With new categories and fresh terrain the explore, the 2019 Silk Way Rally promises to be an exceptional race. And it’s already off to the best possible start thanks to a spectacular podium presentation in the Siberian capital of Irkutsk. The Russian crowds came out in force to cheer on the brave offroaders who will now tackle a marathon 5,000-kilometre route.
This ninth edition of the Silk Way is the first to allow two-wheel competitors to participate. Among the first to sign up for the 10 stage mix of fast-paced and technical riding were the Red Bull KTM Factory Team. The Austrian team have won the last 18 Dakar Rally bike races, and now they want to taste success at the Silk Way.
« It looks like the Silk Way Rally will be a good test for us as it’s long and we travel through different terrains. We start in the mountains on hard pack in Russia, through the open plains of Mongolia and then finish in the dunes of China. It looks like it’s going to be a tough old race and really long. » – Sam Sunderland
The Silk Way Rally is the second stop of this season’s 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship. This adds an extra incentive for KTM bikers Sam Sunderland (GBR), Luciano Benavides (ARG) and Laia Sanz (ESP) to push hard for those podium places.
Also taking part in the first bike race at the Silk Way Rally will be Husqvarna rider Anastasiya Nifontova (RUS). After completing the Dakar earlier this year in the Original by Motul class, Nifontova is ready for her next extreme challenge.
« My only worry before the race is rain. We know the roads in Russia and a motorbike in slippery mud is like a cow on ice. I hope we get lucky with the weather! » – Anastasiya Nifontova
Russian biker Nifontova was given a great reception by rally fans gathered together in Irkutsk’s Kirov Square tonight. Some of the loudest cheers of the night were also given to the truck crews of Team Kamaz Master.
Leading Kamaz’s charge for an eighth Silk Way truck win is reigning champ Andrey Karginov (RUS). Karginov will be supported on his mission by fellow Kamaz drivers Ayrat Mardeev (RUS), Anton Shibalov (RUS) and Sergey Kupriyanov (RUS).
« Our trucks were driven here from Naberezhnye Chelny, almost 4,500 kilometres away. It was a big distance to bring the trucks, but I think it will help us to have our vehicles nicely warmed up. » – Andrey Karginov
Wherever Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) goes in the world, he is adored and the story has been no different in Siberia. Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) were applauded on and off the start podium in Irkutsk. The Dakar winning duo are hoping to steer their Toyota Hilux through Russia, Mongolia and China before claiming another car category win in Dunhuang in July 16.
Tomorrow’s opening stage takes the Silk Way convoy 250 kilometres from Irkutsk to the shoreline of Lake Baikal as the adventure really gets going. Expect to see a fast start from those chasing glory at the 2019 Silk Way Rally.
Sam Sunderland: « We’ve been doing some testing and I think we have made a few good improvements – we’re always looking for something a bit extra and the work on the bike never stops. It looks like the Silk Way Rally will be a good test for us as it’s long and we travel through different terrains. We start in the mountains on hard pack in Russia, through the open plains of Mongolia and then finish in the dunes of China. It looks like it’s going to be a tough old race and really long. »
Luciano Benavides: « My confidence is high and I’m really looking forward to the Silk Way Rally. The race is new for everyone, but for me it’s my first full season in the world championship so the goal is to finish the season strong. I think Silk Way will be a real challenge as it’s so long and covers so many different types of terrain. »
Laia Sanz: « The new race looks exciting and I’m really looking forward to it. 10 days racing will be tough, and the goal is to make it safely to the finish and get some good training for Dakar. I’m also looking forward to being back with the rally guys and the whole team, I really enjoy racing with them all. »
Anastasiya Nifontova: « This race will be a new challenge for me. We have ten stages with 5,000km of forest, steppes and deserts in three countries. My only worry before the race is rain. We know the roads in Russia and a motorbike in slippery mud is like a cow on ice. I hope we get lucky with the weather! »
Andrey Karginov: « Everything is in good order. Our trucks were driven here from Naberezhnye Chelny, almost 4,500 kilometres away. It was a big distance to bring the trucks, but I think it will help us to have our vehicles nicely warmed up. We have some serious competition at this rally. There are trucks from Renault and MAZ here. We know that it will not all be about speed, but who can avoid mistakes along the way. Those that prepare best, who pay attention to every detail, they will win this rally. »
Ayrat Mardeev: « It feels like we’ve been waiting so long to get this rally started. Now it’s actually starting I can’t quite believe it! We’re a little nervous about the challenges ahead, but we are also 100 percent ready. »
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « This is a very important race for us, it’s one that we really want to win. This is my first time in Irkutsk and for a couple of days before the rally we’ve been able to enjoy the place. We’ve been out to Lake Baikal, which is one of the most amazing places to see. We’re really so happy to be here. I think the rally will be very interesting. It should be fun to drive across all three countries that host us. I wish good luck to everybody in the race, let’s enjoy ourselves. »