Posted on July 15, 2019

The 2019 Silk Way Rally roared back into life on stage eight as the convoy sped over China’s Gobi Desert. Now that dunes are firmly on the agenda, the element of risk has shot up exponentially. Two overnight leaders were tripped up on a challenging eighth stage of the Silk Way.

There was no racing yesterday as the Silk Way crossed over into China from Mongolia. This break in proceedings gave the competitors a chance to take stock of the situation they found themselves in. Would they need to attack on the final three stages or could they race tactically to protect their position? The truckers of Team Kamaz Master certainly knew they needed to push on the 327-kilometre stage between Bayinbaolige and Alashan. For more than a week now the Russian team have trailed behind the MAZ crew of Siarhay Viazovich (BLR).

On stage eight the pressure finally told on Viazovich as he rolled his truck 30 kilometres into the timed special stage. The Belarusian’s misfortune sees Kamaz now locking out the podium positions with Anton Shibalov (RUS) the new race leader. Kamaz truckers Andrey Karginov (RUS) and Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) have moved up to second and third respectively. “Within our group we can be competitors at smaller events, but at the Silk Way and the Dakar we always work together as one team.” – Ayrat Mardeev.

Get the racing line at the Silk Way Rally with our latest Dune Days VLOG here

While things were turned on their head in the truck race, there was no such drama in the car class. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) opened the route once again, and once again set the day’s fastest time. “I think the organisation had kept this tough stage up their sleeves until the end. The last two days will be like this as well for sure.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah.

The exceptionally consistent performances of Al-Attiyah, Baumel and their Toyota Hilux have put them in a league of their own at this Silk Way. However, as Viazovich’s stage eight showed us – anything can happen in rally-raid. In the bike race Honda rider Kevin Benavides (ARG) was able to take advantage of a favourable starting position to claim the stage win. Kevin Benavides was able to reel in race leader Sam Sunderland (GBR) by over seven minutes.

Sunderland came off his bike just 15 kilometres into stage eight and did well to limit his losses. The 2017 Dakar winner now has two stages left to protect his 20-minute cushion at the front of the race. “Welcome to China with a face full of dirt, it’s like that sometimes. I started out pretty calm and easy, just trying to manage my lead. To be honest, I got super unlucky. It wasn’t a danger in the roadbook I missed, it was a big stone on a blind rise that clipped my front end. Next thing I was skidding up the track.” Sam Sunderland

Sunderland’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team bikers also have plenty to aim for during the next couple of days. Luciano Benavides (ARG) can score his second podium of the season and Laia Sanz (ESP) has a Top 10 Silk Way Rally finish within her sights. “We had all kinds of terrain; fast pistes, tough dunes and bumpy camel grass. It was a physical day. I started quite good, but I slowed down towards the end because I was tired. Maybe I didn’t eat enough this morning.” – Laia Sanz

Today's penultimate stage takes the Silk Way convoy 290-kilometres across the Gobi Desert. With plenty of sand on the menu expect lots more twists and turns amid the unforgiving Chinese dunes.

2019 Silk Way Rally: Stage 8 Results

Car: Top 3
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA)   Toyota Hilux
2. Eric Van Loon (NLD)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA)   Toyota Hilux   +00:04:35
3. Mathieu Serradori (FRA)/Fabian Lurquin (BEL)   Buggy   +00:05:07

Bike: Top 3
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG)   Honda   04:20:37
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)   Yamaha   +00:00:42
3. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)   Hero   +00:03:05

Truck: Top 3
1. Anton Shibalov (RUS)   Kamaz   04:23:07
2. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS)   Kamaz   +00:08:01
3. Andrey Karginov (RUS)   Kamaz   +00:08:35


2019 Silk Way Rally: Overall Rankings after Stage 8

Car: Top 3
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA)   Toyota Hilux
2. Jérome Pelichet (FRA)/Pascal Larroque (FRA)   Optimus
3. Wei Han (CHN)/Liao Min (CHN)   SMG Buggy   +01:01:34

Bike: Top 3
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR)   KTM   19:30:40
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG)   KTM   +00:21:19
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG)   Honda   +00:25:18

Truck: Top 3
1. Anton Shibalov (RUS)   Kamaz   19:21:57
2. Andrey Karginov (RUS)   Kamaz   +00:15:56
3. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS)   Kamaz   +00:25:04