2nd Rd. Rally 2019 – Silk Way Rally (Russia, Mongolia, China)
Luciano Benavides - KTM 450 RALLY - 2019 Silk Way Rally

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The longest day of the rally so far, stage three saw competitors cross from Russia into Mongolia with the finish line close to the country’s capital of Ulan Bator. Totalling 691.35 kilometres including a timed special of 243 kilometres, the stage climbed into the Mongolian hills to an altitude of over 1,500 metres where forest-covered foothills soon gave way to open-mountain passes and valleys. The plateau towards the end of the special required accurate navigation with its many crossroads and parallel tracks.

An early start saw Luciano Benavides seventh away into the stage. The young Argentinian, although relatively inexperienced, continues to show great pace and mental strength on these long, tough stages. Navigating well throughout the 243-kilometre special, Benavides was able to pass several riders ahead of him to ultimately finish third fastest and defend his fourth-place overall position in the provisional standings.

Luciano Benavides: “Today was another good day. It was another very fast stage with a few challenging sections but I found a good rhythm and was able to push. I had a little trouble getting past the rider who started off ahead of me, but after that the stage went really well and I’m happy with my riding and the result. The bike has been perfect and I’m feeling good so looking forward to the next few stages now.”

Given the task of opening the long stage, Sam Sunderland performed brilliantly, claiming fourth at the finish. Leading the group of riders for the entirety of the timed special, the 2017 Dakar Champion made full use of his skill and experience to navigate through the demanding stage while still maintaining a fast pace. Sam’s result has earned him an advantageous start position for tomorrow’s stage four.

Sam Sunderland: “There was a change of country and 700 kilometres on the menu today, so it’s been a long day. There is such a big contrast in terms of terrain from the tight forest tracks in Russia to these big open plains and valleys here in Mongolia. All-in-all it’s been a good one – it’s never ideal to open on a 700-kilometre stage but someone has to do it and although I did make one mistake that cost me a few minutes, I didn’t lose too much time to the guys behind. There is still a long way to go, but I’m looking forward to it.”

With Laia Sanz’ focus purely on next year’s Dakar Rally, any time spent on her KTM 450 RALLY is invaluable in terms of experience and for making improvements on the bike. Nevertheless, the Spanish star continues to put in excellent stage times, finishing 13th on stage three and also lying 13th in the overall standings.

Laia Sanz: “The stage went well today, not amazing, but not too bad. I normally like this type of terrain but today I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable so I didn’t want to push too hard. I didn’t lose too much time so that puts us in a good place for tomorrow. We’ve been testing some things on the bike too, which is very important in preparation for the next Dakar.”

Stage four of the Silk Way Rally is a circular stage held around the Mongolian capital city of Ulan-Bator. With very little in the way of liaison, of the total 476.96 kilometres covered, 470.19 are timed special. A variety of rocky terrain and fast roads will once again test riders to the full.

Provisional Results Stage Three – 2019 Silk Way Rally

1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 2:28:14
2. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 2:28:44 +30 seconds
3. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 2:30:08 +1:54
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 2:31:00 +2:46
5. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 2:33:41 +5:27
Other KTM
13. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 2:41:56 +13:42

Provisional Standings (after Stage Three) – 2019 Silk Way Rally

1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 5:20:42
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 5:23:36 +2:54
3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 5:23:51 +3:09
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 5:25:01 +4:19
5. Paulo Goncalves (PRT), Hero, 5:30:10 +9:28
Other KTM
13. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 5:55:03 +34:21

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