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

STAGE: 1st OVERALL: 1st

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

STAGE: 4th STANDINGS: 4th

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

STAGE: 13th STANDINGS: 13th

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