The first long day of racing has seen gaps emerge in the overall rankings at the 2019 Silk Way Rally. Monday’s 212-kilometre timed special stage between Baykalsk and Ulan-Ude gave plenty of scope for the top competitors to assert themselves. The end result was stage wins for pre-rally favourites across most race categories.
The bikes were the first vehicles onto the stage this morning and the pace was set by 2017 Dakar Rally winner Sam Sunderland (GBR). Despite Sunderland having an eye on starting positions for stage three, nobody was able to match his pace.
« I just tried to manage my pace as best as I could. Winning the stage was not in the strategy, but that’s the cards we’ve got now so we’ll just have to roll wit it tomorrow. » – Sam Sunderland
Due to Sunderland’s winning result he will open tomorrow’s 243-kilometres stage to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaater. The British biker will be joined on the stage by fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team bikers Luciano Benavides (ARG) and Laia Sanz (ESP) who both finished in the Top 10 on the second stage.
« I really enjoyed the first 100 kilometres of today’s stage. It was beautiful out there and the riding was very enjoyable. » – Luciano Benavides
A cautious ride over the sharp rocks brought Anastasiya Nifontova (RUS) to the finish line as the Husqvarna rider continues to delight race fans in her native Russia.
In the car race it was a second stage win of the 2019 Silk Way Rally for Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT). Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) expertly crossed all the mountains, forests and rivers that stood in their way today to further extend their lead.
« Today was really not an easy stage, you needed to be focused for the full 200-plus kilometres. We had to deal with water, stones and lots of time in the forest. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Al-Attiyah’s fellow Toyota Hilux driver and the defending Silk Way champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) ran into trouble on stage two. Mechanical trouble on the way to Ulan-Ude appears to have cost Al-Rajhi any chance of retaining his car race title.
The surprise results keep coming in the truck race as Siarhay Viazovich (BLR) steered his MAZ truck to another stage win ahead of his Team Kamaz Master rivals. Viazovich now holds an advantage of seven minutes over Andrey Karginov (RUS) who sits second overall. Karginov’s Kamaz team-mate Anton Shibalov (RUS) is currently third, a further 90 seconds back.
« All the stones made this a very difficult special stage to get through. We picked up a puncture and lost time replacing the wheel. In general we drove well, but the puncture disrupted our rhythm. » – Anton Shibalov
It’s an early start on Tuesday morning as the Silk Way Rally convoy heads into Mongolia. The 243-kilometre timed special stage has lots of rocky sections that will require the full focus of the competitors.
Sam Sunderland: « The stage win wasn’t really the goal today to be honest. It’s just difficult to tell on a stage like today how the race is going because there was no refuelling. A refuel stop gives you an idea of where the other guys are, but today we didn’t have that reference. I just tried to manage my pace as best as I could. Winning the stage was not in the strategy, but that’s the cards we’ve got now so we’ll just have to roll with it tomorrow. The stage itself was really nice with a great mixture of terrain. »
Luciano Benavides: « I really enjoyed the first 100 kilometres of today’s stage. It was beautiful out there and the riding was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, in the second part of the stage I lost a bit of concentration and lost the way a few times. Overall, it was a solid stage for me. I’ll keep working to improve my navigation. »
Laia Sanz: « It was a strange day. It was not so long, but it took a long time to ride the stage. There were a lot of dangerous holes and stones, lots of chances for an accident. I didn’t want to lose everything on just the second day of the rally so I chose not to risk too much. »
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « Today it was really not an easy stage, you needed to be focused for the full 200-plus kilometres. We had to deal with lots of water, stones and lots of time in the forest. We did a really good job, just one flat tyre. I don’t know how the stage was for anyone else so we’ll find out later. From my side, we’re happy with the first two days and we’ll try to keep going like this. »
Anton Shibalov: « All the stones made this a very difficult special stage to get through. We picked up a puncture and lost time replacing the wheel. In general we drove well, but the puncture disrupted our rhythm. I don’t remember how many times we arrived behind (Siarhay) Viazovich and beeped to pass,. Each time he says he didn’t hear the signal. This left us driving in the dust. »