Honda’s Kevin Benavides might have won the tenth and final stage of the 5000 kilometre 2019 Silk Way Rally but it was a convincing overall victory for KTM’s Sam Sunderland.
Husqvarna’s Andrew Short took second on the overall rostrum ahead of Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren in an event that also marked the second round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
The third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, the Atacama Rally, will be held in Chile in early September.
Silk Way Rally Race Report
The 10th and final stage of the Silk Way Rally proved to be one of the toughest of the event. Winding its way along fast rocky tracks and through the ravines and dry river beds of the Gobi Desert, the 255-kilometre timed special required 100 percent focus right to the finish.
The final day of competition marked a fourth stage win for Honda’s Kevin Benavides but it was still not good enough for the 30-year-old Argentinian to make the overall podium in a ten-stage rally that started in the Russian city Irkutsk, and the latter half in China. After 5000 kilometres and 26 hours of rallying the Honda man was a frustrating 36-seconds short of the podium.
Kevin Benavides – P4
“I had a good stage, I won the special, but it was not enough. I narrowly missed out on the podium and I’m left with a bittersweet taste. On the final balance sheet I come away happy because I won four stages, more than any other participants. I felt fine and showed good speed. I was able to ride fast despite the adversities, even on the day when I had the problem with the brake support. I lost time there and also made a navigation error. Those 40 minutes could have changed things a lot. I was very close to getting on the podium today with this final stage, but in general I am happy because I felt good and have worked very hard. We need to keep working and improve on the final result.”
Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team rider Adrien Van Beveren secured a well-deserved third-place result on his WR450F Rally finishing just 39 seconds from the runner-up position.
The longest and one of the most anticipated events of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, the 2019 Silk Way Rally proved to be every bit as challenging as competitors expected it to be. Allowing motorcycles to compete for the very first time, the ‘unknown’ event and it’s Dakar-mirroring 10-day schedule not only provided a stunning array of landscapes and terrain but also numerous long days in the saddle and day-after-day of demanding navigation.
Looking to build on his winning result from the Merzouga Rally, Adrien Van Beveren, like many, was curious to explore the world championship’s most easterly round and return to competition at a race that would unquestionably deliver multiple challenges. Cautiously working his way through the wet and muddy opening stages in Russia, Van Beveren stuck to his plan of taking no risks and moving onto the Mongolian stages ready to increase his speed.
The fast and flowing open tracks of Mongolia went well for Van Beveren, who improved his position in the overall standings with a fourth-place result on stage four and a fifth-place result on stage five. Completing the final Mongolian stage in eighth, as the competition crossed the border into China he held eighth overall.
Specifically targeting the final three stages of the event as the place where he would increase his pace in a bid to secure a podium result, Van Beveren immediately hit his stride in the sands of the Gobi Desert. Second and just 42 seconds from victory on stage eight he again placed as runner-up on the event’s penultimate stage nine meaning that he sat less than one-minute behind the second-placed rider with all to play for on the final day.
Confident of a strong final day result, Van Beveren attacked the stage and by the refuelling point was leading having moved into a virtual second overall. Frustratingly, with only a handful of kilometres to go he made a small navigational mistake, which handed back time to his closest rival. Although finishing the stage second, Van Beveren wasn’t quite able to do enough to take second overall. Nevertheless, he completed the 5,000km event in a strong third position.
Adrien Van Beveren – P3
“I’m very pleased with the way the Silk Way Rally has finished for me. The last few days, which have been the toughest and most technical of the race with very challenging navigation, have been very good. I pushed hard during the second half of the rally and I’m really happy that I finished on the podium. As always a real team effort. Initially, when today’s stage finished I wasn’t totally pleased because I was pushing for second overall and didn’t quite manage to take that position. I rode a very good stage today, I had almost taken back the time I needed to move ahead of Andrew Short in the overall, but then I made a small navigational error and lost four or five minutes. But finishing on the podium is the most important thing. The race has been very long and difficult for everyone in the team, and also with a very strong entry. So again, to finish on the podium is very pleasing. No one really knew what to expect from this race before the start, but it has been incredible – very difficult but also very enjoyable and interesting.”
Husqvarna’s Andrew Short claimed his best ever result in an FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship event by placing second overall in the 2019 Silk Way Rally.
Short’s victory on stage nine meant he was given the unenviable task of opening the timed special on the final day of competition. With a narrow advantage of just 51 seconds over his nearest rival going into the closing stage, the American had to push for the entire 255 kilometres to defend his runner-up position, which he did successfully.
Although Short didn’t top the final day’s times, he did however lead the special from start-to-finish and set a time that was just enough to retain his second overall position in the provisional standings, by a slender 39-seconds. Gaining experience and confidence throughout the rally, Andrew was able to put his high-speed skills to good use on the final Chinese stages, going on to claim not only his best ever world championship result but also moving up to second overall in the provisional FIM Cross-Country Rallies championship standings.
Andrew Short – P2
“I’m really exciting to finish the race how I did. For me, the rally didn’t start so well, it took me a little time to get comfortable with the speed among the trees, rocks and water in Russia. Overall, I kept improving as the rally went on and for me to finish where I did is better than expected. A lot of cool things happened for me in this rally – I got my first ever stage win and then today I was given the opportunity to open a stage for the first time. My navigation has been good for the whole rally, and I definitely think that has enabled my rhythm to improve. I feel more comfortable on the bike and the team have been perfect. From here I hope I can continue to gain confidence and momentum and be even stronger at the next race.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland has won the Silk Way Rally – round two of the 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Sam Sunderland, having ridden superbly in terms of speed and navigation through Russia and Mongolia, created a comfortable advantage at the head of the overall motorcycle class when the rally entered China. Using his extensive skill and experience, he put in a champion’s ride to maintain a fast and largely mistake-free pace and carried his lead to the final stage of the event, finally claiming outright victory.
With no fewer than three stage wins – one having opened stage five – Sam’s dominant performance at the Silk Way Rally gives him his second consecutive victory in this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship to extend his lead with two rounds left to race.
Sam Sunderland – P1
“It’s really cool to take the win here in China. I’m really happy with the job done by myself and the team – it wouldn’t have been possible without this big effort from everyone to come to Russia, Mongolia and now China. It’s been a huge adventure and one that we’ll all remember for a long time, that’s for sure. For me I’m so happy to get the win, it makes it two-out-of-two this championship and it’s a really important one because of the points earned this round. I felt really good at the beginning of the event and was able to create a good gap. I felt a bit sick during the middle stages but was able to manage the race and stay on a good pace right to the end. I’m really pleased for Andrew, who has ridden a great race, and also Luciano and Laia. Now I’m looking forward to a bit of rest.”
2019 Silk Way Rally Results
SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 26:12’47
SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +20’22
VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +21’01
BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +21’37
BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +36’50
MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +51’50
SANZ Laia SPA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +1:56’26
TOMICZEK Adam POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +2:08’04
BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team +2:54’25
GIEMZA Maciej POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +3:10’31
Provisional FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship Standings
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