The Silk Way Rally, the second round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, has concluded in Dunhuang, China, with all three of the Monster Energy Honda Team trio crossing the finish-line after more than 5,000 kilometres of rally.

The Silk Way Rally came to an end in Dunghuang some ten days after getting underway in the Russian city of Irkutsk and crossing from the north to the south of Mongolia on the maiden appearance of the motorcycle category in the competition. En route competitors had to deal with nine stages packed with a multitude of terrain types on territory as yet unchartered for most of the bikers involved. All three Monster Energy Honda Team riders managed to make it to the end of the rough ordeal. The arduous 5,000 km slog brings a wealth of experience to each of the riders as well as producing some crucial information that will help to further develop the Honda CRF450 RALLY.

Kevin Benavides, who took fourth overall place in the rally, also snatched four stage victories to become the rider with most wins in the special timed stages. In spite of having shown some serious on-track clout, the Argentinean fell foul of a note of the roadbook misinterpreted which effectively curtailed chances of overall victory.

Joan Barreda’s fall while in contention with the front-runners likewise ruled the Spaniard out of the battle for the final glory. Barreda displayed high-speed and showed fine race pace throughout the rally and, over various stages, held top positions for lengthy stretches.

 

Chilean rider José Ignacio was also demonstrating improved handling, in spite of some of the adverse conditions on the Russian routes. Nevertheless, the rider was progressing in leaps and bounds until a penalization put paid to chances of finishing among the top guns.

 

“It was a tough race for everyone,” outlined Monster Energy Honda Team’s Sporting Director, Ruben Faria. “This was a new date in the calendar and a brand new adventure as we faced three unknown countries with different languages. It really was a great adventure for everyone involved. It didn’t turn out to be the result that we were looking for but we did manage to finish the rally with all three of the bikes and all the riders made it to the end without any physical problems which is also important. The next race will be the Atacama Rally and hopefully the luck that was missing in this race will accompany us in that one. We have learned a lot from this race and we will keep working so that things go even better in Chile.”

The next race for the Monster Energy Honda Team will be the Atacama Rally. The third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship will have the Chilean city of Copiapó as its nerve-centre. Riders can expect a curtain-raising prologue and five stages from 2nd to 7th September.

Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

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.

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 #6

“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.”

Putting in an impressive performance throughout the event, Luciano Benavides placed eighth on the final stage to claim fifth place overall and top the Junior class. Continuing to learn and gain experience, the young Argentinian rode a mature race, often bouncing back from small navigation errors to complete each stage consistently and secure his solid top-five result. With two rounds of this year’s FIM championship remaining, Benavides’ goal is to increase his rally knowledge and overall speed.

Luciano Benavides 

“For me, it has been a really good rally – I finished fifth overall and won the Junior category. It’s been a tough rally, but I have certainly learned a lot. I made a few mistakes in the last few days that ended up costing me some time, but I know what I did wrong and I need to go away now and work on those areas. Overall, I am happy with how I rode and the bike has been perfect. My confidence is growing all the time and each rally we do I learn a little bit more and gain a lot of experience. Finally, I want to thank the team – to be in this KTM family is an amazing feeling and everyone did a great job.”

KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz rode to a safe 13th place on stage 10 in order to minimise any possible mistakes and safeguard her position in the overall standings. The Dakar Women’s Champion marked her first competitive outing in this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with an excellent seventh place overall – beating many of the championship regulars in the process. Laia’s impressive speed and consistent, error-free finishes paid off, especially at an event as tough and demanding as the Silk Way Rally. Sanz will now take some rest before continuing her Dakar preparation at the next race in Chile.

Laia Sanz

“I took it easy today as I wanted to stay safe and keep my position in the standings. Overall, it has been a good rally for me, these last days have been tough and certainly very tiring as well as being technical. I’m happy to be at the end safely and I’m very happy with my result. The organisation of the rally has been really good and I’m so happy that I came. I had some really good days in Mongolia but here in China I struggled a bit more. Now, after some rest, I will continue to train and focus as always on the Dakar Rally next year.”

Rider Standings – Final

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 26:12’47
2 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +20’22
3 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +21’01
4 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +21’37
5 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +36’50
6 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +51’50
7 SANZ Laia SPA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +1:56’26
8 TOMICZEK Adam POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +2:08’04
9 BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team +2:54’25
10 GIEMZA Maciej POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +3:10’31
11 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +4:06’10

Photos: KTM Press Center

Stage five marked the second half of the Silk Way Rally’s marathon stage. Following Wednesday’s long 470-kilometre timed special, bikes were left in parc fermé overnight where the only maintenance allowed had to be carried out by the riders themselves. With today’s stage clocking a total of 364.59 kilometres including a 337-kilometre timed special through the plains of Mongolia, bike and tyre preservation throughout the two days of riding proved key to a top result.

