The 2019 Silk Way Rally roared back into life on stage eight as the convoy sped over China’s Gobi Desert. Now that dunes are firmly on the agenda, the element of risk has shot up exponentially. Two overnight leaders were tripped up on a challenging eighth stage of the Silk Way.
There was no racing yesterday as the Silk Way crossed over into China from Mongolia. This break in proceedings gave the competitors a chance to take stock of the situation they found themselves in. Would they need to attack on the final three stages or could they race tactically to protect their position?
The truckers of Team Kamaz Master certainly knew they needed to push on the 327-kilometre stage between Bayinbaolige and Alashan. For more than a week now the Russian team have trailed behind the MAZ crew of Siarhay Viazovich (BLR).
On stage eight the pressure finally told on Viazovich as he rolled his truck 30 kilometres into the timed special stage. The Belarusian’s misfortune sees Kamaz now locking out the podium positions with Anton Shibalov (RUS) the new race leader. Kamaz truckers Andrey Karginov (RUS) and Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) have moved up to second and third respectively.
“Within our group we can be competitors at smaller events, but at the Silk Way and the Dakar we always work together as one team.” – Ayrat Mardeev
Get the racing line at the Silk Way Rally with our latest Dune Days VLOG here
While things were turned on their head in the truck race, there was no such drama in the car class. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) opened the route once again, and once again set the day’s fastest time.
“I think the organisation had kept this tough stage up their sleeves until the end. The last two days will be like this as well for sure.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
The exceptionally consistent performances of Al-Attiyah, Baumel and their Toyota Hilux have put them in a league of their own at this Silk Way. However, as Viazovich’s stage eight showed us – anything can happen in rally-raid.
In the bike race Honda rider Kevin Benavides (ARG) was able to take advantage of a favourable starting position to claim the stage win. Kevin Benavides was able to reel in race leader Sam Sunderland (GBR) by over seven minutes.
Sunderland came off his bike just 15 kilometres into stage eight and did well to limit his losses. The 2017 Dakar winner now has two stages left to protect his 20-minute cushion at the front of the race.
“Welcome to China with a face full of dirt, it’s like that sometimes. I started out pretty calm and easy, just trying to manage my lead. To be honest, I got super unlucky. It wasn’t a danger in the roadbook I missed, it was a big stone on a blind rise that clipped my front end. Next thing I was skidding up the track.” – Sam Sunderland
Sunderland’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team bikers also have plenty to aim for during the next couple of days. Luciano Benavides (ARG) can score his second podium of the season and Laia Sanz (ESP) has a Top 10 Silk Way Rally finish within her sights.
“We had all kinds of terrain; fast pistes, tough dunes and bumpy camel grass. It was a physical day. I started quite good, but I slowed down towards the end because I was tired. Maybe I didn’t eat enough this morning.” – Laia Sanz
Tomorrow’s penultimate stage takes the Silk Way convoy 290-kilometres across the Gobi Desert. With plenty of sand on the menu expect lots more twists and turns amid the unforgiving Chinese dunes.
Find all action footage, interviews, still images, news cuts, action clips and stories covering the 2019 Silk Way Rally here
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2019 Silk Way Rally: Stage 8 Results
Car: Top 3
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux 04:21:26
2. Eric Van Loon (NLD)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Toyota Hilux +00:04:35
3. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Fabian Lurquin (BEL) Buggy +00:05:07
Bike: Top 3
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda 04:20:37
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha +00:00:42
3. Paulo Goncalves (PRT) Hero +00:03:05
Truck: Top 3
1. Anton Shibalov (RUS) Kamaz 04:23:07
2. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz +00:08:01
3. Andrey Karginov (RUS) Kamaz +00:08:35
2019 Silk Way Rally: Overall Rankings after Stage 8
Car: Top 3
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux 18:05:42
2. Jérome Pelichet (FRA)/Pascal Larroque (FRA) Optimus +00:59:58
3. Wei Han (CHN)/Liao Min (CHN) SMG Buggy +01:01:34
Bike: Top 3
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 19:30:40
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM +00:21:19
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda +00:25:18
Truck: Top 3
1. Anton Shibalov (RUS) Kamaz 19:21:57
2. Andrey Karginov (RUS) Kamaz +00:15:56
3. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz +00:25:04
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “A very hard stage, not easy. A lot of dunes, camel grass and the average speed was really slow. We took more than four hours to cover the stage. I think the organisation had kept this tough stage up their sleeves until the end. The last two days will be like this as well for sure.”
Sam Sunderland: “Welcome to China with a face full of dirt, it’s like that sometimes. I started out pretty calm and easy, just trying to manage my lead. To be honest, I got super unlucky. It wasn’t a danger in the roadbook I missed, it was a big stone on a blind rise that clipped my front end. Next thing I was skidding up the track. After that I got a bit worked up and was dropping the hammer for the rest of the way. In reality, I think I only lost about one minute today on Kevin (Benavides). After today I’m sure we’re going to have two really tough days so we’ll regroup and try our best to keep it all together.”
Laia Sanz: “I think it was a real rally stage today, it reminded me of some tough days we’ve had in Argentina. We had all kinds of terrain; fast pistes, tough dunes and bumpy camel grass. It was a physical day. I started quite good, but I slowed down towards the end because I was tired. Maybe I didn’t eat enough this morning.”
Ayrat Mardeev: “Today we drove as fast as possible, but we also tried to stay safe because these dunes are very unforgiving. The dune section wasn’t as tough as we expected. That was a good move by the organisers because everybody is so tired. The important thing for us now is to bring home a good result. Within our group we can be competitors at smaller rallies, but at the Silk Way and the Dakar we always work together as one team.”
July 15 – Stage 9 – ALASHAN to JIAYUGUAN
July 16 – Stage 10 – JIAYUGUAN to DUNHUANG