Russian Despatches: The crazy drivers


Russian dispatches: The crazy drivers

If you've visited YouTube and searched for car related content recently, chances are you'd have stumbled upon a Russian driver doing something seriously stupid.

Well, today I've been experiencing the country's crazy roads for myself – and can report everything you've seen on the Internet is entirely correct.

I'm currently somewhere on the road in deepest, darkest Siberia, not far from the Chinese border, driving nearly 1,400 miles in Mazda's new 3 hatchback.

The car firm is driving eight of them straight off the production line from its factory in Hiroshima some 15,000km to the Frankfurt Motor Show – we've been lucky enough to be invited along to drive a leg of the route.

This morning we left Blagoveshensk, a small town where only a river separates Russia from China, and have travelled around 400 miles to our first stop over in Skovorodino.

So far we've encountered suicidal lorry drivers, wild dogs with death wishes (I'm starting to understand why) and potholes that would swallow a VW Up.

If this trip has taught me anything so far it's that when we think we've got a problem with potholes in the UK we're wrong. Ours are like pin pricks in comparison to the concrete chasms the Russians have to deal with.

So far we've seen eight cars changing wheels at the side of the road – and that doesn't include one of our Mazdas – taken out by a nasty cave in the tarmac. Some of the holes are so big you'd lose small children down them and there are even ramps at the side of the road for motorists to drive up and check their cars for damage.

Russian Despatches: The crazy drivers

Russian Despatches: The crazy drivers

You may have noticed that whenever AOL Cars publishes a video of a mad driver nearly killing himself / others / cows it's from Russia – and when you spend even a few hours on the roads you can see why. Red lights are mere suggestions to slow down while the bigger your car the more you can bully other road users into submission.

The locals have some strange habits when it comes to car decoration too – we've seen one covered in masking tape (possibly holding it together), one with curtains in every window including the driver's (he made turns with divine intervention), and one with fluorescent flowers taped across its bonnet.

We've driven hundreds of miles so far through some of the most barren landscape I've ever encountered. It seems to be punctuated with Russians selling different wares at the side of the road including fruit, weird leaves and bottles of yellow liquid. I have a feeling the man selling the latter wouldn't be as successful on the M6...

As well as the strange experiences, this adventure is also gifting me a lot of time with Mazda's latest creation. The 3 is a vital car for the manufacturer and it says a lot about its confidence that it's letting a host of car hacks drive the very first models off the production line on such a punishing journey.

First impressions of the car are very good. It debuts a unique look for this sector with a long nose and sharp lines while the interior is very impressive too. The multimedia system is brilliant, the gearbox excellent and the steering sharp, but the ride has been a little hard, though so to would a bus's on these 'roads'.

I'll report back with fuller thoughts of the car over the next few days, as now it's time to get some rest ahead of another challenging few hundred miles tomorrow.