KTM’s Sunderland still leads Silk Way after tough SS8
|2nd Rd. Rally 2019 – Silk Way Rally (Russia, Mongolia, China)|
|Sam Sunderland has completed stage eight of the 2019 Silk Way Rally in eighth place to successfully defend his rally lead. Luciano Benavides put in an extremely strong performance to finish fifth and move himself back to second in the overall standings. KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz clocked the 12th fastest time on the long, technically-demanding stage.|
Marking the first day of racing to be held within China, stage eight really tested all competitors in terms of its varied terrain, tricky navigation and the sheer length of the route. At a total distance of 785.11 kilometres, the day proved a real challenge to all. The 326.6-kilometre timed special consisted of a mixture of fast, rock-strewn tracks, dry river beds and the tall dunes of the Gobi Desert.
As the fourth rider to enter the day’s stage, Sam Sunderland immediately began to hunt down the riders ahead of him. Unfortunately, a crash very early on in the special ended up costing him some time. With no major damage to his KTM 450 RALLY, Sam was able to quickly remount and began to push for the remainder of the stage. Ultimately crossing the line eighth fastest, the Brit did enough to not only defend his overall lead in the provisional standings but actually increase it slightly with two stages left to race.
Sam Sunderland: “I got welcomed into China in a bit of a rough way to be honest as I had a crash just 15 kilometres into the stage and ended up tasting the Chinese soil. After that I just tried to push and make up for the error that I’d made. The terrain was super nice with lots of variety – rocks and rivers and wash-outs – but was also very challenging with lots of dangers marked on the road book. The last part of the stage was made up of huge mountainous dunes, some you couldn’t even ride up. It made navigation very tricky and there was a lot of vegetation everywhere. Overall, apart from the mistake early on, my day went well so I’ll regroup now and get back on it for tomorrow.”
After an issue with his tracking device, Luciano Benavides was forced to delay his start into the timed special. Using his skill to navigate through the piste, the young Argentinian began to make up ground on the riders in front. Also suffering a small crash, Benavides damaged some equipment on his bike, which ended up costing him some time in the latter half of the stage. Completing the stage fifth fastest Luciano did enough to move himself back up to second overall, one place behind teammate Sunderland.
Luciano Benavides: “For me, that was the toughest stage of the rally so far. They had to change my Iritrack before the beginning of the stage so I had to set off right near the back. I had plenty of lines in front of me and tried to make a good rhythm in the dunes but then had a small crash that damaged my road book switch, so I had to adjust that manually from then on. I lost some time after that but I’m happy to finish the stage in one piece and I’m looking forward to tomorrow now.”
Despite the demanding nature of the day’s stage, Laia Sanz gritted her teeth and maintained a safe pace throughout. Physically tired towards the end of the 326-kilometre special, Laia chose to ease off a little, focus on her navigation and bring her KTM home safely. Posting a creditable time of 12th fastest the nine-time Dakar Rally finisher still lies eighth in the overall standings.
Laia Sanz: “That was tough – it was such an exhausting stage, I’m happy to get to the finish. I started off well but as the stage went on, I had to slow down a little because I got a little bit tired. Maybe I didn’t eat enough today but towards the end I just felt drained. I had no crashes and no problems though, so this is important.”
Monday’s stage nine – the penultimate of the rally – will see riders complete a total distance of 501.2 kilometres, 290.3 of which are timed special. Starting from the finish point of stage eight, the route will be fast and take in the sandy roads and dry river beds of the surrounding desert.
Provisional Results Stage Eight – 2019 Silk Way Rally
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 4:20:37
Provisional Standings (after Stage eight) – 2019 Silk Way Rally
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 19:30:40