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Meeting with KAMAZ-Master team

January 30, 2014, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

Vladimir Putin met with members of the KAMAZ-Master team – gold and bronze medal winners of the 2014 Dakar Rally.

The Russian team won the annual Dakar truck marathon rally for the twelfth time.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,

I am very pleased to note that our meetings after your victory at the rally are becoming a tradition.

I do not think it is fair that our media have not been paying enough attention to your victories, both in the past and this year. However, this does not make them any less impressive and important, not to mention the fact that they demonstrate the quality of the KAMAZ plant itself. It is largely through your efforts and your victories that the KAMAZ trademark is growing in popularity around the world. The company if increasingly becoming a major player, which confirms the high level of the plant and its products.

However, this is about sport, and a very tough one too; it is amazing that you manage to win this crucial and fascinating competition year after year.

I know that your team has practically seen a change in generations over these past years and now it has many young members who have just begun their professional careers; however, the team has shown hugely impressive results. What’s more, in the course of the race you not only demonstrated your skills, persistence and self-possession, but conducted yourself with honour by helping your competitors, the Chinese team, I believe.

I would like to congratulate you on your victory. This will not be a long meeting, but I wanted to see you, to shake your hands and thank you for this victory.

Kamaz-Master Team Leader Vladimir Chagin: Thank you, Mr President, for your kind words and congratulations. This year the Dakar Rally was truly very difficult. It was the longest route in ten years, with mountains, many sand dunes and rocks. This year it was special for us to take part in it, because the Dakar Rally was the first sports event in the year when the Olympic Games are to be held in our country. It was very important that Russian athletes start it off successfully.

Before flying to South America we met at the Olympic Committee, and Mr Zhukov [President of the Russian Olympic Committee] wished us all success and reminded us how important it was to do everything possible to set the tone for success, for the victory of Russian athletes.

Vladimir Putin: It’s a good start.

”It is largely through your efforts and your victories that the KAMAZ trademark is growing in popularity around the world. The company if increasingly becoming a major player, which confirms the high level of the plant and its products.“

Vladimir Chagin: We did our best. Our performance in the first two-thirds of the rally didn’t give us any hope of wining any medals. It seemed like the Dakar trophy would not be ours this year. But we’ve done it. Some three to four days before the end of the rally, we were almost 40 minutes behind the leader. The Dutch team was leading, but it was our Russian character that helped us mobilise the team to do the impossible: to snatch the Golden Bedouin away from them.

Vladimir Putin: You also got the fourth prize, didn’t you?

Vladimir Chagin: A total of 70 trucks took part in the race. Four of the first five to finish were KAMAZ trucks, which came in first, third, fourth and fifth.

Vladimir Putin: This is just great.

Vladimir Chagin: Every Dakar Rally is different. This year the special final section of the rally kept us all tense to the very end, the team and all our fans. There were such emotions everywhere: on the internet and on TV screens.

I’m sure you know about the special final section: we made it to the second position, and then we finally did it – justice prevailed. The Chinese team’s truck overturned in this 157-kilometere section. The Dutch team, headed by Gerard de Rooy, which was coming in first, passed by them. But our guys saw the truck lying on its side, and they pulled over, did the right thing and put the truck back on its wheels. Gerard de Rooy drove practically over the wheels of the truck that was lying on its side (the path was very narrow). Everyone saw it on TV.

Our guys did the right and honourable thing. Of course, there was the risk that the organisers would not take the lost time into account – that was for them to decide. However, we are happy that they decided in our favour and we brought back the Golden Bedouin for the 12th time.

Vladimir Putin: My congratulations, once again.

What was your impression?

Kamaz-Master Team Founder Semyon Yakubov: This was probably the most exciting Dakar Rally in all these years. The team showed great courage. The situation was clearly not an easy one. They managed to get the trophy in such a tough competition with a team that probably exceeds our young drivers in certain aspects.

You should have seen how amazed our rivals were when they realised they had lost not because of some accident or technical problems, but because they could beat their speed. Our guys are faster: we have taught them well and they are continuing our tradition successfully.

Vladimir Chagin: As you may remember, we did not win a single prize in 2012; that was the first Dakar rally for our young team members. But they are very talented and dedicated, which is very important in sports, and they have managed to regain the Dakar trophy.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Kogogin, what new and interesting product is KAMAZ bringing out this year?

Kamaz CEO Sergei Kogogin: Mr President, we had to bring victory to our country this year, and we did. This was not easy. Vladimir Chagin and I stayed in touch every day, several times a day, and I got all the latest news from the Internet and his emails. This was of course a very exciting event to start the year with. Now the job is done.

The other thing I would like to draw your attention to is that the rally is also a testing range for us. This year we could not use our old trucks, so the team had to redesign and manufacture new ones with quite a large number of innovations. First, the engine. We had to change it to meet environmental standards, but next year we will not be able to use it again as we need smaller capacity.

We initially thought it would be impossible to create a new engine within a year, but we did it: Pyotr drove the truck with the new engine and he came in third. We altered the suspension and we seriously worked on the weight of the truck.

What’s important is that the innovations we used on the sports trucks (and this is the best kind of testing range – 10 thousand kilometres and all sorts of obstacles: mountains, sands, no roads) we introduce first of all in military vehicles, the Typhoon series. We are already installing elements of the new suspension that we used on the sports trucks on military trucks.

Vladimir Putin: Is this for the Defence Ministry?

Sergei Kogogin: Yes, it is.

Vladimir Chagin: We also have a new cooling system and many other innovations.

Sergei Kogogin: Of course, there was that incident on the last leg of the rally when our guys helped the Chinese team. It was not clear whether the time spent there would be taken into account – and they had the courage to do what they felt they had to. We are very proud of them; this is like a hymn to our Russian approach to such things. I was very happy. I saw it with my own eyes, because all the photos were in the media right away.

I am proud of our team, they are good athletes, not only fast and brave, but also honourable.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Minnikhanov, it is a good thing you supported the KAMAZ plant when it was going through hard times.

Head of The Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov: Thank you very much, because this was possible thanks to your support during the economic crisis and again just recently, when we were discussing the future strategy of KAMAZ and you made the right decision: KAMAZ is now a sustainable entity.

KAMAZ has a very powerful research base. Thus, the new truck that took part in the rally and turned out to be the best in the world shows that there is a huge potential. We are very proud of the team. It was an achievement of our trucks, and our engineers, and everything else.

We followed the race closely, and Mr Kogogin and I emailed each other every night to discuss how things were going. The guys did really very well, they are true heroes.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. The republic has always given special attention to KAMAZ, and we have always supported your efforts.

Congratulations once again to all of you on this victory.


January 30, 2014, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region