Information about off-road racing in Russia and Mongolia
It’s time to strap in again for the Silk Way Rally, as the 11th edition of the off-road adventure sets off from Omsk, Russia on July 1. A total of 10 timed special stages await before the checkered flag flies in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on July 11.
A varied route of more than 5,000 km will take the race convoy through mountains, deserts and steppes. It will be a brutal test for the competitors and their machines on perilous terrain and under a blazing sun. New this year is that the race is part of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, while also remaining on the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship calendar.
Before the starting gun cracks, let’s take an in-depth look at what to expect from the 2021 Silk Way Rally.
A marathon in every sense of the word
No other discipline in the world of motorsport encapsulates pure adventure as much as rally-raid. Before the Silk Way Rally even begins, competitors must find their way to the Siberian city of Omsk. From there, it’s a 5,250 km trek to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, 2,850 km of which is against the clock.
The course of the race offers landscapes as breathtaking as they are dangerous to cross, with traps waiting to catch competitors at each stage of the rally. From the Altai Mountains to the Gobi Desert and across the seemingly endless Mongolian Steppes, it will challenge riders both mentally and physically.
Adding to the stress for competitors is the two-day, 840km marathon stage between Khovd and Altai, which comes halfway through the rally. This will see riders separated from their mechanics overnight and forced to carry out any necessary repairs themselves.
Skiing in the Gobi Desert
Alphand knows what rally-raiders like and dislike, and he filled the course with a mix of both.
“When preparing the course this year, we have learned and taken into account all the lessons from previous years,” he said. “It helped us to make it more interesting, complicated and diverse from the point of view of road surfaces and climatic zones, spectacular from the point of view of the surrounding landscapes and, just as important for our riders, we managed to shorten the bonds significantly.”
Meet the fab 5 driving for KAMAZ
When legendary KAMAZ trucker Vladimir Chagin announced his retirement from racing after winning the 2011 Dakar Rally, it put his team at a crossroads. How do you replace a driver who has won seven Dakars in a decade? The answer came from Chagin himself, because he replaced himself not with one pilot, but with five – Eduard Nikolaev, Andrey Karginov, Ayrat Mardeev, Dmitry Sotnikov and Anton Shibalov
Since making his decision to retire, Chagin has been bloodying this new generation of KAMAZ talent. In the decade since, rally-raid racing around the world has been dominated by these five KAMAZ riders. Among the honors reaped by the Chagin team over the past 10 years are eight Dakar victories and six Silk Way victories. These five former Silk Way winning truck drivers are entered for this year’s edition.
We know we have to be at our best to win
In search of marginal gains
The quest for improvement never stops at the Russian headquarters of the KAMAZ Master team in Naberezhnye Chelny. That’s part of what makes it such a feared opponent of other major rally-raid truck manufacturers such as Maz, Renault, Iveco and Volvo.
Every year, subtle adjustments are made to the KAMAZ race truck to help its drivers maintain the edge over their rivals. From suspension settings to steering wheel columns, nothing is left to chance when the KAMA-43509 takes to the desert to compete.
New to this addition to the Silk Way will be the K5 Cab on current Dakar champion Dmitry Sotnikov’s race truck.
Confront it with two wheels
It’s a new challenge for me and it looks like it will be difficult
Determined to stay on the gas
“My strength is definitely running in the sand,” Sanders said ahead of his Silk Way trip. “Hopefully we’ll see a lot of that when we get to Mongolia.”
The Silk Way is an excellent opportunity for any rider wishing to make an impression on the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. More points are up for grabs in Russia and Mongolia than at any of the other five rallies on the calendar This year.
The edition also sees the race part of the seven-round FIA Cross-Country Rallies World Cup for the first time. Expect to see some movement in the T1, T3 and T4 Drivers’ Championship when the points are tallied in Ulaanbaatar on July 11.