Team Kamaz withdraws from Transoriental after French racer death

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MOSCOW, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Crews of all three Russian Team Kamaz trucks withdrew on Thursday from the Transoriental Rally event due to the death of a French racer earlier in the week.

French motorcyclist Philippe Tonin was killed on Tuesday after his KTM bike was hit by a Kamaz truck, piloted by five times Dakar Rally Champion Vladimir Chagin of Russia, on the sixth stage of the 17-day rally marathon between Qaratubak and Torgai in Kazakhstan.

The team made the decision to withdraw from the race even though earlier in the day a special commission set up to investigate into the tragic death of Tonin had ruled that Chagin and his crew were not to blame for the incident.

"Although he was not blamed, Vladimir Chagin believes that due to ethical reasons he has no right to carry on with the race because, indirectly, he feels a sense of guilt for the death of Tonin," Semyon Yakubov, the head of the Kamaz team, said.

According to the investigation, Chagin's Kamaz caught up with the French racer, who ignored signals given by Chagin that he intended to pass him. The track was turning left and the Russian decided to pass the motorcyclist on the right and later return to the track, but Tonin all of a sudden also veered right.

The team also said in a statement that it viewed the death as a tragedy - the first in the team's 20-year history of participation in various rally events. Chagin and the whole team expressed their condolences to Tonin's relatives and friends.

The Transoriental Rally event began on June 12 in Russia's St. Petersburg and is scheduled to finish on June 28 in China's Beijing. In all, 300 racers from 25 countries are taking part in the event.

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