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GP Week : Issue 41
What were you doing when you were 18 years old? Probably not competing at rallying’s highest level, like Evgeny Novikov. MARTIN HOLMES reports T looked like the Christmas present to end them all. December 25, 2005 was the date of the Vyatka Rally, one of Russia’s second level regional rallies. After being allowed to drive the stages on other rallies in a Zero car, Evgeniy Novikov finally got his first taste of competing as a driver. “I had just turned 15 years old – in fact it was the opening round of the regional Russia Cup series, in what we called the 2006 season. “I was driving a Mitsubishi and I was in line to finish second behind my father. He knew that I was taking the season seriously and he let me beat him to the finish, so I won my very first event! I eventually I went on to win the series.” The minimum age to drive on the roads in Russia is 18 (with some restrictions, 16) but special permission was available on rallies if the co-driver drove the road sections. “It was only in 2008 that I was finally allowed to drive on the roads in my country. The first time I did this on a rally was on the final event in the Russian championship, the Rally Russia event at Novorossysk.” Because of his previous karting career, foreign travel was already a normal experience for Evgeniy, but rallying abroad was new. Wales Rally GB 2007 was Evgeniy’s first World Championship rally. All was going very well. Starting the final day, he was competitive with the PCWRC points-scoring drivers notwithstanding running far behind them at number 80, but then he went off the road three stages before the end. He entered the FIA’s 2008 World Championship I my rear view mirror enough!” Alexey Schukin became Production Car series. He was going to be only 17 years-old for most of the season, but there were to be no licence problems for him in Argentina, Greece and Turkey and thereafter he would be 18. In New Zealand the minimum driving age is 16, but he still had to obtain a local licence. Japan required him to take a driving test. “I passed the theory test first time, but I had to retake the practical test. My examiner made some comment about driving sideways too much, but failed me because I did not use actively involved in Evgeniy’s rallying activities around the middle of 2006. His father, Maxim, had been looking for a manager for his son’s future motorsport activities. Maxim wanted to develop Evgeniy up to international level in one way or another. Alexey: “It was a big dilemma. The option was to be involved in the whole Formula 1 process, or to become involved in rallying. Evgeniy was given three months to decide. He had been quite successful in karting so Maxim’s first thought was Formula 1, but in the end Evgeniy decided that his future lay in rallying. “The project was to help Evgeniy develop his skills 38