KAMAZ has reclaimed the mantle of the world’s best truck-racing team…

No team has dominated off-road truck races like the famed Dakar Rally more than KAMAZ. The Russian squad has won seven of the last nine runs of the roughly 5,500-mile Dakar, and its trucks finished first and second in the most recent event.

The winning team of Eduard Nikolaev, Evgeny Yakovlev and Vladimir Rybakov finished the 12 stages of the 2017 race in less than 28 hours, obliterating the competition and reclaiming the title from the Iveco team, who displaced the Russians in the 2016 race. The team’s current racing model, the KAMAZ-4326, is a behemoth, tipping the scales at a gross weight of more than 9,980kg when fully loaded. It can cross inhospitable terrain at speeds of up to 160km/h thanks to its 13-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged Cummins diesel engine, which produces 980 horsepower at a mere 2,400 rpm.

The KAMAZ-4326 can summon an absurd 4,300 newton metres of torque to get the truck moving, and with a 16-speed gearbox, it can reach high speeds as easily as it tackles low-speed obstacles and elevation changes. KAMAZ’s parabolic leaf-spring, gas-charged shock absorbers help soften the impact of landing an 10-tonne truck after launching it off sand dunes. Crew seats are designed to absorb what would otherwise be bone-shattering landings. New regulations are being introduced for the 2018 Dakar Rally, so the KAMAZ-Master team continues to develop and refine its trucks. While the team’s entries are commonly seen in the red, blue, and yellow livery colours of sponsor Red Bull, its next rally-winning truck might have a sleeker appearance.

The KAMAZ-43509, decked out here in a monochromatic “stealth” paint job, features a full bonnet (hood), with the engine located in front of the cab. It’s a design concept with which other teams have had success, and KAMAZ is giving it a full evaluation. The team has yet to decide if it will replace its tried-and-tested platform. The Russians’ criterion is simple: Dominate or forget it.

By Keith Gordon

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The Wombats

Nick Cody