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Distance: 254,90KM - Selective section: 50,87KM

IRKUTSK-BAIKALSK - Siberian “taiga” forest

51 kilometers along the narrow roads in Siberian taiga. On the first kilometers the track was hard and stony, not easy to find an opportunity to overcome. Forest roads, river beds and dusty Siberian hills were the first steps into an amazing racing journey. All those that had meet all the challenges of the day will get some rest at an enjoyable rally bivouac, situated right on the Baikal lake shores.


# Bikes: Benavides family fiesta

# Cars: Al-Attiyah and buggy woogie

# Trucks: Viazovich and his MAZ nose ahead

# Tomorrow: Bye bye taïga, hello the Bouriatie

Bikes: Benavides family fiesta

The technical nature of the track, through the Siberian forests from Irkutsk to Baykalsk, was made even trickier by the heavy overnight rain. It might have only been 51 kilometres long but all the riders were clearly relieved to make it through their first ever SILK WAY RALLY special unscathed. And clearly the mud and water suited the riders coming from an enduro background, with three ex-enduro riders taking the first three places. The variety up at the front of the rankings came not from the background of the riders but their machines, with Honda, KTM and Yamaha all getting onto today’s podium.

Fastest was the Argentinian Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda Team), beating his younger brother Luciano (Red Bull KTM Factory) by just 36 seconds. It was the first time they have ever managed a ‘one-two’ on an FIM rally stage and both were clearly proud of their ‘family performance’. A few seconds behind them was the Frenchman Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha Rally Team), despite having to slow down after his radiator became full of mud, causing the engine to show signs of overheating.

The top five was rounded out by Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda Team) at 1’06, with British rider and current championship leader Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory) in 5th at 1’15. In the quads the day’s special was won by the Polish rider Linder 4’37 ahead of the Russian Maksimov.

Cars: Al-Attiyah and buggy woogie

Second away on this first selective section, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing Overdrive) had just one strategy: post the fastest time. Taking advantage of the slow puncture of their teammate Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Gazoo Racing), who started three minutes ahead of them, the Dakar title holders set a blistering pace to take the early lead on this 2019 SIILK WAY RALLY. A victory and a smart strategic move, which should see them ideally placed, in two day’s time, for the first long stage to Oulan Bator.

The surprise today came from Jérôme Pélichet and Pascal Larroque (Optimus) who got their two-wheel drive buggy between the favourites’ Toyota Hilux, 2’32 behind the leader. Further proof that slippery terrain can also suit buggies: the Chinese Wang Xian (Dunbee) and his countryman Gang Zi Yun (Hanwei SMG) complete the day’s top 5. Even better: this evening in Baykalsk, on the shores of the famous lake, there are no less than eight buggies in the top 10 overall.

In the SSV class, Titiana Sycheva (BRP Can-AM) took advantage of her countryman Kariakin’s (Can Am Maverick) electrical problems to post exactly the same time as the Franco-Swiss duo of Vincent Gonzalez and Steven Griener (Polaris). The British pairing Knight / Watson (Polaris) round out the day’s podium.

Trucks: Viazovich and his MAZ nose ahead

Siarhey Viazovich (MAZ) has already made his mark on this SILK WAY RALLY. Aboard his new ‘long nose’ truck he was determined to get ahead of the Kamaz on their home turf. Chucking his powerful monster sideways over the slippery tracks, the Belarus driver finished 56 seconds ahead of Anton Shibalov and his Kamaz, who was loaded down with spares in case his teammates needed them.

The up and coming Russian driver avoided a MAZ one-two by relegating Vishneuski to third place and in doing so avoids having to carry extra weight tomorrow. First on the road, the 2018 winner Andrei Karginov (Kamaz) was more prudent. He leads the fifth placed Renault of Dutchman Martin van den Brink by a handful of seconds.



Focus of everybody’s attention on this first stage of the SILK WAY RALLY, Lake BAÏKAL is the major tourist attraction in the region. The eighth largest in the world, the biggest lake in Asia, with a surface area of 31,500 km2 it is comparable to that of Belgium. By way of another comparison it has a 54 times bigger surface area than Lac Léman in Switzerland and 258 times more volume. Where it clearly wins out is in depth. At 1,700 metres deep it is the deepest lake in the world. Fed by 365 different rivers and streams, with 23,000 km3, it holds 20% of the earth’s freshwater reserves.


