- Tell us, please, about your first steps in motorsport. Who led you there?
Anastasia Nifontova, For a long time I’ve been successfully participating in the cross-country rallies on a motorcycle. When I achieved everything I could in my category, there came a logical question – where to go next? So, I’ve switched to the 4WD vehicles. I had a desire to try them before, and since 2018 I’ve taken a shot at motorsports thanks to Toyota. At first it was T2 category – Baja Russia Northern Forest, then Baja Kagan’s Gold and the Silk Way Rally. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish there due to technical problems. But it was clear that I could go fast enough and that the T2 category was not what I would like to do, because this is not really a sports classification. There you need to take care of the car more than think about speed and result. Then in 2018 I liked motorsport, I realized that at some point I would like to go in this direction. I came to this little by little after the 2019 Dakar rally, and in 2020 I got a buggy…
- What are you proud of? What motorsport achievements continue to inspire you?
Anastasia Nifontova, I’m proud of I became the first girl who took part in the Dakar rally in the Original by Motul standings without the technical support and was able to reach the finish line from the very first time. I also finished at the 2017 Dakar rally at the first try. The year was very difficult then and the very participation in the race was doubtful, and the Dakar was very challenging. These are probably my greatest achievements. In addition – there was the Champion title in 2015. I also consider it as a landmark. If to speak about the motorsports, my greatest achievement is the finish at the 2021 Kagan’s Gold rally. There were many strong competitors. My pace is clear – these are the leading positions in the T3 standings. So we fought in the top three – I think it’s very good, given the fact that we have a female crew. My co-driver Ekaterina Zhadanova is also a motorcyclist – we have an interesting crew; it is both purely female and completely motorcycle!
- Have you ever participated in the Silk Way Rally? How was it? What place did you manage to take?
Anastasia Nifontova, In 2017 I drove the Silk Way Rally as a journalist. We covered the entire route from Moscow to Beijing, I had my motorcycle with me and I even managed to ride it here and there, but still it was another story. In 2018 I entered the Silk Way Rally as a competitor in the T2 category in a Toyota Land Cruiser 200. We drove with co-driver Oleg Uperenko and even led more than half of the race in our class. But unfortunately the car was old and eventually let us down. Literally two days before the finish line, the engine failed and we couldn’t reach the finish line. In 2019 the motorcycle classification appeared at the Silk Way Rally for the first time. I had been striving for it and we had been asking the organizers for it for so long! Unfortunately, the race also ended in failure. I fell very hard in Mongolia, broke my collarbone, spine and rib. Of course I had to retire, because I couldn’t ride further. It was very disappointing, because I wanted to add a finish at such a challenging event as the Silk Way Rally is to my collection.
- This year the Silk Way Rally will run along the Russia-Mongolia route (from Omsk to Ulaanbaatar). What are your expectations for the 2021 rally and how do you imagine this route?
Anastasia Nifontova, Of course, I look forward to the 2021 Silk Way Rally. In 2020 the event wasn’t held for obvious reasons, so we missed the big marathon races. It will be my first cross-country rally from Russia to Mongolia on four wheels. When I was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser 200, it was such a shortened version – Astrakhan and Astrakhan region. And now there’s a long route: from Omsk, across Russia to Mongolia. I really hope that I will be able to compete for top positions. Let’s not guess, because there will be different competitors. So far, I’ve never performed at the international events and I don’t know at what level I will compete with foreign racers. But judging by the pace that can be maintained at Russian competitions now, I understand that we will be fast enough. I really expect that there will be an interesting route, a tight and fascinating fight with rivals. And I hope that my team will prepare the car as well as for the Kagan’s Gold, that we won’t have any serious technical problems and will be able to focus only on driving, only on the result. And of course I believe that my co-driver Ekaterina Zhadanova will also work one hundred percent and we will go for the result. I’m really looking forward to this race and I really want to get to the start as soon as possible!
- What do you plan to perform in? Who are your team members? How will you prepare for the Silk Way Rally?
Anastasia Nifontova, We will be driving a T3 buggy – the same car that we prepared for the beginning of this season. We’ve already performed in it at the Baja Russia Northern Forest, at the Baja Kagan’s Gold and the Silk Way Rally will be the next race. I hope that we’ll solve all our problems by this time. I have a small team – unfortunately we are not oligarchs (laughing), we earn only by racing and sponsorship contracts. Despite the fact that there is no entry fee for all female crews for the Silk Way Rally, you still need to pay fees for participants (mechanics), vehicle, gasoline, accommodation at the start and finish – in general there are many extras. We’ve recently calculated them and got a seven-digit sum. But we are not discouraged and are trying to find opportunities for everything to happen. Therefore, we have a small team. Now we are discussing who will go to the Silk Way Rally. I think, this is a mechanic Sergey Volkov, this is Anton Gavrilov – my husband and a mechanic, and our crew. So far we have such a minimized version, but if the opportunity arises, then the driver and mechanic Sergey Morozov, and maybe someone else, can join the team. We are in the process…