An intense 51 kilometres against the clock has given the competitors a taste of what’s to come at the 2019 Silk Way Rally. Sunday’s opening stage had the convoy racing on slippery mud as they travelled from the Siberian capital of Irkutsk to the shore of Lake Baikal. The first timings of the rally have now been posted and the early rankings have emerged.
Wasting no time on the first stage was reigning Dakar Rally champ Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT). The Qatari and his co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) set the fastest time on the way to Baykalsk to put themselves into an overnight lead. Al-Attiyah’s Toyota Hilux was the only car to complete the timed special stage in less than 30 minutes.
« We decided to push and we were able to win the stage. It was very muddy and not easy out there » – Nasser Al-Attiyah
It was a family affair on the first-ever bike stage at the Silk Way Rally as Kevin Benavides (ARG) led home his younger brother Luciano Benavides (ARG). Luciano was the highest placed member of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team on the opening stage with Sam Sunderland (GBR) recording the day’s fifth fastest time.
« It was muddy but luckily there were power washes at the end of the stage. So I’ve already made a start getting the bike ready for tomorrow’s stage » – Sam Sunderland
The third Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider racing through Russia, Mongolia and China is Laia Sanz (ESP). Sanz made history as she opened the road for the inaugural bike stage at the Silk Way. Sanz coped with the task well and finished 15th, seven places above Anastasiya Nifontova (RUS).
« I’ve been talking to the organisers for such a long time about including bikes at the Silk Way Rally. Now finally we have been included in this great competition, it feels great to be riding this rally » – Anastasiya Nifontova
Russian truckers Team Kamaz Master missed out on the stage win on Sunday, but are still well placed in the overall standings. It was MAZ trucker Siarhay Viazovich (BLR) who won stage one with Kamaz’s Anton Shibalov (RUS) setting the second fastest time. Kamaz’s defending Silk Way champion, Andrey Karginov (RUS), is currently sitting in fourth place and his team-mate Sergey Kupriyanov (RUS) is also in the Top 10.
« We drove a comfortable stage all the way to the finish line, concentrating on staying on the track. Overall, all is well » – Sergey Kupriyanov
The distances increase tomorrow as stage two takes the Silk Way Rally to Ulan-Ude. There will be a total of 212 kilometres of timed special stage against the clock with muddy tracks expected to once again be the major feature of the day.
2019 Silk Way Rally: Rankings
Car: Top 3
Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) – Toyota Hilux, 00:29:24
Jérome Pelichet (FRA)/Pascal Larroque (FRA) – Optimus, +00:02:32
Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (DEU) – Toyota Hilux, +00:03:09
Bike: Top 3
Kevin Benavides (ARG) – Honda, 00:30:51
Luciano Benavides (ARG) – Honda, +00:00:36
Xavier De Soultrait (FRA) – Yamaha, +00:00:51
Truck: Top 3
Siarhay Viazovich (BLR) – MAZ, 00:34:32
Anton Shibalov (RUS) – Kamaz, +00:00:56
Aliaksei Vishneuski (BLR) – MAZ, +00:02:36
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « We decided to push and we were able to win the stage. It was very muddy and not easy out there. Tomorrow we will open the road, but if we lose some time it won’t be a big problem. It’s day three that’s a really long day, that’s the day we’ve identified as being better to start from a little behind. »
Luciano Benavides: « It was a short stage, but really fun to ride. Sometimes fast, sometimes more like enduro. I think this is why I felt so good on the bike. And with my brother finishing first this is good for the family, it makes me feel so proud. But this is just the start of the race. Tomorrow will be longer and more complicated. »
Sam Sunderland: « It’s good to get the rally underway. It was only a short stage and strategically it didn’t make any sense to push too much. I just kind of muddled my way through it, taking it easy. The bigger stages are to come and I’m looking forward to them. It was muddy but luckily there were power washes at the end of the stage. So I’ve already made a start getting the bike ready for tomorrow’s stage. »
Laia Sanz: « It feels great to get started and to race in Russia for the first time. I didn’t get the best result today, but we still have lots of days to improve things. It was only 50km today so it was difficult to find the rhythm. Also, starting in the front is never an easy job. »
Anastasiya Nifontova: « I’ve been talking to the organisers for such a long time about including bikes at the Silk Way Rally. And now finally we have been included in this great competition, it feels great to be riding this rally. »
Sergey Kupriyanov: « In some places it was quite slippery, we were very cautious because we didn’t have anything to prove on the first day. We drove a comfortable stage all the way to the finish line, concentrating on staying on the track. Overall, all is well. »
Red Bull – Christine Fial,