Tomorrow: Stage 2- BAIKALSK-ULAN UDE: “Goodbye to taiga and welcome to Buryati” - Distance: 409,34 KM - Selective section: 207,67KM

The second stage will go along stony roads – upwards through a mountain pass, then downwards, and... a real tire challenge: not to lose one’s wheels, pace and speed. That day all crews will get to enjoy diverse landscapes: mountains, taiga, various bridges across the rivers mixed with fast navigation and search of the correct direction among the Siberian hills. Find the path and rush at full speed towards the finish line across steppe plateaus!


GAZPROM, the rally’s main partner

The Russian global energy company PJSC Gazprom has been engaged on the event as a main partner since the first edition of the Silk Way Rally in 2009.

TOYOTA, « official vehicles » of the organization

Toyota Hilux for the forth time already are the Silk Way Rally official cars.

Because of their unique design and capabilities, TOYOTA all-terrain vehicles have proved their extraordinary resistance during the various reconnaissance and on the rally. Toyota is producing vehicles that you can rely on in any situation. Distinguishing characteristics offroad, endurance, an amazing ability to adapt to harsh road conditions and climate…. Main idea is that Land Cruiser Prado, Land Cruiser 200, Fortuner and Hilux tackle the challenges delegated to them.

SIBUR, technical partner

PJSC SIBUR is the largest integrated petrochemicals company in Russia and the technical partner for innovative materials. They are sponsoring a special award for "impressive vehicle reliability and excellent skills demonstrated under extreme circumstances”.

GAZPROM NEFT, official fuel partner

Gazprom will be filling up the Silk Way Rally’s vehicles along the route with the company’s branded diesel fuel, Diesel Opti. OPTI fuel performed excellently in extreme conditions, and our continuing cooperation is the best proof.

GAZPROMBANK, financial partner

Gazprombank is one of the largest multifunctional banks in Russia.



Kevin Benavides (Arg/Monster Energy Honda Team) 1st 

“Amazing to start the race with a win. I come from enduro so I’m used to these kind of conditions but still it is really good for my confidence. But we’ve only just started so I will try and stay focused. Also happy because my brother finished second. A good day for the Benavides Brothers!”

Luciano Benavides (Arg/ Red Bull KTM Factory) 2nd

“I feel really good. It was a short stage but really fun to ride. Sometimes fast, sometimes more like an enduro and I think this is why I felt so good on the bike. And then with my brother finishing first this is good for the family - makes me feel so proud. But this is just the start of the race. Tomorrow will be longer and more complicated.”

Xavier de Soultrait (Fra/Yamaha Rally Team) 3rd 

“As it was the first special so we needed to see how the road book had been done and I’m very pleased to say it was good. The dangers marked were spot on. It was slippery with a lot of mud and after about 15 kilometres the engine started to get hot because the radiator was getting blocked. So after that I had to slow down a bit. In the end it wasn’t such a bad thing as it gives me a good start position for tomorrow.”


Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qat/Toyota Gazoo Racing Overdrive) 1st

“A short stage. We decide to push and we win the stage. It wasn’t easy, there was a lot of mud, a lot of rocks. Tomorrow if we lose time no problem but day 3 will be really long so it is better to start from behind.”

Jérôme Pélichet (Fra/Optimus Raid Lynx) 2nd
“I’m really surprised by this result. I didn’t expect to find myself between Nasser and Yazeed. Especially as we really took it easy over this stage. At the start I had to get used to the buggy. As the special went on I started to feel more comfortable but I repeat I didn’t take the slightest risk. Who knows, maybe it is a sign that we are going to have a good rally.”

Yazeed Al Rajhi (Saud/ Toyota Gazoo Racing Overdrive) 3rd
“After 14 kms from the start we had a small puncture so we tried to find a place to stop. Maybe drove 2 km further. After we changed it we took it easy. It is still a long race. Tomorrow we start third on narrow roads and then day 3 the race starts.”

Wang Xian (Chn/Buggy Dunbee HRT) 4th
“It was slippery today and difficult to drive in two-wheel drive. I am very happy with this result even if itw as difficult to overtake other competitors on the piste. It was dangerous: I saw an SSV roll in front of me while trying to overtake someone else. I think patience is the most important thing to keep ones place until the end.”