The second stage of the Silk Way Rally sees Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides continue his command at the head of the overall race leader board after a valiant effort opening the track throughout the stage in the Siberian taiga.

Taiga is the name given to the Siberian forest. The tracks found there are made up mainly of earth and rocks that tend to be very damp and full of muddy quagmires. The entire second Silk Way Rally stage played out in such terrain, vastly different from the pampas and deserts which the rally raiders are normally used to.

Kevin Benavides, winner of the first stage, got lumped with opening the track today, which he did from start to finish over 212 kilometres of special stage, full of narrow potholed track studded with rocks. The forest section gave way to faster stretches of track requiring deft navigation. The previous enduro experience worked to the Argentine rider’s advantage, allowing him to minimize the handicap of opening the way throughout the entire day’s racing. Benavides posted a swift time that sees him hang on to top spot in the overall rankings.

Joan Barreda, Benavides’ Spanish team-mate, feeling ill-at-ease in conditions that didn’t suit his riding style, nevertheless managed to make it through the tricky stage. Barreda finished 2’40 adrift of the winner on the day and occupies fifth position in the general standings at a similar distance from the leader. Meanwhile, Chilean rider Cornejo likewise reached the goal without major mishaps but with a sense of achievement after the ordeal and can now look forward to the sections of the rally in the steppes and the desert.

Tomorrow sees the third stage, between Ulan Ude and the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator. There will be a total of 691.35 kilometres of stage, although only 243 km will be against the clock.

Kevin Benavides #7


I opened the whole stage. We knew it would be hard and very technical with many stones and mud. The narrow tracks were difficult, but I enjoyed it in spite of it being very hard. I think I did it well and I was in a good position. It was technical, fast and with navigation over the final 50 kilometres. I nearly crashed into an animal but luckily he dodged out of my way! You have to be very attentive to everything. The rally is a game of chess, so let’s see how it turns out. I am happy with the result.

Joan Barreda #11


I felt very good on the slopes today with lots of mud and some potholes with big rocks. I could not find the right feelings and I was looking forward to getting past this section. Then there was a faster part and I felt a lot better there. We finished the day without any problems; I am well placed at a minimum time behind the leader. Everything is going well. I hope that in Mongolia we will find more open stages and I can find places that suit my riding style better.

José Ignacio Cornejo #9


Today’s stage was much longer but was also harder. Lots of mud, water, stones and little visibility because of the shade of the forest trees. I did not feel very comfortable and I was struggling to feel comfortable. Let’s hope that in the future we find some terrain that will keep us ahead. Physically I’m fine, but mentally it’s hard to find a good race pace in these conditions.

Rider Standings


Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team 2:52’28
2 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +0’08
3 GONCALVES Paulo POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally +1’19
4 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +2’25
5 BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team +2’39
6 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +3’03
7 CAIMI Franco ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +4’25
8 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +6’18
9 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +7’08
10 GIEMZA Maciej POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +18’84
12 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +21’17

Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides sees his name inscribed in the Silk Way Rally history books as he becomes the first leader in the maiden outing of the motorcycle category. Barreda, posting fourth, and Cornejo both avoided mishaps.

The Silk Way Rally got underway today, Sunday, with a 50-kilometre curtain-raising special stage on route from Irkutsk to Baykalsk, which featured mountain tracks and riverbeds in the surroundings of Lake Baikal. The rain yesterday, which continued overnight, led to a mud-drenched affair, punctuated with some hazardous puddles. Riders with an enduro background faired better, while others employed low-risk, damage limitation strategies to avoid falls.

The quickest over the short distance proved to be Monster Energy Honda Team’s Argentine rider Kevin Benavides, who finished the timed special in just over 30 minutes to become the first race leader, some 36 seconds ahead of his brother.

Spanish ace Joan Barreda was the first of the trio to take the start and acquitted himself well to take the day’s fourth fastest time, while conceding little. Meanwhile, José Ignacio Cornejo finished in thirteenth place after a cautious start to the rally.

The second stage of the Silk Way Rally will be held tomorrow, Monday. With the start in Baykalsk and the finish in Ulan Ude, riders can expect a 413.72-kilometre total trek including 207 km against the clock. The forest routes to be tackled will feature a fair dosage of small rocks.

Kevin Benavides #7


I couldn’t ask for anything more! To start the race with a nice stage victory is always pleasing. Also, it will really boost my self-confidence which I needed a little. We have worked hard before the race and the results are starting to show. This race promises to surprise us with some very lovely places, but we have to continue working and pushing hard because we have only tackled the first of what will be a lot of tough days that lie ahead.

Joan Barreda #11


It was a short 50-kilometre stage, but it was a difficult, or rather, a complicated one. At the beginning there were many flooded parts with puddles full of plenty of water which made for an insecure ride. We even had a few slight scares, which meant that we had to proceed with caution. It has been a good warm-up, a great way to get a feel for the terrain, as yet unknown to us.

