Samruk – Big Kazakh Winter Auto Rally

By Yerbolat Uatkhanov

winter auto rallyThis year saw the eighth installment of the “Fast and Furious” movie series. The first part of this legendary series became a blockbuster in 2001 and created a new movement with millions of street racing fans around the world. Today, professional rally racers are those children and young people who watched the first film 16 years ago. The movie made them speed junkies and drag racing maniacs, but professional rally helped them to use all their skills and make their dreams come true.

Alexander Mussiyan is the director of his own film studio and a fan of the movie as well. He joined the movement when he was a young man.

“I started to participate in races on my old Lada and won local championships several times. Our team of rally fans hasn’t had the opportunity to take part in national events and national champions, [because it was] thought that we are outsiders,” he said in an interview with EdgeKz.

“That couldn’t last for long, and we used an opportunity to invite one of the best rally sportsmen in Kazakhstan to one of our local races. He participated in our local championship and reported to other champions that he couldn’t win the race and we were really good,” he said with a smile.

Mussiyan noted the team knew its track was much better and it was “a fantastic achievement for us.”

“I didn’t have a special race car and used my usual one. In the beginning, it was a rear-wheel drive Lada and four-wheel drive Subaru in the end. And, after I won several races, I understood that I wasn’t so interested in rally and forgot about it,” he said.

“But, in 2014 I was in a bad car accident. And I consider that I was very lucky, because it could have been much worse. I made one conclusion after the accident; I need to get back to rally. Why? I understood that my driving skills, which I got in auto rally, really helped me to survive and not to kill other people. That was absolutely clear to me and I returned to auto rally,” he said.

Mussiyan had the opportunity to buy a special race car and turned it into the vehicle he wanted. He then trained quite a bit and took part in rally events.

“Although I can’t name it a hobby, because it is something more than a hobby. I think that you can’t just become a rally pilot and leave rally forever. It doesn’t let you go,” he said.

“My wife supports me in my hobby and became my co-driver, the navigator of our rally car. You know, it is so pleasant to know that she sits next to me and navigates me. It is extremely important to trust in your co-driver who tells you the severity of the turn and what obstacles to look out for,” said Mussiyan.

The Samruk Winter Rally Sprint is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and organisers are doing their best to encourage all fans to participate in the event. Expats are especially welcome.

Taking into account that rally is extremely expensive, Samruk Winter Rally Sprint can be considered one of the most reasonably-priced motorsports in the state. Its affordability may have made it the first motorsport event established in Kazakhstan.

“We celebrated Samruk Winter Rally Sprint’s anniversary – 10 years. Ten years is a long period of time, which is enough to prove that the event is popular, timely and interesting for participants,” said Kazakhstan Motorsport Champion and Club President Denis Aksyonov in an interview for this story,

He noted the “Fast and Furious” movie made a big impression on him and his friends.

Aksyonov said all one needs is a standard car. Mechanical transmission is preferable, but one can use automatic as well. He said trucks and SUVs aren’t admitted in any rally event and indicated the best choice is to buy a special car. Trucks and SUVs break snow barriers, which makes using the race track impossible. At times, such vehicles can also roll over.

If a person wants to participate in winter rally, he or she must make the decision on what type of wheel drive to use: forward, rear or all-wheel. Cars with different types of wheel drive participate in different classes.

Aksyonov recommends starting from any forward-wheel drive car. Lada will be the best choice because of its low price. Renault Clio, Volkswagen Golf (the second or the third generation) or Honda Civic are great. He considers the BMW 3 Series the best in the rear-wheel drive class and Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evolution leaders in the all-wheel drive class.

“I strongly recommend choosing the lightest cars in every class. Lightweight is a ticket to success, because such cars don’t have the inertia that heavy cars do. The laws of physics impose constraints on cars’ behaviour on icy and snowy surfaces,” he said.

Winter rally race usually attracts 50-60 teams. The rally once attracted 100 teams, the maximum number in the Kazakh event’s history. All teams are local, but once a German team participated in the race.

“Also, Russians participate in the event as well, but we can’t really call them foreigners. But I would like expats to take part in Winter Rally Championship. I, as an organiser of the event, welcome everybody and promise that every expat can participate in Winter Rally Championship free of charge,” he added.

The event is composed of professional classes with corresponding requirements.QCPGqI1tQ5M

“The only thing you really need for participation is a helmet for every team member,” said Aksyonov. “Buy an E-category certificate with insurance at That’s it!”

He noted street racing, or so called illegal racing, has a very negative meaning for most people in the country.

“I have to admit it. Most streetracers aren’t smart enough to train themselves and race in special places or places which aren’t used by other drivers at all. That is to make all things they love in such conditions where they don’t interfere with other people. I totally agree with people who say that street racing and illegal racing is too dangerous,” he said.

Aksyonov noted the movement is dangerous only for its participants if it is carefully organised and all events are held in special places. He thanked the Ust-Kamenogorsk city administration and local police, both of which were quite loyal to street racers if they didn’t interfere with the city habitants and used distant places to train and race. He noted the city administration even organised annual drag races and invited fans from all regions of the country and Russia.

He described himself as a motorhead “since I was born.”

“Really, cars and races were everything for me. I was 16 years old when the street racing movement became popular in Kazakhstan, after all petrolheads watched ‘Fast and Furious.’ I started to drive my father’s Honda when I was 18 and bought my own car when I studied at the university. My friends and I trained ourselves at special open spaces at night and we wanted it to be safe for everybody, especially for those who weren’t fans of this kind of hobby. Thank God we had access to the Japanese and American second-hand market of race cars and spare parts. Importing them was cheap and comfortable. That is why almost everybody was able to buy an extremely fast Subaru, Honda or Toyota,” he said.

Illegal racing became their passion and the drivers felt that they couldn’t live without it.

“Now, 13 years later, I understand that many of us didn’t have a choice. We lived in a small industrial city where nothing happens and there is nothing to do. Most of us were good students and got good jobs after we graduated from the universities. But anyway, Ust-Kamenogorsk was a city where everybody sleeps after 10 p.m. All cafes and restaurants are closed early and there is nothing for young people to do,” said Aksyonov.

The racers spent a lot of money and free time to make their cars faster and it worked.

“We had a lot of fun and this made us more informed and this occupation taught us to fix our cars ourselves and know how everything works in a vehicle,” he said.

A year ago, he purchased a professional rally car and plans to participate in the winter rally.

“I have spent 10 months to understand it, because it is a complicated and unique mechanism which was constructed using 40 percent of details made in Germany and 60 percent of the details were precisely produced by special tuning companies from different part of the world,” he said.

“I plan to participate in the big Kazakh winter rally this year or next year. It depends on my skills. Unfortunately, today my car’s possibilities are much higher than my driving skills and I understand that I will have to face professional rally teams in the rally and I want to be in a good shape,” he added.

“Participation in a professional rally can make my children’s’ dreams true and most significantly, I will be able to race absolutely legally,” said Aksyonov.

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