Our friends from WESTx1000 are out at the 2019 Silk Way Rally bringing coverage from Day 11, the final day of the event.
Begin Press Release:
10 Tough Cross-Country Stages Single-Out New Faces on the Podium
Silk Way Rally; Special Stage Ten: Features changed dramatically on the final stage of the 2019 SWR. Trading an ocean of dunes for rocky foothills, the obstacles included countless dry riverbeds, silt, stones, sandy washes, plateaus and canyons. A beautiful conclusion to a spectacular competition, with twists and turns from the very start – fate claiming its victims in each stage – it is a testament to the organizers, the road book crew and the perseverance of the teams which kept the attrition rate down to 17%. A staggering difference, in terms of rally raid, from Dakar’s 50% average. A triathlon of territories. Edging Russian Siberia’s infamous Lake Baikal, speeding through the Mongolian Steppes and careening down the sandy slopes of Northern China, this race went to Mars and back traversing some of earth’s uncharted regions. And those who are truly meant for exploration of the sort, today, wrote their names down in the history books.
With a twenty-something minute gap, Sam Sunderland #6 (Red Bull KTM) was taking it easy. No point in pushing the limits on the last day and inadvertently causing unnecessary issues, or worse, a DNF. The rest of the bikes, however, were still duking it out until the proverbial checkered flag waved. HERO Motorsports’, and Rally veteran, Paolo Goncalves #4 was hot on the tail of stage opener and SS9 winner, Andrew Short #29 who too kept a consistent pace, though Goncalves soon faltered a bit as the day went on finishing in a respectable 7th place. Whereas Short stayed true to his reputation, held a strong position at 3rd, which ultimately earned him the coveted second step in the Winner’s Circle. He is the first American to stand on the podium in Silk Way Rally history! Yamaha Rally Team rider #10 Adrien Van Beveren maintained a really solid time in SS10, bringing him to Second in the special, but due to some hiccups in a “tricky” section, it was not enough to nab Second overall, so he was resigned to the yet still prestigious Third seed in the General Classification.
“For me, it was the best-case scenario. I think I was very fortunate that it was really fast and defined on the roads. In terms of navigation, it wasn’t too critical today. There were a couple of sections that were tricky, and my speed wasn’t bad either. A good experience because in the future I think I will know I can open, and it will be OK. Really happy with my result, and really happy to have this opportunity with the team to come and do this because it is really cool.” – Andrew Short #29, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna
As we’ve said over the last 11 days, luck and fate have quite an influence over Rally Raid. No matter how clean the performance, how experienced and steadfast the pilot, if destiny sees fit, it’ll knock the best of them down to their knees. But in each class during this iteration of the SWR, all (most of) the most promising athletes came through. So, the outcome of the Quads was no surprise. Although, the three contenders shuffled around here and there – mostly in the dunes – the favorite to win, Rafal Sonik #101, made sure the predictions came true. Following briskly behind was #102 Aleksandr Maksimov from Russia who certainly gave Sonik a run for his money. Unfortunately, the last, but still notable rider, #103 Arkadiusz Lindner, had to throw in the towel in a previous stage after suffering several problems on the racecourse.
“Neither my team nor I made any big mistakes on this rally. You need to be racing right from the start – not look just at the big stages – find the right tempo and know when to be patient. The organizers did a great job, the rally has been organized in a very good way, especially the road book. I have not even one compliant, the road book was almost perfect. If someone does the road book off-hand, not paying attention, I always complain but here no complaints whatsoever” – Rafal Sonik #101, Sonik Team
United States duo, Side-by-Side #229, had overcome hardships from the very beginning. Stage One, Austin Jones and Kellon Walch hit a stump while overtaking an adversary crashing their vehicle in a tremendous tumble. But with some diligent patchwork by their mechanics, they were back on the racecourse and keeping up the mid-pack. In another interesting turn of events, Top Five hopefuls, Jérôme Pélichet and co-driver Pascal Larroque raced flat out from 15th starting position (admittedly a mistake on Pélichet’s part) through terrain much like the vast rocky mountain ranges between Arizona and California. And the gamble paid off putting the #212 Raid Lynx team on the podium at 3rd with the likes of Geely Auto car #208 and, of course, Toyota Gazoo’s #201. Enduring a series of difficulties throughout the race, but resolute on a premiere finish, Wei Han and Min Liao accomplished just that standing at the second landing, just below the Gazoo team. A feat we weren’t sure they’d achieve. But even more difficult to believe, is three-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiya had never won the Silk Way Rally until now. Hard to imagine, considering at this year’s competition, he and navigator Mathieu Baumel cleaned house – victorious in all nine special stages.
“I am so happy to finally win this SILK WAY RALLY after having twice finished second. It was important to me because it is a big and beautiful race. We have crossed three very different countries, with completely different stages and terrain. I will never forget the first stage in China. I think it was one of the most difficult of my career. Winning all the specials since the start is simply the cherry on the cake, my seventh victory in row this season. It is the fruit, of course, of the work of a whole team and obviously my co-driver Mathieu, without which none of this would be possible.” – Nasser Al-Attiya #201, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA
Last but certainly not least, the gargantuan beasts in this niche brigade of warfare had put on a booming display, an orchestra of sounds preceding them. The emotions stirred by suspense and drama are akin to an opera. With so much back and forth between the KAMAZ-Master and the MAZ-SportAuto teams, the scale was tipped in favor of the Russians when Belarusian leaders #304 Siarhey Viazovich, Anton Zaparoshchanka and Andrei Zhyhulun eventually rolled out of contention, reaching the climax of a long-drawn-out battle. This ended the attack on the enemy and bore a civil dispute of sorts amongst battle mates over the order of rankings. By SS10, three KAMAZ-Master trucks took the top spots: First in the General Standings is truck #303 manned by Anton Shibalov, Dmitrii Nikitin and Ivan Tatarinov. Then, Andrey Karginov, Andrey Mokeev and Ivan Malkov in the #300 took Second. While #302 KAMAZ rounded out the in Third with Airat Mardeev, Dmitrii Svistunov and Sergei Krenev behind the dashboard. Something worth celebrating sure, but predictability can be boring. So it’s worth mentioning the boys from US CRV team #310 captained by Aviv Kadshai (ISR), Izhar Armony (USA) and Maoz Wilder (ISR) who, despite some mishaps, scrapped their way to 7th in the last stand.
“I will never forget this race, my first victory on the SILK WAY RALLY. This edition has been really magnificent, but very tough. So, my satisfaction is even greater. The most difficult thing was to navigate off-piste in the dunes on the first stage in China. I haven’t quite taken in what we have achieved. I am going to have a rest before expressing my emotions.” – Anton Shibalov #303, KAMAZ-Master
There was an eerie quiet in Dunhuang as racers climbed up and over the podium, saying their “Thank You’s” to an absent audience. “That’s just how they are here.” They being the local government, and here being a tightly run convention center, which apparently, intentionally kept out the public. A private event for a handful of employees and figureheads. Nevertheless, competitors, crews, organizers and media alike were just happy to reach the end of an incredibly demanding event. One which rivals the infamous Dakar in quality, culture and challenge – on and off the racecourse. And one offering glory in a manner which makes three Visa applications, two layovers, language barriers, 5,000 kilometers over 10 stages, two border crossings and squat toilets all worth it. Next year marks the 10th edition of this Eurasian expedition, where organizers are sure to up their game. But the question will be, who will be back? Who’s brave enough to challenge the Silk Way Rally?