After a much needed break from the competitive racing in the Stage 7 of the rally, it was time to gear up again, for the stage 8 today, the first one to be conducted in China. Hero MotoSports Team Rally had much reasons to rejoice with the presence of both their riders in the starting line – up today, and at the finish line too, not to mention their 5th ‘stage podium’ finish in 8 stages in the Silkway Rally.
Paulo Goncalves, re-joining the rally today after failing to finish the last stage owing to a mechanical failure in his bike, rode with intent, taming the first of the Chinese stages with ease to rake up another stage podium for the team, with his 3rd place finish. With today’s performance, notwithstanding the heavy time penalty he had received for not finishing the stage 6, clawed his way back into the overall rankings in 19th place.
The Hero and winner of the stage 6, Oriol Mena, opened the stage today and was the first to face the stiff task of navigating in a new country and a fresh stage without any aide from previous tracks. Consequently he decided to side with caution and focussed on his navigation to avoid any unwarranted mistakes, in the process losing some time to his competitors. Mena finished the stage in 11th position, and 7th position in the overall rankings.
The eighth stage was not only the longest with a total of 785 kms to done, after some rest during a ‘no race’ day, but also the most challenging one, as it offered a full variety of surfaces and a range of new obstacles – not just broken piste, but also dry riverbeds, ravines, canyons and steppes and finally the high dunes of the Gobi desert.
Paulo Goncalves (Comp No: 4): « Happy to get back into the race again. I finished the first stage in China and it was a big stage as well with lot of dunes and sandy tracks. Initially I had some difficulty in focussing so I lost a bit of time in the first part of the stage but in the second part I found my rhythm and speed again to finish in 3rd place. So I am quite happy with my effort today and looking forward to another interesting stage in the Gobi Desert tomorrow. »
Oriol Mena (Comp No: 25): « It was my first time opening a stage in a rally so I was a little bit nervous. So I put more focus on my navigation and less on speed today. I did lose some valuable time to my competitors today but in the end getting the bike to the finish line is most important, so I am happy with my effort today. »
Provisional Rankings of the Stage 8
1. Kevin Benavides, Monster Energy Honda, 04h 20m 37s
2. Adrian Van Beveren, Yamaha Rally Team, +42s
3. Paulo Goncalves, Hero MotoSports, +03m 05s
4. Jose Cornejo, Monster Energy Honda, +04m 44s…
11. Oriol Mena, Hero MotoSports, +18m 18s…
Overall Rankings at the end of the Stage 8
1. Sam Sunderland, RedBull KTM, 19h 30m 40s
2. Kevin Benavides, Monster Energy Honda, +25m 18s
3. Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha Rally Team, +26m 16s
4. Luciano Benavides, RedBull KTM, +26m 19s…
7. Oriol Mena, Hero MotoSports, +32m 15s…
19. Paulo Goncalves, Hero MotoSports, +27h 08m 38s…