Can you ride from Russia, through Mongolia, into China? That's the route of the Silk Way Rally. It spans a route of over 6,500 kilometers and can take up to 10 days for competitors to complete. Typically reserved for trucks and specially prepared cars, the 2019 edition, with a route starting at Irkoutsk, Russia down to Dunhuang in China has added a motorcycle category for the first time.
Sam Sunderland and Luciano Benavides have both put in strong rides on the long stage four of the 2019 Silk Way Rally to finish first and second respectively. The result moves the pair to first and second in the provisional overall standings. KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz completed the first half of the marathon stage in 11th place.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Sam Sunderland at the start of Silk Way Rally Stage 4.
At 470.19 kilometers, the timed special on stage four of the rally was the longest of the event. Consisting of a looped route, that started and finished close to the Mongolian capital of Ulan-Bator, the stage challenged the riders with a variety of terrain including fast open tracks through the plains and rocky roads among the stone pyramids. As the first part of the two-day marathon stage, teams are forbidden from working on the bikes overnight.
Stage 4 winner, Sam Sunderland says “It’s been a super-long and super-fast stage today, which is a good combination as the kilometers tick off quite quickly when you’re at 160-170 kilometers per hour."
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing female rider, Laia Sanz
Following his fourth-place finish on Tuesday’s stage three, Sam Sunderland was in the perfect position to chase down the riders ahead of him and make up time on the rally leader. Maintaining a fast pace for the entire 470 kilometers, the British rider not only did enough to make up time on the riders ahead but won the stage outright, over three minutes ahead of his teammate. Sunderland now leads the rally by five minutes and 11 seconds.
"I felt really good on the bike and tried to stay on my navigation and watch out for the dangers. You have to stay focused but 470 kilometers is a long time to maintain your concentration. The bike has been perfect so I’m really happy with that. It’s the marathon stage so we can’t really work on the bike too much, but everything looks good so we’re ready for tomorrow,” said Sunderland.
Stage five of the Silk Way Rally – the second half of the event’s marathon stage – totals 364.59 kilometers and includes a 337-kilometer timed special. The stage will see riders climb to an altitude of 1,600 meters as they leave Ulan-Bator and head for Mandalgovi.
Provisional Standings (after Stage Four) – 2019 Silk Way Rally
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 9:38:55
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 9:44:06 +5:11
3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 9:44:07 +5:12
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 9:54:40 +15:45
5. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 9:55:47 +16:52
The Silk Way Rally is a rally raid race similar to Dakar. The 2019 edition of Silk Way Rally will cover more than 6,500 kilometers across Russia, Mongolia and northern China.