With a win on the first half of the marathon stage, the task of opening day five was given to Sam Sunderland. The British rider, using all of his experience, skill and speed maintained a strong but safe pace over the course of the two days. Despite leading the riders out into the fast tracks and mountain passes, Sam navigated the route perfectly, arriving at the finish after leading the entire stage. Today’s win increases Sunderland’s margin at the top of the provisional overall standings to over 13 minutes.

Sam Sunderland #6

“Stage five was another really fast stage, so I’m happy to complete it safely. Opening the route is always a big challenge, but here there are a lot of animals by the side of the track and you are always second-guessing what they are going to do. Luckily, I didn’t have any scary moments, so I was happy about that. I just tried to keep consistent throughout the stage and keep pushing. I’m really happy because I ended up winning the stage and it’s the first time I have won a stage while opening. The bike has been great on the second half of the marathon stage with no service, and the Michelin tyres have held up really well after two long days of riding. Things are going well, so I’ll continue to take each day as it comes.”

Second-fastest on the first half of the marathon stage, Luciano Benavides set out this morning with the goal of chasing down teammate Sunderland. Unfortunately, a couple of small errors ended up costing the young Argentinian some time and so in order to preserve himself and his KTM 450 RALLY, Luciano opted to stick to a solid pace and make it safely to the finish. With sixth place on the day’s stage, Benavides remains second overall, close to four minutes ahead of his brother Kevin in third.

Luciano Benavides #77

“Today was really tough for me. It was a really fast piste and very stony in places. I started really good and my rhythm was ok but today I was a little bit tired and lost focus in a couple of places, which ended up costing me some time. The marathon stage went well overall – I didn’t crash and the bike is ok and everything feels good in myself and on the bike. I’m really happy to finish these long stages and looking forward now to the next few days.” 

Putting in her best performance of the rally so far, Laia Sanz excelled on the fast, flowing stage five to post the eighth-fastest time, just less than nine minutes down on teammate Sunderland and only 21 seconds behind Benavides. The result elevates Laia two places to ninth overall in the provisional standings.

Laia Sanz #44

“I’m really happy today – it was another really fast stage but I felt confident on the bike and was able to keep to a good pace. The bike has been perfect with no problems over the whole marathon stage. I’m really looking forward to the coming stages now and hope I can keep posting some strong results.”

Now entering the second half of the event, stage six will cover a total of 411.75 kilometres of which 408.17 kilometres are timed special. The route leads competitors away from Mandalgovi to Dalanzadgad, which lies at an altitude of 1,470 metres.

Rider Standings

(Top 10 Only)

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 12:44’26
2 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +13’44
3 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +17’18
4 GONCALVES Paulo POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally +21’10
5 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +26’02
6 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +26’20
7 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +26’42
8 CAIMI Franco ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +29’39
9 SANZ Laia SPA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +55’08
10 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +1:01’08

Photos: KTM Press Center

At 470.19 kilometres the timed special on stage four of the rally was the longest of the event. Consisting of a looped route, that started and finished close to the Mongolian capital of Ulan-Bator, the stage challenged the riders with a variety of terrain including fast open tracks through the plains and rocky roads among the stone pyramids. As the first part of the two-day marathon stage, teams are forbidden from working on the bikes overnight.

Following his fourth-place finish on Tuesday’s stage three, Sam Sunderland was in the perfect position to chase down the riders ahead of him and make up time on the rally leader. Maintaining a fast pace for the entire 470 kilometres, the British rider not only did enough to make up time on the riders ahead but won the stage outright, over three minutes ahead of his teammate. Sunderland now leads the rally by five minutes and 11 seconds.

Sam Sunderland #6

“It’s been a super-long and super-fast stage today, which is a good combination as the kilometres tick off quite quickly when you’re at 160-170 km/h. I felt really good on the bike and tried to stay on my navigation and watch out for the dangers. You have to stay focused but 470 kilometres is a long time to maintain your concentration. The bike has been perfect so I’m really happy with that. It’s the marathon stage so we can’t really work on the bike too much, but everything looks good so we’re ready for tomorrow.”

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Junior class rider Luciano Benavides put in another stunning performance today to complete the long timed special in second overall – an impressive achievement for the young 24-year-old Argentinian. Benavides now lies second in the provisional overall standings albeit by just one second. However, the gap back to the fourth-placed rider is a more comfortable 14 minutes.

Luciano Benavides #77

“It was a good stage for me, I feel like I rode well again. It was a long stage – the longest of the Silk Way, so I’m happy to finish safe and healthy. My goal for today was to concentrate on my road book and navigation and stay focused on the bike. I think I managed that and I’m happy with the result. I feel confident now and really motivated for tomorrow’s second part of the marathon stage.”

Feeling more comfortable on her KTM 450 RALLY, Laia Sanz rode a superb stage four completing the day just outside of the top 10 in 11th. With her confidence growing, Laia is ready to push on the latter half of the marathon stage and the remainder of the rally.

Laia Sanz #44

“It was a good stage for me today, I felt a lot more comfortable than the days before. The bike felt good and I had more confidence so was able to keep to a better rhythm. Unfortunately, on the second half of the stage, I had to stop for my stomach and lost a little time there but all-in-all it has been a good day.”

