On January 25-26, 2019, SMP Racing driver Vitaly Petrov took part in the first round of the Russian Rally Championship for the first time in his career.In the final classification of the rally Karelia 2019, he took the fourth place in class N4 and thirteenth place in the overall standings.
Vitaly performed with experienced co-driver Dmitry Yakovchenko, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 car, announced by SMP Racing and prepared by the PRO-Sport Rally team of the famous rally driver Andrey Zhigunov.
On the first day of the rally, Vitaly Petrov and Dmitry Yakovchenko flawlessly drove the whole distance of four special stages and came third in the N4 class standings with the amount of time shown. On Saturday, the car had to drive six special stages in quite difficult weather conditions: it was snowing during the whole day, which significantly limited visibility.
At one of the special stages, the wheel broke, and Vitaly spent a few minutes replacing it. He tried to win back the time and finished in fourth place in N4 class standings. The total time of Petrov/Yakovchenko car was 1 hour 13 minutes 55.2 seconds.
The second car, announced by SMP Racing, was the famous duet of Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov – the winners of the World Cup in rally raid. They finished in sixth place in the overall standings of the Karelia rally.
“We achieved the main goal – drove to the finish line and got acquainted with a new type of race, this was a great experience,” said Vitaly Petrov. “Everything was fine, except for the moment when during one of the special stages we had to change the front left wheel. We did not get stuck in a snowdrift by miracle and due to the fact that it was dismantled before the turn. To stay on the track, I had to pull the handbrake, and I was turned against the tack direction. Of course, it was impossible to turn around on the disk, and I decided to change the wheel. We spent a few minutes on this and then continued the race. The weather conditions were bad today, other participants also noted that it was almost impossible to drive – we could not even see 20 meters ahead. No one expected the weather to be so bad, but even so, on some special stages, we were two seconds behind the leader. I think if the conditions were better, we could finish in a higher position. I believe that our debut with Dmitry was a success. I want to thank SMP Racing for the opportunity to drive the rally, and I hope that we will not stop there and continue to participate in the Russian Rally Championship. Thanks to Vladimir Vasilyev, with whom we worked on tests, thanks to the PRO-Sport Rally team and personally to its head Andrey Zhigunov for preparing the car and professional advice.”
“Today the snow has defined the race,” said co-driver Dmitry Yakovchenko. “Frankly speaking, I have never raced in so much snow or even seen anything like that in my entire career – on the seventh special stage, there was just a wall of snow. However, Vitaly did a great job, did not make mistakes. He successfully applies his skills and experience acquired in other type of races, and imposes them on the rally, which is why he progresses very quickly. He has great attention to detail, he takes it very seriously. If something is not clear, he always asks for my advice. All in all, he exceeded my expectations”.
“The first time never goes smoothly, however, the car coped with the task,” said the head of PRO-Sport Rally Andrey Zhigunov. “They drove to the finish, the car is not broken. It is a pity, the incident with the wheel occurred. Otherwise, I think, their place in the overall standings would have been much higher. But this is motor racing, and it is an excellent result for a debut. Taking into account the fact that this is a first attempt in rally, I think Vitaly did very well.”