The all-new Mazda3s taking part in the “Mazda Route3 – Hiroshima to Frankfurt Challenger Tour 2013” have successfully put some 5,300km behind them, arriving yesterday in the central Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk safe and sound. They have now completed the first three overland stages of the 15,000km expedition right on schedule despite often treacherous roads. And the eight hatchbacks are holding up superbly, as a service check today by a local Mazda dealer confirmed.

Leg one, which started in Vladivostok and ran parallel to the Chinese border, had a definite East Asian flavour perhaps most visible in the local food and markets. Clearly one of the big highlights was crossing the famous Amur River bridge in Khabarovsk, the 3.9km long work of engineering pictured on the 5,000 rouble note. The stage ended with the convoy of Mazda3s driving into Blagoveshchensk, a city just a stone’s throw away from the Chinese metropolis of Heihe.

Leg two, which like every stage welcomed a whole new group of participants, followed alongside the Trans-Siberian Railway. The 2,300km drive included a side trip to the Ivolginsky Datsan, Russia’s most important Buddhist temple and monastery. It also featured the longest single day of the tour – more than 900km – and a spectacular variety of scenery.

Spirits among the Mazda3 teams remained high despite giant potholes and crumbling pieces of road.

The main highlight of stage three was undoubtedly Lake Baikal, where the newest participants were treated to a boat trip on the world’s deepest, oldest, clearest and most voluminous freshwater lake. After a stopover in the shoreside town of Listvyanka, they were back on the road under the big sky, arriving yesterday via Irkutsk in Krasnoyarsk, the final destination of the 1,620km leg.

Today a Mazda dealer inspected all the Mazda Route3 cars, paying special attention to the suspension, underbody, air filters and other components exposed to unusual levels of abuse. B ut so far, the new Mazda3s have heroically handled everything Siberia could throw at them . This is good news, since the next service check is not until Moscow – another 7,000km westwards on a route that includes dangerous mountainous stretches and a longer segment with gravel surfacing. The journey continues tomorrow with the start of stage four.

About Mazda Route3 Halfway around the world from the factory in Japan to the 2013 International Motor Show (IAA) in Germany: The 15,000km “Mazda Route3 – Hiroshima to Frankfurt Challenger Tour 2013” is Mazda’s convention-defying live demonstration of its all-new Mazda3. It’s the third time Mazda models have taken such an extreme test drive after similar expeditions in 1977 and 1990. This time around, eight of the company’s new-generation hatchbacks, driven by teams of journalists, bloggers and Mazda enthusiasts from Europe and beyond, are crossing nine time zones on unpredictable roads through breathtaking landscapes and vibrant cultural diversity. The overland portion of the trip is split into seven stages traversing Russia, Belarus and Poland. The progress of the Mazda Route3 convoy, which is slated to arrive in Frankfurt on 7 September, can be followed online at www.mazdaroute3.eu or via Twitter at #mazdaroute3.