worse than narrow and extremely deep-patterned KX’s. It was a huge challenge for drivers, co-drivers, cars, and spectators. Some withstood this test, others did not. So the moods and comments were quite diverse. But the roads will dry out, the cars will be washed away, the memories will fade, and the hard-won points will remain on the championship standings.
In terms of results, almost nothing unexpected happened. The only opponent for the rally winner V.Gorban was the road conditions, which the Ukrainian and his Mini Cooper WRC coped well with. The fight between the simpler cars was won by the multiple champion O.Saliuk with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. These two racers have the greatest baggage of both local and international experience. Like the winner, Oleksandr had no real opposition in his class this weekend, so a more serious fight started for third place. In the Subaru car duel, Oleksandr Kozlov won the last podium. Among the two-wheel-drive cars, everyone was amazed by Dovilas Čiutelė, who knocked even the top five in the overall standings with his Lada VAZ 2105 VFTS. Unfortunately, the legendary Lada sat on his bottom where there were no spectators, so a lot of time was lost. Eventually, the crew withdrew from the race. So the fastest in this category became Oleksandr Yagolnytskyi with the Ford Fiesta ST. Only here the battle was serious. Before the final stage, the 2WD leaders were separated in just 1.5 seconds, but everything was decided by S. Ivchenko’s Honda Civic Type-R transmission, which broke in the final kilometers. A new Cross-Country class also debuted in this rally. Its representatives took 10th and 12th place with the Mitsubishi Pajero and Toyota Fj Cruiser.
The second event of the Ukrainian Rally Championship will take place in mid-May in the Lviv area.
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Photos – Victor Adzhamsky, Evgeny Oleinikov, Євген Канаш