There are fewer motorsport events that match the scale and breath of the Silk Way Rally (so named after the 19th century trade routes established between east and west) and the 5000km chase across Russia, Mongolia and China and which brings together the racers, teams and brands normally accustomed to a similar challenge at the Dakar. After a week of exhausting action it was Yamaha star Adrien Van Beveren who was able to toast a result in the top three for what was also the second round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Beginning in Irkutsk, Russia the tenth edition of the Silk Way welcomed motorcycles alongside the car and truck categories for the very first time. Ten stages, including a daunting marathon leg and over half of the distance completed against the clock, involved a spread of terrain and some high-speed challenges that really highlighted the appeal of Rally as its frighteningly thrilling best.
Frenchman Van Beveren really picked up his pace in the final days and especially on the eighth outing in the Gobi desert. His sand acumen came to the fore and two runner-up positions on stages eight and nine boosted his chances of at least finishing as No.2. Sadly a small navigational slip on the rapid closer to Dunhuang in China saw him miss out on second place by just over thirty seconds.
"I'm very pleased with the way the Silk Way Rally has finished for me,” the WR450F rider assessed. “The last few days, which have been the toughest and most technical of the race with very challenging navigation, have been very good. I pushed hard during the second half of the rally and I'm really happy that I finished on the podium. As always a real team effort.”
“Initially, when today's stage finished I wasn't totally pleased because I was pushing for second overall and didn't quite manage to take that position,” he added. “I rode a very good stage today, I had almost taken back the time I needed to move ahead of Andrew Short in the overall, but then I made a small navigational error and lost four or five minutes. But finishing on the podium is the most important thing. The race has been very long and difficult for everyone in the team, and also with a very strong entry. So again, to finish on the podium is very pleasing. No one really knew what to expect from this race before the start, but it has been incredible - very difficult but also very enjoyable and interesting."
Monster Energy HRC were strong protagonists in this memorable inauguration for the bikes. Kevin Benavides, won four of the stages – including the last one after a heroic charge to Dunhuang - but just missed out on a podium place by 26 seconds, largely due to time lost earlier in the race.
“I had a good stage, I won the special, but it was not enough,” he lamented. “I narrowly missed out on the podium and I’m left with a bittersweet taste. On the final balance sheet I come away happy because I won more than any other participant. I felt fine and showed good speed. I was able to ride fast despite the adversities, even on the day when I had the problem with the brake support. I lost time there and also made a navigation error. Those 40 minutes could have changed things a lot. I was very close to getting on the podium today with this final stage, but in general I am happy because I felt good and have worked very hard.”
The FIM World Championship will take the riders to Chile and the Atacama in September as the crucial phases of testing and strategy continue with one eye on the 2020 Dakar and a fresh prospect in Saudi Arabia.