The 2021 Silk Way Rally faced its fair share of challenges this year, with Covid-19 preventing the event from crossing into Mongolia, instead being confined to Siberia, with Austria’s Matthias Walkner (KTM) taking top honours.
Walkner was able to claim the victory from Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) and Franco Caimi (Hero), with Australia’s Daniel Sanders (GasGas) proving a strong competitor but finishing fourth after a slow start couldn’t be offset by a number of stage wins.
First into the stage and enjoying a near five-minute advantage over the second-placed rider, Matthias Walkner still pushed hard through the tight forest tracks.
With navigation less of a factor on the timed special, the experienced Austrian was able to maintain a fast, but safe pace over the demanding terrain. In doing so he finished the day as runner-up and increased his lead in the final event standings to six minutes and 20 seconds.
Combined with his second-place finish at round one of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – Rally Kazakhstan – Walkner moves into the lead of the series standings with a 21.5-point advantage over the second-placed rider.
Matthias Walkner – P1
“The final stage here was really nice to ride. It was the same as day two, but instead of making it rougher, it seems the cars and trucks prepared it quite well for us today. I really tried to push at the beginning, because I know the first part of the stage is good for me over the fast pistes. In the forest I thought I might have to ease off a little, but it rode better today, and I was able to push for the whole stage. It’s a shame the rally had to be shortened, but the organizers did a great job of giving us a full event to race. To win the famous tiger trophy here at the Silk Way feels amazing, and with my win here I’m now also leading the championship. I couldn’t have asked for a better result really.”
Aiming to defend his position, yet not wanting to make a costly mistake on the fast tracks of the special, Howes chose the perfect pace over the 110km timed section to ultimately finish fourth on the stage and claim second overall in the final rally standings.
Despite having a technical issue on the previous round of the series that knocked him down the order, his second-place result from the Silk Way Rally elevates Skyler to second overall in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Skyler Howes – P2
“To get second place and my first podium at a world championship round is amazing. I was hoping for a slightly longer race, and maybe another step higher on the podium, but I can’t tell you how stoked I am to finish as runner-up. Things went well over the whole race and in the end, it came down to just seconds on the final stage. Thankfully, I had a really good ride and was able to defend my position in the standings. The result here moves me up to second in the championship standings, which after my issues in the first round feels amazing. We’ve got a bit of a break now until the next race, but to be in the fight for the championship only gives me more motivation. I definitely can’t wait to get racing again.”
A stellar ride from Franco saw him hold on to his third position in the overall rankings, missing out on the second position by a mere six seconds, after close to 3,100 km of racing over five days.
Franco Caimi – P3
“I don’t have the words to describe how happy I am feeling right now, not just for myself, but also for the team. They have done a fantastic job, and we were able to finish on the podium. We pushed hard during the entire race and in the end, missed the second position by just six seconds. I am really happy with the result, and looking forward to growing with the team. I am sure we can accomplish great things together. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Hero family and the fans for their support and good wishes.”
The fifth and final day of racing at the Silk Way Rally saw riders line-up for a re-run of stage two, the very same stage that Daniel claimed victory on just days ago.
Entering the stage with the sole focus of making up time, Sanders was never headed as he reached each waypoint as the fastest rider, taking his third stage win from five starts at the shortened event. With two rounds of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship now complete, Daniel moves up to third in the provisional standings, although Walkner holds a significant lead.
“I pushed really hard today to try and get onto the overall podium, but it wasn’t quite enough. I left everything out there and did everything I could to make time up on the riders ahead, but it was a short stage and there wasn’t much to separate us all today. I learned a lot this week, I felt great on the bike, and I know I have the speed so it’s all positive. When we get home from here my main focus will be on improving my navigation as this is where I feel I’m lacking a little bit. But overall, a pretty decent week for me and the team.”
Buhler also had a good rally and his consistency got him the fifth position in the overall standings. Joaquim had difficult times and luck during some stages and this cost him time and positions. Yet, he recovered well to complete the rally in the top 10.
Sebastian Buhler – P5
“Today was the same stage as SS2, so it was nice to ride at a good speed without too much navigation. The rally was shorter than what we were expecting, due to the situation in Mongolia, but the organisers did their best and we were able to complete the rally. Overall, it was a positive race and I felt good on the bike. I was gaining confidence to push harder each day and the team also did a good job. Thanks also to our fans all around the world for their support.”
Bringing his time at the Silk Way Rally to a positive end, Adrien Van Beveren finished stage five as the seventh fastest rider through the shortened special.
Completing the stage just over one minute adrift of the third-place rider, it was a strong performance from Adrien despite the terrain not quite being to the Frenchman’s liking. Overall, Van Beveren placed sixth in the final classification.
Adrien Van Beveren – P6
“I enjoyed today’s stage, both with the terrain and also my riding. There wasn’t so much navigation today and it was something different to be riding fast through the woods. It was fun and I felt relaxed on the bike, which is something that I’ve been searching for this week. It’s been good to end with a positive ride. Because of the change to the schedule we didn’t go to Mongolia which is unfortunate, however, for me it was good to challenge myself on terrain that I’m not so comfortable on. This will make me a better rally rider so even if the result was not my best, I learned a lot this week with my riding and also the bike. Overall, it has been a positive experience for me at the Silk Way, it was great to be racing again, and I’m happy to have completed this rally.”
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