KAMAZ - dominant trucking force at Dakar Rally
From time to time, some vehicle manufacturers are dominating in premier racing competitions, such Audi or Porsche in the sports car racing, Ferrari or Mercedes in Formula 1 etc. When talking about Dakar Rally, there were periods of dominance and consecutive triumphs for Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Mini, Citroen or Peugeot, but the most dominant and the longest ruling manufacturer comes from ex-Soviet Union.
It’s the KAMAZ, or Kamsky Avtomobilny Zavod, the Russian truck manufacturer which recorded fifteen wins at Dakar Rally between 1996 and 2018. KAMAZ made a debut at Dakar Rally in 1990.
Producing trucks since 1976
KAMAZ is a relatively young company founded in 1969, in Naberezhnye Chelny in the Russian republic of Tatarstan.
The first truck rolled out of the factory in 1976. Over the course of many years, KAMAZ has proven to be the maker of durable, almost omnipotent heavy duty trucks used in all terrains, from the Siberian taigas to the deserts of North Africa and the unforgiving mountain roads of South American Andes.
Video : KAMAZ Red Bull trucks at the 2014 Dakar Rally
Owned by the government of Russia
If you’ve ever seen KAMAZ trucks in actions, you have probably seen them winning in impossible, yet everyday situations, most notably crossing fast river streams. The robust and powerful trucks impress everyone with their strong performance at rough terrains, but also with speed. As proper racing vehicles, their maximum speed exceeds 160 km/h.
Today, KAMAZ is jointly owned by the Russian government, Daimler, Troika Dialog and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Until today, more than three million KAMAZ trucks were made.
The most dominant truck manufacturer at Dakar Rally
KAMAZ is probably the best known as a fifteen-time Dakar winner between 1996 and 2018. The Russian manufacturer made its Dakar Rally debut in 1990, waiting for the first win in 1996. The driver of the victorious truck was Viktor Moskovskikh. The second victory came in 2000 and it was the first win of Vladimir Chagin, who later added six more wins and became known as The Tsar of Dakar.
The longest winning streak for KAMAZ was between 2002 and 2006 with five consecutive wins. KAMAZ then captured three consecutive wins between 2009 and 2011 when Dakar Rally had been moved to South America. Three more wins followed between 2013 and 2015. The final victory (so far) was captured by Eduard Nikolaev and his crew in 2017.
Fantastic winning ratio of Kamaz trucks
KAMAZ was also present in the top three in almost every year of Dakar Rally since its first win. Since its debut in 1990, KAMAZ was running its trucks 27 times at Dakar Rally, so fourteen wins means that Russians had a winning ratio bigger than 50 percent.
Three of its most dominant wins were in 2010 when KAMAZ had won all 14 stages, and in 2013 and 2015, when their trucks achieved the 1-2-3 victory. Since 2009, KAMAZ partnered with Red Bull, becoming a part of the biggest extreme family in the world.
A dream team of Tatarstan’s drivers
The first win came in 1996 with Tatarstan’s driver Viktor Moskovskih, who was also the winner of the 1995 Paris-Peking Rally. The next series of wins was scored by the same driver, Vladimir Chagin, who has earned the nickname The Tsar of Dakar since he has been the most successful single category Dakar driver of all time.
Six drivers collected fourteen wins
His first win came in 2000 followed by a streak from 2002 to 2004. In 2005, the win went to Firdaus Kabirov, a new generation of KAMAZ Dakar drivers, but Chagin returned to the throne in 2006. Kabirov was the 2009 winner again, with Chagin on the top of the podium in 2010 and 2011.
Eduard Nikolaev conquered Dakar in 2013, and Andrey Karginov was the first one to cross the finish line in 2014. A 1-2-3 victory in 2015 was completed by Ayrat Mardeev, Eduard Nikolaev and Andrey Karginov.
Two consecutive wins for Nikolaev in 2017 and 2018
For the 2016 Dakar Rally, KAMAZ was preparing an all-new long-bonnet Master truck, but it wasn’t ready for the competition and the team entered the race with old trucks. They lost the first place to Iveco and Gerard de Rooy. Eduard Nikolaev finished in second place.
The new truck had no chance to compete at Dakar Rally as Russian team continued to use short truck, returning to the top in 2017 when Eduard Nikolaev scored his second victory, ahead of another Kamaz crew and MAN’s Gerard de Rooy. Nikolaev was the winning driver again in 2018, scoring 15th victory for Kamaz.