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Picture story: The Soviet race team Putin would have been proud of... then had killed

Published: 28 July 2015

Updated: 17 September 2015

This is a picture of Estonian racer Endel Kiisa of the so-called 'Vostok' team (actually the state-sponsored Soviet team – Vostok translates literally as 'East'), at the Austrian Grand Prix of 1965. Endel is riding a Vostok S-364, a four-cylinder 349cc machine for which a Putin-esque claim of 59bhp at 13,000rpm was made, and a 143mph top speed.

The Soviets had built a series of DKW-clone racers in the forties but by the advent of the S-364 (their first four-cylinder) were producing wholly Russian machines. Kiisa finished third behind the Hondas of Jim Redman and Bruce Beale in the Finnish GP of '64, and had led the majority of the Austrian GP of 1965 when he crashed less than a mile from the finish.

In spite of team mate Nikolai Sevostianov claiming a podium in Czechoslovakia later in the season, the superiority-demanding Soviets lost patience and pulled the plug on the team's intermittent GP appearances at season's end. They returned with a new bike – the 80bhp, 494cc S-565 – for a single race in each of '68 and '69, but again the funding was cut, this time after a fourth and tenth placing. The Soviets never returned to the world championship stage.

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