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Automotive Section July 26, 2001
 
eXile Zap Rally - Full Steam Ahead
By Matt Taibbi Browse author
 
 
Map of the Rally

There have been many questions... yes, many questions about the upcoming eXile/Stringer Zaporozhets road rally. I myself have received about a dozen letters from would-be participants who wanted more information about the race, and how to enter it. For reasons I would rather not discuss here -- reasons that have nothing at all to do with pharmaceuticals -- I have been unable to answer most of these questions in the last few weeks.

Yesterday, though, I went to Arzamas to inspect the start site, and I have more details of the race to share. I'll address each issue separately:

CARS
ZAZ-965

When we made our first announcement about the race, we had a small stable of Zaporozhtsi in Arzamas that we were prepared to issue to sponsors for a fee. We found those sponsors fairly quickly, which means we now have no more Zaporozhtsi to offer, for any amount of money. In fact, we have nearly exhausted the supply of driveable Zaporozhtsi in Arzamas, which means that any other entrants will probably have to bring cars from another city.

As concerns those other entrants, here's the deal. Anyone with a functioning Zaporozhets (remember, we're restricting the race to the older "gorbaty" model) can enter the race. There is only one restriction, and that is a $100 entrance fee. Now, originally there was no fee, and we apologize for not making that clear from the start. But necessity has forced our hand. What the fee pays for is basically technical support. We've hired a chase truck that will be carrying mechanics, spare parts, even two spare Zap engines. Anyone who breaks down during the race will be helped back on the road, guaranteed, assuming the problem is not catastrophic, like the simultaneous loss of all four wheels (a phenomenon, incidentally, which is apparently not uncommon in this model). It took some funds to put this together on our end, so we need to charge the fee to recover some of our costs.

Otherwise, the original deal stands. If you make it to Arzamas for the 11:00 a.m. start time on August 18, you're in. You're welcome to decorate your car any way you like.
SCHEDULE

A normal car can make it from Arzamas to Moscow in about a half day. For a column of Zaps, we're conservatively estimating two days of travel. The start, again, is at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 18, at the Lenin statue in the center of town. There will be a press conference, a musical overture, and a brief lecture on personal hygiene before the start.

From Arzamas we will travel -- with a GAI escort -- to Nizhni Novgorod. We estimate our arrival there at 14:30. In Nizhni we will hold the first of several "mitingi" -- the theme has yet to be decided upon. After about an hour pause in Nizhni, the Zaps will roll again -- this time in the direction of Vladimir.

Before reaching Vladimir, the column will pull over to the side of the road at a pre-chosen site to get drunk for the night. The drinking will be extremely heavy and we advise those who are considering entering the race to be very sure of their stamina before they commit themselves to this endeavor. Racers are allowed to bring tents, but it is our hope -- and expectation -- that everybody involved will be drunk enough to sleep in their cars, no matter how small they might be.

A note about Zaps. I drove the eXile car yesterday for the first time and can report a little about the experience. There is plenty of leg room forward; it's the horizontal legroom that's the bigger issue. Nonetheless, I drove the car comfortably at 6'2". As for the actual drive, the Zap ride is exactly what you'd expect from a car that weighs 600 kilograms -- it drives like a souped-up go-cart. The vehicle is relatively indifferent to the surface underneath it -- it drives on and off-road practically without noticing.


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