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

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Heavy overnight rain dramatically changed the condition on the 255.35-kilometre stage one of the Silk Way Rally. Twisting forest tracks led competitors through the Siberian taiga from the start in Irkutsk to the bivouac in Baikalsk. The short 50.87-kilometre timed special meant that an early advantage would be difficult to attain, but any mistakes would be punished heavily.

Currently running second in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, Luciano Benavides was the 14th rider to set off from the start, three minutes ahead of teammate Sunderland. The young Argentinian immediately gelled with the conditions and with his KTM 450 RALLY performing perfectly in the mud and standing water, ultimately posted the second-fastest time of 31 minutes and 27 seconds.

Luciano Benavides: “It was a good day for me today. I felt really comfortable on the bike and it was perfect for the whole stage. I’m pleased with the result and really happy with how the rally has started. Tomorrow will be a lot longer and starting second will make it even tougher, but I’m looking forward to it and hope for another good result.”

Championship leader Sam Sunderland took a cautious approach to the day’s stage one. Knowing the size of the challenge ahead of him, with another 4,750 kilometres to go over the course of the event, the 2017 Dakar Rally winner maintained a solid pace to post the fifth-fastest time and earn himself a strong start position for Monday’s stage two.

Sam Sunderland: “It was a little bit muddy today but it’s nice to get the race started. It was a short stage at only 50 kilometres and there wasn’t much to win but quite a lot to lose if you made a mistake on a slippery stage like that. For me I took it easy and just got through it as we’ve got a long way to go. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the days to come.”

Competing on her rally bike for the first time since the Dakar Rally at the beginning of the year, Laia Sanz used stage one to reacquaint herself with the navigation and technique of cross-country rallying. Despite being given the unenviable task of opening the timed special, the Spaniard rode a superb stage one to finish 15th, less than nine minutes down on the leader.

Laia Sanz: “I took things easy today but I’m happy because I arrived safely at the finish. It was very easy to crash on all the mud today – the tracks were really unpredictable. Starting first was tough on the mind, and was not so good for my confidence, but I am happy. I lost a little bit of time but I think it will take a while to get back into a rhythm and there’s still a long way to go.”

Monday’s stage two of the Silk Way Rally will pit riders against similar terrain to stage one but at a total distance of 413.72 kilometres with a timed special of 207.67, the route from Baikalsk to Ulan-Ude will be a far greater challenge.

Provisional Results Stage One – 2019 Silk Way Rally

1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 30:51
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 31:27 +36 seconds
3. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Yamaha, 31:42 +51 secs
4. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 31:57 +1:06
5. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 32:06 +1:15
Other KTM
15. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 39:40 +8:49

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