Posted on July 07, 2019

With new categories and fresh terrain the explore, the 2019 Silk Way Rally promises to be an exceptional race. And it’s already off to the best possible start thanks to a spectacular podium presentation in the Siberian capital of Irkutsk. The Russian crowds came out in force to cheer on the brave offroaders who will now tackle a marathon 5,000-kilometre route.

This ninth edition of the Silk Way is the first to allow two-wheel competitors to participate. Among the first to sign up for the 10 stage mix of fast-paced and technical riding were the Red Bull KTM Factory Team. The Austrian team have won the last 18 Dakar Rally bike races, and now they want to taste success at the Silk Way. “It looks like the Silk Way Rally will be a good test for us as it’s long and we travel through different terrains. We start in the mountains on hard pack in Russia, through the open plains of Mongolia and then finish in the dunes of China. It looks like it's going to be a tough old race and really long.” – Sam Sunderland

The Silk Way Rally is the second stop of this season’s 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship. This adds an extra incentive for KTM bikers Sam Sunderland (GBR), Luciano Benavides (ARG) and Laia Sanz (ESP) to push hard for those podium places. Also taking part in the first bike race at the Silk Way Rally will be Husqvarna rider Anastasiya Nifontova (RUS). After completing the Dakar earlier this year in the Original by Motul class, Nifontova is ready for her next extreme challenge. “My only worry before the race is rain. We know the roads in Russia and a motorbike in slippery mud is like a cow on ice. I hope we get lucky with the weather!” – Anastasiya Nifontova

Russian biker Nifontova was given a great reception by rally fans gathered together in Irkutsk’s Kirov Square tonight. Some of the loudest cheers of the night were also given to the truck crews of Team Kamaz Master. Leading Kamaz’s charge for an eighth Silk Way truck win is reigning champ Andrey Karginov (RUS). Karginov will be supported on his mission by fellow Kamaz drivers Ayrat Mardeev (RUS), Anton Shibalov (RUS) and Sergey Kupriyanov (RUS). “Our trucks were driven here from Naberezhnye Chelny, almost 4,500 kilometres away. It was a big distance to bring the trucks, but I think it will help us to have our vehicles nicely warmed up.” – Andrey Karginov

Wherever Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) goes in the world, he is adored and the story has been no different in Siberia. Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) were applauded on and off the start podium in Irkutsk. The Dakar winning duo are hoping to steer their Toyota Hilux through Russia, Mongolia and China before claiming another car category win in Dunhuang in July 16. Tomorrow’s opening stage takes the Silk Way convoy 250 kilometres from Irkutsk to the shoreline of Lake Baikal as the adventure really gets going. Expect to see a fast start from those chasing glory at the 2019 Silk Way Rally.

Find all action footage, interviews, still images, news cuts, action clips and stories covering the 2019 Silk Way Rally here

2019 Silk Way Rally: Schedule

July 7 – Stage 1 – IRKUTSK to BAYKALSK
July 8 – Stage 2 – BAYKALSK to ULAN UDE
July 9 – Stage 3 – ULAN UDE to ULAANBAATAR
July 14 – Stage 8 – BAYINBAOLIGE to ALASHAN
July 15 – Stage 9 – ALASHAN to JIAYUGUAN
July 16 – Stage 10 – JIAYUGUAN to DUNHUANG