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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Room for Adventurers on the Murmansk-Vladivostok Expedition Trophy
John Bonar

Its billed as the ultimate challenge for man and machine. Up to 70 three-man crews, each including one woman, have to travel 16,000 kms in a 4x4 vehicle in 14 days from Murmansk, within the Arctic circle, to Vladivostok, on the Pacific Ocean. The winning 3-man team will share a prize of 10 kgs of pure gold, worth approximately $170,000.

It takes place at the tail end of Russias winter, when temperatures along the route are expected to drop to minus 40 Celsius.

It is the 2nd Expedition Trophy competition, the longest winter land race in the world The 2005 race set five world records. The 2006 race will start on February 23rd and end in Vladivostok on March 8th.

The organisers are keen for more foreigners to enter either as private teams or corporate teams.

In the last race we had teams including members from the USA, Germany, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Serbia, Race Commandant, Camel Trophy veteran, Alexander Davydov, told Passport. But they were all of Russian origin. Id like to see more western foreigners taking part. Its a fantastic challenge.

It also comes with what many would consider a fantastic entry fee.

Unless you won a free place in the race from winning a preliminary round on all-terrain quad bikes which ended on November 8th, you will have to pay your way. Using your own vehicle, the entry fee is $40,000 per team, and if you opt to use a vehicle provided by the organisers, then the fee doubles.

This includes official race jackets; insurance; emergency rescue support, including helicopter medevac if necessary; loan of GPS equipment; and the use of a digital camera to photograph 1,500 designated places of interest along the way.

A unique experience travelling through some of the wildest snow and ice covered terrain possible, contestants will scale the Ural Mountains dividing Europe and Asia, negotiate frightening ice boulders, transverse Siberia and enjoy races over ice on Lake Baikal, the biggest, deepest lake in the world.

Success will demand the ultimate in team spirit in meeting the physical, mental and emotional challenges of a punishing pace, harsh terrain and sub zero temperatures throughout.

Good driving skills, orienteering and navigational abilities will all be tested to the full. The race is as much about brains as brawn however, and there are many adventure tasks set as part of the competition.

In the first Expedition Trophy, special tasks included avoiding penalty zones, delineated by GPS coordinates; collecting signatures from selected people in a regional city, and photographing the team and vehicle with obscure, and sometimes completely hidden landmarks.

Among some of the ruses and ingenious solutions devised by teams in the first Expedition Trophy were:

  • Staying stock still for two hours at the beginning of a stage, working out exactly the best route to follow. They won the stage.
  • Parking the vehicles, with most of the crew, on the outskirts of a city, while team leaders with taxis waiting, received the briefing for the stage.
  • Strapping snow-skis to the front wheels of the second vehicle in a towing race, over ice.
  • Parking their vehicle and hiring a local taxi driver to find the people whose signatures they required.

Among the disasters suffered by some contestants were:

  • The complete shredding of all four tyres on razor-sharp ice boulders.
  • A punctured fuel tank
  • 4x4 vehicles flipping over, seriously denting its roof, destroying its back bumper and lights

Throughout the competition from the beginning of the second stage, teams have to link up so they are travelling in two-car formations. At the end of each stage some teams will be eliminated. The crews must then re-group to continue with another.

In addition to the race prize of 10 kgs of gold, two other prizes are on offer the Trophy Spirit Cup, which will go to the crew displaying the best spirit of the competition as voted by all crews finishing the race in Vladivostok, and a Culture Navigation prize. This is for the crew collecting the most photographs of their car and team of these elusive landmarks and places of interest. Even those crews eliminated in the progressive stage of the race may choose to continue with the caravan and take part in this competition.

Spectators will have a chance to see the race as it progresses through St Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok.

Contact: For details on joining the 2006 Expedition Trophy adventure, phone: (095) 788 96 91

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