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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 15:19 GMT
Russian winter rally sets record
The finishing line in Vladivostok
Participants had to negotiate huge distances over ice and gravel
Rally drivers in Russia have made history by completing a two-week dash across the country from west to east.

The Murmansk-Vladivostok Expedition Trophy race, featuring 36 teams of two cars, broke the record for the longest winter rally in a single country.

The first prize, 10 kg (22lb) of gold, was won by the Moscow Sea Wolves team.

The race follows the opening last year of the 12,000-km (7,456-mile) trans-Siberian highway - the longest road in a single country.

The 36 teams - each consisting of two cars - set off from Russia's north-western port of Murmansk on 23 February, negotiating thousands of kilometres of little more than gravel and ice on their way to Vladivostok.

They competed over seven stages, with several losers eliminated at the end of each stage.

Only seven teams were left for the final, far-eastern leg from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok.

Special train

The contestants ranged from amateurs to corporate-backed teams from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Germany and the US.

They set off on 23 February, Army Day in Russia, also unofficially regarded as men's day.

They arrived on International Women's Day, celebrated in former Soviet countries as a public holiday.

According to the rules of the rally, each team had to have at least one female member.

A special train - with reporters and celebrities - accompanied the rally, as well as Emergency Ministry vehicles.

The length of the route far exceeded the 7,821-km Trans-Canada Highway and the 3,862-km Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in the US.

But rival organisers are planning a Vladivostok-Novosibirsk-Moscow-Vladivostok race later this year.

Drivers will be expected to start and finish the 20,000-km round trip in their home cities.


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