In a country where the truck is king, Eduard Nikolev appears to be the new man to beat. But at Kamas, the truck is still king, not the driver. Nikolev was the designated successor to Vladimir Chagrin when he won in 2013, but ceded his place last year to team mate Andrey Karginov. After being trained alongside the legend as a mechanic (2nd in 2007 with Mardeev, 1st in 2010 with Chagin), the native of Naberezhnye Chelny took a very promising 3rd while his elders were still in the hunt. Excluded from the 2012 rally at the conclusion of stage five after having hit a car, he managed to bounce back with the maturity of an old and wily fox to get the better of Gerard De Rooy and put Kamaz back on top of the Dakar podium. On that day, the tears of joy at the finish in Santiago bore witness to the difficulty of having to carry the hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders. During the last Dakar, he had to settle for 3rd place after struggling at the start of the rally. He now dreams of winning again in the company of his regular navigator Evgeny Yakovlev and a mechanic making his Dakar debut, Ruslan Akhmadeev.
E.N.: “We have prepared all-year because the Dakar is our only objective. The Dakar is for us what the Olympic Games are for other athletes. On such a rally, we try to think of our loved ones, our origins, why we were chosen and obviously our objective. We are very aware. There are times when we are tired and have to dig deep and attack to find that extra little something. What helps me is a stuffed animal that the Yakubov family (Kamaz boss) gave me and that hangs in my cabin. When I find myself in difficult situations, I look at this stuffed animal and it's like he's here by my side to help me. It gives me a second wind. You remember this when you spend all year preparing for this race. We can't afford to give up; we have to carry on pushing to prove that Kamaz can triumph.”
2014: Zoloto Kagana (2nd) 2013: Silk Way Rally (18th) 2012 : Silk Way Rally (6th) 2012 Champion de Russie Tout-terrain 2010: 1st Silk Way Rally (driver) 2009: 4th Silk Way Rally (driver) 2007: 1er au général Challenge Astana-Route de la Soie (mécanicien Chagin)