A Half a Million Dollar Hobby
“Riding a motorcycle is a kind of harmony. I consider it a meditation.” Not the words one would expect to come from the owner and chairman of one of Russia’s largest insurance companies, National Insurance Group; but then Vladimir Trushchenkov is no ordinary man. Not content with being a successful businessman, he also enjoys snowboarding, windsurfing, trekking, and meditating in monasteries in Kathmandu. In 2004 he added a motorcycle racing team, Vector Racing, to his many interests.
There is no real history of motorcycle racing in Russia, and therefore there are no purpose-built racetracks – a severe handicap to the sport resulting in it being run at an amateur level, with only four or five official teams participating in the Russian National Championship. For the teams, the amateur level of the championship means a lack of sponsorship. “We get discounts on tyres and oils; but I personally sponsor the team”, Vladimir says. “It is quite expensive to spend over half a million dollars on a hobby”, he adds with a playful smile.
The championship starts at the end of May and finishes in September, and is held at old aerodromes in Moscow and in a stadium in St Petersburg. Things, however, are soon to change: “As I understand it”, says Vladimir, “the government has approved the idea to build a racetrack. I think that in two to three years we’ll have two or three racetracks – real racetracks, where we can train and have a higher level championship than now. There is a plot of approximately 50 hectares in Moscow where I think the first racetrack will be.”
Vector Racing consists of a team of twelve people, five of whom are riders (including the 46 year-old Vladimir) racing Yamaha R1’s (1000cc) and R6’s (600cc). Last year they won the Russian National Championship and are currently leading this year’s championship. In their last race they achieved a clean sweep – first, second and third.
Although Vladimir describes his team as a hobby, he obviously is both professional and ambitious. “During the winter we practice using motocross and mini-bikes. We start our season in March in Spain to be well prepared for the first race at the end of May.” This professionalism is now crucial for Vector Racing, because they became Russia’s first international motorcycle team earlier this year when they entered the IDM, the International German Championship. The team, and especially their star rider, 22 year-old Vladimir Ivanov, have received a lot of attention from the Germans. “Vladimir Ivanov was ninth on the grid at the last race in Germany. Among thirty-one riders this is very good, because this is his first season there and he improves his times at each race. Next season we want to be on the podium.”
Vector Racing seems to be perfectly placed to become Russia’s foremost motorcycle racing team when the sport finally receives its much-needed racetracks. At the moment the spectator numbers average 3000, but the sport’s popularity is increasing all the time. Once the television and sponsorship deals roll in; and perhaps when teams are bought and sold like football teams; it is certainly not inconceivable that Russian teams can compete at the highest levels.
“The aim of this team is to be first”, Vladimir says. “Our strategy is to participate in World Supersport next, and then go to Moto GP.” From the head of an insurance company, that sounds like a sure thing.
You can see the Vector Team on the following dates:
6-7 August: Russian championship 4-th round, St Petersburg
2-3 September: Russian championship 5-th round, Moscow, Myachkovo
For more information (in Russian) go to www.vector-racing.ru