The big beasts of rally-raid are ready to roar at the 2018 Silk Way Rally. This year’s edition of the prestigious offroad race will be held exclusively in Russia. With a 2,500-kilometre course laid out from the Caspian Sea to Moscow’s Red Square there’s guaranteed high-octane drama to come.
This week has seen race crews from all corners of the globe descending on Astrakhan in southern Russia ahead of the rally’s starting ceremony on July 20. Then comes seven timed special stages that will eventually bring the Silk Way convoy north to Moscow.
Lying in wait for the trucks, cars and buggies is the the biggest offroad challenge Eurasia has to offer. During the seven stages of the Silk Way Rally competitors will have to cross the Takyr and Kalmykia deserts. Surefooted navigation and precise driving will be needed every step of the way.
Looking to get ahead in the car contest will be sand racing specialist Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari phenomenon has two Dakar Rally titles to his name and tasted success earlier this year at the Baja Russia Northern Forest race. Alongside French co-driver Mathieu Baumel the aim is to put their Toyota Hilux through its paces on some of the most perilous racing terrain imaginable.
« I can’t wait to get the Silk Way Rally started. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Al-Attiyah and Baumel can expect tough competition in Russia with high-profile FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies rivals also arriving in Astrakhan. Yazeed Al-Rajhi of Saudi Arabia and Nani Roma of Spain both have the potential to push for the win while Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev will be able to rely on huge home support to get him over the line.
Also getting big cheers from race fans already flocking to see the Silk Way Rally are Russian truckers Team Kamaz Master. The blue armada of Kamaz have a proud record to defend in their native terrority, having won six of the previous seven editions of this race. The team’s global dominance is underlined by their 15 Dakar wins in the past couple of decades.
Representing Kamaz at this Silk Way is a driving line-up packed with pedigree. Dmitry Sotnikov is the reigning champion while Eduard Nikolaev and Ayrat Mardeev are previous winners of both the Silk Way and the Dakar. Anton Shibalov and Andrey Karginov will also drive for Kamaz while the team’s sixth vehicle will be a gas-powered machine with Sergey Kupriyanov at the wheel.
« The routes in southern Russia will throw up a lot of unpredictability. The dunes in the Astrakhan region are extremely difficult to read. » – Eduard Nikolaev
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « Earlier this year I was racing in Russia and it was great experience. I’m really pleased to have the chance to do it again. Back in February we raced the Baja Russia Northern Forest and it was an unusual but also enjoyable race. We were over the moon to take the win and would have liked it to have been a longer race because we were learning a lot about racing in snow. Most of the stuff we do is in hot deserts after all. Another great thing about our last trip to Russia was that I got the chance to drive a Kamaz race truck. That’s something I’ll never forget. Now we’re back in Russia for the Silk Way Rally and we’ll be doing everything we can to win this great race. I can’t wait to get the Silk Way Rally started. »
Eduard Nikolaev: « The level of competition at the Silk Way Rally is always at an international standard and you can be sure that real speed will be needed to win this time. Of course the whole Kamaz team is very happy to be racing in Russia and we want to give our fans plenty to cheer about. The routes in southern Russia will throw up a lot of unpredictability. The dunes in the Astrakhan region are extremely difficult to read. This is going to make things uncomfortable for even the most experienced of drivers. The pressure will be on from the start and we must remain psychologically tough for all seven stages if we want to get the right result. »