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Two rally cars built by the X-raid team finished in the top three at the Rally Kazakhstan, round two of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. The Russian pairing of Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov were second in the MINI JCW Rally. Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist (both SWE) ended the rally in third place in their Buggy. Argentineans Sebastian Halpern and Ronnie Graue recovered from the misfortune they suffered on day one to finish 18th on their debut in the MINI JCW Buggy. Annett Fischer (GER) and Filipe Palmeiro (POR) finished in tenth position in the Maverik X3 after losing a lot of time in a collision yesterday.

Krotov and Zhiltsov impressed with a consistent performance. The MINI JCW Rally crew finished in the top five on four of the five special stages. This allowed them to take full advantage of any mistakes made by the opposition and work their way into second place in the overall standings, behind Lucio Alvarez in a Toyota.

In contrast, Ekström and Bergkvist endured an emotional rollercoaster ride: In addition to two second places, the two Swedes finished two special stages in seventh and tenth place. However, unlike many of their rivals, they avoided making any major mistakes and consequently finished third after five days of rallying.

Mattias Ekström: “We had an eventful rally. We really enjoyed the route and the countryside, and the Buggy was very good. We found a good rhythm with the navigation on stages two and five, but had our issues on the others. I am really happy with my driving, I just need to practice in the dunes.”

Unfortunately, Halpern did not get off to a good start in his first rally at the wheel of the MINI JCW Buggy. He damaged his front suspension and shock absorbers on the opening special stage. This, and a subsequent penalty, saw him drop well down the overall standings. However, he recovered to show what could have been, with eighth and third place on the following two days.

Sebastian Halpern: “I competed in Kazakhstan for several reasons: To gain experience, to get to know the buggy and to improve the teamwork with Ronnie. Everything worked great with X-raid – they are a great team and helped as much as they could. However, I take home a long list of tasks to improve my preparations for the Dakar 2022.”

The next event in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies is the Silk Way Rally (1st to 11th July 2021) in Russia and Mongolia.