Rider Standings

(Top 10 Only)

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 9:38’55
2 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +5’11
3 BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team +5’12
4 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +15’38
5 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +16’52
6 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +17’21
7 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +17’29
8 GONCALVES Paulo POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally +18’23
9 CAIMI Franco ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +20’19
10 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +34’31

Photos: KTM Press Center

The Silk Way Rally has arrived in Mongolia. The third stage had a weighty presence from Monster Energy Honda Team, with Kevin Benavides claiming the stage victory and a spirited fight for second place from Joan Barreda.

The rally leaves behind Russia and moves on to Mongolia, the country of eternal blue skies. Change of the scenery: the predominance of the taiga gives way to the steppes in a country characterized by an ample variety of terrain types: forest, mountains and plains, not to mention the Gobi desert in the south. The day’s special took place entirely on Mongolian soil after a liaison road section from Ulan Ude which took competitors across the border into Mongolia. The arrival of harder track and terrain saw an immediate increase in speed and race pace. The bivouac is situated close to the country’s capital Ulan Bator, using the infrastructure from the new airport that is under construction there.

Kevin Benavides took the stage honours on the third day of the Silk Way Rally, setting a scorching pace from the outset of the special stage. The Argentinean’s Monster Energy Honda Team companion, Spanish rider Joan Barreda, in spite of a slight mishap at the start of the special, was able to attack in the latter stages, battling hard with Kevin in search of the day’s quickest stint. Benavides, in the end, recorded the fastest one with Barreda coming home some 30 seconds behind the stage winner who holds on to and increases his grip at the head of the overall standings. Meanwhile, Barreda leapfrogs to third place in the general standings.

The third rider of the Monster Energy Honda Team trio, Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo, was feeling more at home on harder surfaces, finishing the special less than seven minutes adrift of Benavides to improve in the overall rankings too.

Tomorrow sees the fourth stage, the first leg of the marathon stage, with a looping route around the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator. The 476.96-kilometre total stage will include 470.19 against the clock, the longest special of the rally. Riders will have a time period available at their disposal to work on the bikes once the special stage is finished.

Kevin Benavides #7

STAGE: 1ST  OVERALL: 1ST

Today was a different stage, a very long day: 10 hours on the bike. I enjoyed the special. I did not push as much as possible, but I tried to keep good pace and it was great to win on the day. Tomorrow I will have to open the track, not something I like, as it is not a good one for strategy. There are many days of racing left and you have to enjoy this Silk Way Rally stage by stage, something that I’m really doing.

Joan Barreda #11

STAGE: 2ND  OVERALL: 3RD

How do you write a book? Where do you start? Anyone can do it. Of course, you don’t have to be a great writer to write a book, you have to feel like a writer. To learn how to write a book that someone will want to publish it is essential to learn the method of the greats of literature. Writing a book, in fact, is not easy. Leaving without being adequately prepared is the most common mistake, with the risk of arriving halfway without having anything to say. A great deal of application is required to write a book. A good idea is not enough, intuition is not enough: it takes a lot of time. It is hard work and it is not so easy like to type in google who can do my thesis for me fast and get your thesis in a few hours. But what are the steps necessary to write a good book, be it a novel or an essay on a topic of your competence? The starting point is the same: the documentation work necessary to be credible and to have material on which to construct the discourse. Before starting to write a book, you must, therefore, study in-depth the topic you want to describe with your work. The historical setting of a novel, the possible details of a character’s life and the places described. If, on the other hand, you are working on a manual, you must first know the subject thoroughly, document yourself about possible sources and study the competition. It is useless to write yet another book on the same subject, with nothing original to say.

It was a good day in the end, but it was not an easy one. At the beginning of the special I lost some time when I fell into a trap that Paulo Gonçalves had also fallen into. I could not help it, but the bike just fell inside. Fortunately it was nothing serious for the bike, but I was held up there for at least two minutes. Then, I tried to focus and find good pace without taking too many risks, although I overtook Paulo in the middle of all the dust that he was raising. It was a tricky day. I tried to pull back some of the lost time over the final kilometres, something that isn’t easy on outside tracks and areas of grass.

José Ignacio Cornejo #9

STAGE: 9TH  OVERALL: 10TH

I am happy to enter Mongolia after the first two stages in Russia which were not my riding style. Here it went much better than the previous ones had. I’m happy with what I’ve done today and I’m becoming more confidence. We are going to try to go out and make up lost ground. We have been climbing positions little by little and hopefully will continue to do so. Tomorrow will be complicated because it’s the marathon stage and it will also be the longest special stage. So we should perhaps try not to take too many risks over these coming two days.

Rider Standings (Top 10 only)

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team 5:20’42
2 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +2’54
3 BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team +3’09
4 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +4’19
5 GONCALVES Paulo POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally +9’28
6 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +9’37
7 CAIMI Franco ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +10’40
8 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +11’45
9 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +12’52
10 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +28’15

Photos: Honda Racing Corporation