José Ignacio Cornejo #9


There was a lot of mud in the stage because of the rains that fell yesterday. I took things carefully not to make mistakes and avoid falling which would have affected my confidence. I am satisfied with what I have done out on a route that didn’t favour my riding style. It has not been a bad day and I hope to keep improving the pace a little as the race progresses.

Results Stage 1

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 00:30’51
2 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +0’36
3 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +0’51
4 BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +1’06
5 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +1’15
6 GONCALVES Paulo POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +1’36
7 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +2’02
8 CAIMI Franco ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +2’51
9 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Husqvarna +3’01
10 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +3’31
11 TOMICZEK Adam POL KTM Orlen Rally Team KTM +4’15
12 GIEMZA Maciej POL KTM Orlen Rally Team KTM +4’47
13 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +6’10

Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

Monster Energy Honda Team have recently arrived in Russia, where from next week, the squad will line up for the Silk Way Rally – the second round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – fielding a trio of riders who are set to compete in all events in the championship calendar.

A whopping 5000 kilometre trek through Irkutsk in Russia, Dunhuang in China and a journey across Mongolia, is the latest challenge that awaits the Monster Energy Honda Team next week. One of toughest tests in the calendar and, as yet, unchartered territory for the motorcycle category, gets underway on 7th July. The Silk Way Rally is the round two of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship and sees Honda’s factory team, Monster Energy Honda Team, line up with their official riders Kevin Benavides, Joan Barreda and José Ignacio Cornejo.

This year marks the tenth edition of the Silk Way Rally, but the motorcycle class only now gets its maiden outing in the race. The two-wheel competitors will thus tackle the lengthy course alongside the traditional car and truck competitors.

The riders can expect a heterogeneous route as they face nine tough stages that take in terrain types of every description: from the Russian taiga, through muddy, rock-filled tracks to the open plains of the Mongolian steppes. But it will be the final stretches through the Gobi desert between Mongolia and China that will establish the final finishing order. The longest stage will be the eighth, to be held in China with a total length of 786.11 kilometres, including 326.60 km of timed special stage. The longest special stage will play out in Mongolia, with a looping 470.19 stage from the capital Ulaanbaatar.

After the opener in Abu Dhabi, the Monster Energy Honda Team the overall standings see José Ignacio Cornejo and Kevin Benavides lying in third and fourth places on 21 and 16 points respectively. Joan Barreda, with 4 points, holds twentieth place.

Once the administrative and technical shakedown is out of the way, the action kicks off on 7th July with the first stage held between the city of Irkutsk and Baykalsk in the vicinity of Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world.

Stage Date Departure Arrival Liaison Special Total
1 7/7 Irkutsk Baykalsk 204,48 50,87 255,35
2 8/7 Baykalsk Ulan Ude 201,67 212,02 413,69
3 9/7 Ulan Ude Ulaanbaatar 448,35 243,00 691,35
4 10/7 Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar 6,77 470,19 476,96
5 11/7 Ulaanbaatar Mandalgovi 27,59 337,00 364,59
6 12/7 Mandalgovi Dalanzadgad 3,58 408,17 411,75
7 13/7 Dalanzadgad Bayinbaolige 550,66 550,66
8 14/7 Bayinbaolige Alashan 59,51 326,60 786,11
9 15/7 Alashan Jiayuguan 210,90 290,30 501,20
10 16/7 Jiayuguan Dunhuang 301,30 255,00 556,30

Kevin Benavides

After the shoulder injury and the Abu Dhabi race we have worked hard to recover physically. Today, I’m fine and I’m riding the bike pain-free and I think I’m ready. I have recently done a good training session with the rally bike over a few days and I am super-motivated to get the Silk Way Rally underway. I think it will be a beautiful race, through different places and with different scenarios: mud, rocks, hard roads … and even dunes! I am ready for this new challenge and I hope that it all goes in the best way possible and I hope I feel good with myself.

Joan Barreda

I think we came to this second race in a much better way than we began the World Championship in Abu Dhabi. We are more physically recovered and I am looking forward to the Silk Way Rally because it is a rally that I have wanted to ride in for quite some time. Finally, it has been opened to motorcycles and on terrain that I think I will like. I am the only one of the three riders who has ridden in China, but that doesn’t give me any advantage. Hopefully we can have a good race that will help prepare us for the Dakar 2020.

José Ignacio Cornejo

The second date of the world rally championship is an important test because there are more points at stake than in other events and it is a lengthy race where getting as far ahead as possible and getting the most points towards the world championship is important. It will be an interesting, long race with nine stages and ten days. It will be the first time I have ridden in those unknown. We hope to have a good race in preparation for the Dakar. We have trained a lot and we are very motivated to this second date in the calendar.

Photos: Honda Racing Corporation / Edoardo Bauer


Andrew Short will soon arrive in Russia to race the 2019 Silk Way Rally – a 10-day event that also includes stages in Mongolia before finishing in China on July 16. Andrew’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing teammate Pablo Quintanilla will not take part in the event due to his ongoing recovering from the injury sustained at the Dakar Rally in January.

With just over three months since round one of the world championship – the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – finished in April, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Andrew Short has continued training onboard his FR 450 Rally. Keeping busy by also racing some local offroad events the 36-year-old American is physically 100 percent fit and looking forward to the challenge of a new event. With his fifth-place result at the first round, Andrew has shown he can mix it with the more experienced rally riders and is now looking forward to another strong finish, at round two.

Although not competing in the Silk Way Rally, Pablo Quintanilla is close to making a return to competition following the injury he sustained at the Dakar Rally in January. After an extensive rehabilitation process, the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion has spent recent weeks riding his FR 450 Rally at home in Chile, building up his on-bike fitness.

The Silk Way Rally, now in its ninth edition, is welcoming motorcycle competitors for the first time in 2019. Starting in Irkutsk, Russia, competitors will race through Mongolia to ultimately finish in Dunhuang, China after covering over 5,000 kilometres, 2593.15 of which are timed special stages. With a wide variety of terrain including the fast gravel roads of Russia, picturesque but tricky to navigate hills and tracks in Mongolia and the large sand dunes of the Gobi Desert in China, the event looks set to be one of the toughest on the 2019 calendar.

Andrew Short: “I’m really excited for Silk Way, it’s the first year for the bikes so a lot of people really don’t know what to expect. The route looks interesting and from what I have seen from previous years the terrain is quite varied along the way. I’ve been doing some good training here in the States recently, it feels good to be on the bike and I believe we have made some improvements to the suspension and handling since the last round. Silk Way is going to be a really long race so will definitely be a challenge both physically and mentally, but I believe that’s where some of my strengths lie and I’m keen to get started. My plan is to take things steady at first, get a feel for things and not risk too much. If everything is going well, push a little harder towards the end and hopefully come away with a good result.”

Pela Renet – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team Manager: “It’s great to have a new rally in the world championship this year and the Silk Way looks to be one of the most exciting. It’s almost certainly going to be a challenge for the whole team – at 10 days long it’s around the same length as this year’s Dakar, and with it being the first time for motorcycles we don’t know what to expect. Andrew has been riding really well and continues to learn, we believe Silk Way could suit him and we are hoping for a good result. Although Pablo is back on his bike, his recovery has taken longer than expected but we hope to see him back racing in Chile for the Atacama Rally.”

The Silk Way Rally – round two of the 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – starts in Russia on July 6.


She may be down a little on horsepower and a female and up against some of the fastest and strongest young men in the country, but Thames dirt bike rider Natasha Cairns is out in front.

The 34-year-old took her KTM 150XC-W into battle against men, many of whom were on 250cc, 300cc, and 350cc bikes, and she finished fourth overall at the fifth round of seven in this year’s New Zealand Enduro Championships, near Masterton on Saturday.

This was good enough to see her leapfrog into the series lead in the A grade (formerly known as the intermediate grade) and she now enjoys a seven-point advantage over her nearest title rival, Masterton KTM 300EXC rider Philip Bly, with just two rounds remaining.

Two other riders share third position overall after five rounds, Tokoroa’s Nick Wightman (KTM 150XC-W) and Omihi’s Ethan McBreen (Husqvarna TE150), and they are both another three points further back.

“I have finished no worse than fourth all season and so you can see that consistency is the key. I sometimes struggle to finish the day, particularly when it’s muddy, but I just keep in there and tough it out. I don’t think a lack of horsepower is actually a disadvantage for me. It’s all about the person on the end of the throttle. If you can get over the fear and twist it on hard, you’ll probably do okay,” said Cairns, one of the women who was instrumental in organising the inaugural Rise of the Queens women’s ride weekend in May, that event jointly sponsored by KTM and Motorex. “It was an outstanding event, with 150 girls joining in. We did trail riding, had a few training sessions and some equipment clinics too… it had a bit of everything. We are already in the processes of planning next year’s Rise of the Queens event.”

Meanwhile, Rotorua Husqvarna rider Bradley Lauder claimed the top spot in AA grade (formerly known as the expert grade) at Masterson on Saturday, becoming the fifth different winner in as many races this season.

Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM 350EXC-F) won round one of the series near Whangamata in March, Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FE250) clinched the win at round two near Porirua in April, Thames rider Chris Birch (KTM 300EXC) topped the podium at round three near Tokoroa two weeks later and Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX) won round four near Martinborough three weeks ago.

Reardon finished runner-up to Lauder at Masterton on Saturday, with Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM 350EXC-F) finishing third, and Reardon leads the AA grade championship standings.

The double-header final weekend of the enduro nationals, rounds six and seven of the series, are set for Hokitika in three weeks’ time, on July 19 and 20.

Thames rider Natasha Cairns (KTM 150XC-W), leading the way in the A grade in this season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships.


Words and Photo by Andy McGechan