Roman Rusi­nov is one of the most titled pilots in Russ­ian his­to­ry, a win­ner of many inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tions, the cov­er hero of Men’s Health, pilot and sports direc­tor of G‑Drive Rac­ing. MT met with him to dis­cuss what is hap­pen­ing in Russ­ian motor­sport while access to world are­nas is tem­porar­i­ly closed to us.

In recent years, our motorsport has been isolated, and many are worried about its fate. Let’s start with some good news for them. What events of this season help you personally believe in the best?

First­ly, this sea­son the G‑Drive Rac­ing team has trans­formed into a large-scale project aimed at devel­op­ing and pop­u­lar­iz­ing tech­ni­cal sports in Rus­sia.

This is an entire motor­sport plat­form that includes teams in endurance rac­ing, cir­cuit rac­ing, ral­lies and drift dri­vers. It’s great when you get to be part of such a big sto­ry.

The sec­ond, of course, is par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Silk Way Ral­ly. We com­pet­ed in two cars with Nastya Nifonto­va, one of the best pilots in motor­sport. This is a land­mark world-class event that invari­ably attracts a huge num­ber of spec­ta­tors. Start in Kazan, fin­ish on Red Square in Moscow. The route is five and a half thou­sand kilo­me­ters long and the orga­ni­za­tion is at the high­est lev­el.

Anoth­er event was the Garage Fest fes­ti­val, which took place on the Igo­ra Dri­ve high­way near St. Peters­burg and attract­ed 30,000 spec­ta­tors. Despite the fact that we are not cur­rent­ly com­pet­ing in world com­pe­ti­tions, we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to improve our cham­pi­onships and com­pete here. The lev­el becomes more seri­ous every year, and the com­pe­ti­tions become more inter­est­ing.

Do I understand correctly that such festivals as Garage Fest, “Autoculture” and others are family holidays, where people come, even those far from motorsport, that is, a new audience?

Cer­tain­ly. The same “24 Hours of Le Mans” is also a fam­i­ly hol­i­day, and Garage Fest is in many ways sim­i­lar to it. You have a cool rac­ing event, there is a show, there is an exhi­bi­tion of beau­ti­ful cars, lec­tures — there is some­thing for the whole fam­i­ly to do. It is very impor­tant. There every­one will find some­thing inter­est­ing for them­selves.

This year you made your debut in The Silk Road. Is this rally similar to the endurance racing you spent most of your career doing?

There are quite a lot of inter­sec­tions. The first is the fuel on which we per­form. We have been using G‑Drive since its incep­tion; the man­u­fac­tur­er uses our expe­ri­ence and feed­back to work with gaso­line. So it is now raced by par­tic­i­pants of the Silk Road, and teams of the Russ­ian Endurance Rac­ing Series, and the Russ­ian Cir­cuit Rac­ing Series. The sec­ond is that the Silk Road is a very dif­fi­cult and lengthy com­pe­ti­tion, which also requires enor­mous endurance.

The dif­fer­ence is that in a ral­ly raid it is off-road, and you will only take one route along this route, while in road rac­ing you know the route by heart and can dri­ve it even with your eyes closed.

At the 24 Hours of Le Mans you dri­ve at 100% of the car’s capa­bil­i­ties, but in a ral­ly you can’t do that because you don’t know the road.

I fin­ished sec­ond the first time. I think this is real­ly very cool.

When everything finally returns to normal, do you want to try your hand at the Dakar as well?

Every­thing is pos­si­ble, but once again I want to note that the Silk Road is not infe­ri­or to the Dakar. Nei­ther from the point of view of orga­ni­za­tion, nor from the point of view of rivals, nor from the point of view of the vari­ety of roads.

If next year we man­age to car­ry out the route also through the ter­ri­to­ry of Chi­na, it will be absolute­ly fan­tas­tic. By the way, many years ago my father was involved in orga­niz­ing the Dakar ral­ly marathon.

Nowadays you can increasingly see representatives of various types of motorsport trying themselves in new disciplines. For example, you took part in the Silk Road, and KAMAZ-master pilots took part in the RDS drift series. Does this mean that, having found themselves in isolation, Russian riders and teams have united more closely?

In fact, this has hap­pened before. Sport unites, every­one is friends with each oth­er. We are rivals on the track, but we are also good friends. Now every­one has unit­ed even more, because we have a com­mon goal — to devel­op motor­sport in the coun­try. I think he is grow­ing real­ly well.

G‑Drive Racing always has a strong lineup of drivers. How is the selection going?

As a team man­ag­er, I always know which of the very tal­ent­ed pilots are cur­rent­ly not in demand for one rea­son or anoth­er.

For exam­ple, I have always said that Nyck de Vries is a For­mu­la 1‑level dri­ver. When we took him to G‑Drive Rac­ing, he had just won For­mu­la 2, but there was no place for him in For­mu­la 1. I under­stood that he need­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to prove him­self, and this would cer­tain­ly give results.

It has always been impor­tant for me to show, first of all, to the rac­ers them­selves that they are top pilots.

For exam­ple, I nev­er installed new tires for myself, but left them for the guys. This faith helped them open up, do their work 100%, and achieve suc­cess even in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions.

As a result, for all the guys I took into the team, G‑Drive Rac­ing became a spring­board to suc­cess. They won with us, and then won oth­er cham­pi­onships. Rene Rast, Nick de Vries, Sam Bird, Jean-Eric Vergne — the list goes on and on.

At the same time, I am very demand­ing — towards engi­neers, rac­ers, mechan­ics. I don’t for­give anyone’s mis­takes, includ­ing myself. The best work for us. This is why we have become the most suc­cess­ful team in the his­to­ry of endurance rac­ing.

At the same time, you attract not only experienced specialists to your team, but also young people — Polytechnic students.

This is a very cool project, which is also part of the G‑Drive Rac­ing motor­sport plat­form. Stu­dents of the Moscow Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty do not just under­go an intern­ship, they find them­selves in a real rac­ing team, work, and receive a salary.

And the best ones stay with us. I am sure that this project has great prospects.

Traditionally, a lot of things are transferred to civilian cars from motorsport, but now it is clearly clear that the automotive world has set a course for the development of electric engines. Does this mean that the era of internal combustion engines will end in motorsport?

In my under­stand­ing, emo­tions in motor­sport are asso­ci­at­ed specif­i­cal­ly with the inter­nal com­bus­tion engine. If we take the top car brands now, they are still mak­ing V12 engines, so the era of the inter­nal com­bus­tion engine is not end­ing. Unless hybrid tech­nolo­gies are active­ly used.

What do you personally expect from the next season?

For now, I can say one thing — we have a clear under­stand­ing of how we can make every­thing even cool­er. So stay tuned for news from us.