MINSK, 3 December (BelTA) – The decision of the Dakar Rally 2022 organizers to remove the MAZ-SPORTauto team from the list of participants proves that sport and politics do mix, pilot and leader of the team Siarhei Vyazovich told reporters, BelTA has learned.
“Sport and politics do mix. The organizers of the race were pressured into making such a decision. When we crossed the Polish border, the Dakar organizers received a warning that the Belarusian team was on their way and this could cause certain problems. After that, ASO applied to the French customs service for explanations and received an answer that our equipment could not be allowed into the port and could be arrested. If it is loaded onto a ferry, it will not leave the port. After that, we turned around and arrived in Minsk on 26 November,” Siarhei Vyazovich said.
When asked, if the team considered performing under the banners other than those of Minsk Automobile Plant, the leader of the MAZ-SPORTauto team answered that it was unacceptable. “It is extremely important for us to keep our logo. People are entitled to their opinion regarding the team. I will speak for myself. I have been working at MAZ since 2003. There was a short break from 2009 to 2012. The plant has been through different times. I achieved results as an athlete being part of the MAZ-SPORTauto team, driving trucks of this brand. I am not ready to compromise my integrity for the sake of someone's ego. I consider this a humiliation of athletes, engineers," he said.
Siarhei Vyazovich also said that the admission fee, which is hundreds of thousands of euros, has been frozen, despite the fact that it has been paid by the Belarusian Automobile Federation and passed all stages of approval. "The whole situation is absurd. They take away the flag, then the anthem. Now they are trying to seize the vehicles. This does no good to international sport and, in my opinion, resorting to coercion to solve these issues is unacceptable. We are outraged by the situation. The team is ready to perform at Dakar. No matter what, we will continue to work and represent the interests of motor sports outside the Republic of Belarus at the highest level," the leader of the team said. In November, the MAZ-SPORTauto team completed the preparations for the Dakar Rally 2022 due in Saudi Arabia on 2-14 January 2022.
The MAZ team was actively preparing for the upcoming event after winning silver at the Silk Way Rally 2021 in Russia.
In late November, the management of the rally - the French company ASO notified MAZ-SPORTauto that the team could not load its equipment on the ferry and participate in the Dakar 2022. On 28 November, the rally organizers held a press conference, after which Siarhei Vyazovich, Aliaksei Vishneuski and Aleksandr Vasilevski's crews were excluded from the list of participants. Meanwhile, the Belarusian pilots have been included in the FIA 2022 priority list this year.
On 1 December, the team and the Belarusian Automobile Federation received an official response to their request to explain the reason for the exclusion from the race. The rally organizers said that the MAZ-SPORTauto team was not able to take part due to the EU regulation, which states that “no funds or economic resources may be directly or indirectly available to natural or legal persons, organizations or corporations that are on the list of persons and organizations subject to restrictive measures”, which includes Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ).