KTM’s Sam Sunderland on song on Silk Way
|Sam Sunderland has extended his overall lead in the 2019 Silk Way Rally, placing fourth on a challenging stage six. Just one place behind, KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz put in her best performance of the event so far to claim fifth while Luciano Benavides now lies third in the overall standings following a 10th place result on the final day of competition in Mongolia.|
With a slightly reduced timed special due to safety reasons, stage six covered a total of 411.75 kilometres with 278.75 of those against the clock. Fast, wide open gravel roads criss-crossed their way through the stage, making navigation extremely challenging with many competitors losing time at one notably tricky waypoint.
Opening the stage once again due to his second consecutive win on day five, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland led from start-to-finish despite having to navigate his own way through each waypoint. Ultimately, posting the fourth-fastest time at the end of the stage Sunderland increased his lead in the provisional overall standings to just over 21 minutes. With Saturday’s stage seven not including a timed special, Sam will enjoy a good start position for Sunday’s stage eight in the dunes of the Gobi Desert, China.
Sam Sunderland: “I started in front again today on what was a pretty strategic stage – with the rest day tomorrow and then the last few stages in the dunes of China, nobody wanted to win today. Of course, everyone has the same idea and you can see people trying to work out their strategies as the race continues. Leading out I didn’t have much reference so I just kept going. I managed to get the tricky section right but was always aware of the guys behind me and ended up losing some time myself. Overall, I’m happy with the bike and how everything is going so I’m looking forward to these last few days in the dunes.”
Claiming her best result of the rally so far, Laia Sanz used her considerable experience and skill to deftly navigate through the stage, making a minimum of errors to post the fifth fastest time. Finishing just seconds down on teammate Sunderland, Laia now sits eighth overall in the provisional rankings.
Laia Sanz: “It was a good stage today, I’m really pleased with the result. I was going well until the refuelling and then lost a few minutes in the same area where the others had problems. Luckily I was able to find my way back to the correct route quite quickly and was able to push for the rest of the stage.”
KTM Junior Class rider Luciano Benavides rode a solid stage six, unfortunately falling foul of one tricky waypoint, which caught out many of the top riders. However, realising his mistake, the young Argentinian soon made his way back on route and went on to successfully complete the stage inside the top 10. Losing a little time, Benavides now lies third overall in the provisional standings but will have the advantage of starting as the 10th rider away when the rally enters the Chinese dunes on Sunday.
Luciano Benavides: “It was a really hard day for me today. My rhythm was good in the first half of the stage before the refuelling and after losing a little time yesterday I tried to concentrate on my navigation as much as possible today. There was one point in the second half of the stage today that caught a lot of people out. When I arrived, there were lots of lines in the sand but I ended up making a mistake and travelling some extra kilometres. It seems a lot of people lost some time there, but it’s still frustrating. I’m happy to get to the end of the stage safely and now look forward to China and the last three stages.”
Saturday’s stage seven will give the riders an easier time as there is no timed special against the clock. Nevertheless, the total distance travelled will still be a sizeable 550.66 kilometres. The rally will cross the Mongolian border and head for the first Chinese bivouac at Bayinbaolige.
Provisional Results Stage Six – 2019 Silk Way Rally
1. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 2:13:32
Provisional Standings (after Stage six) – 2019 Silk Way Rally
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 15:02:50