SS2 – BAIKALSK - ULAN-UDE
Distance: 409,34 KM - Selective section: 207,67KM
BAIKALSK - ULAN UDE - Goodbye to taiga and welcome to Buryatia
The second stage went along stony roads – upwards through a mountain pass, then downwards, and… a real tire challenge: not to lose one’s wheels, pace and speed. A day all crews got 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!
Bikes: Tactics or an ‘even playing field’?
By his own admission, Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory) didn’t plan to win today. With the first long stage coming up, he would have preferred to start further down the field tomorrow and have the possibility of making a significant gap. But with no refuelling in the special it was hard for him to judge the other riders’ speed and so the victory went to him almost in spite of himself. He didn’t seem too upset about it…
Over at the Hero team they were delighted with Mena’s second place and new signing Goncalves’ third. Clearly no tactics there, but another interesting take on how the first ever SILK WAY RALLY BIKE race is unfolding. As they pointed out, as a relatively new team in the championship, they aren’t handicapped here on ‘virgin’ territory by their lack of experience over more well-trodden terrain. None of the teams have routes from previous years and so it is a much more even playing field. If it was a good day for Hero it was a bad one for Yamaha.
Third placed man yesterday, Xavier de Soultrait apparently hit something hard at km 3, maybe broke something in the process and then fell at km 18, damaging his navigation tower and putting him out of the race. Teammate and one of the race favourites Adrien van Beveren made it to this evening’s bivouac, but for him in an unsatisfactory 9th place. It is too early to know how much of a role race tactics or an even playing field will play, but these two ingredients alone suggest it is going to be a fascinating race.
Sam Sunderland (GB/Red Bull KTM Factory) 1st : “It wasn’t really the goal to win today to be honest, so a little bit frustrating for the strategy. But on a day like today, where there is no refuel it is difficult to know where the other guys are. You just push and try and to manage your pace. The stage itself was really nice, a good variety. Obviously there’s been a lot of rain so the organisers did a good job in managing to run the stage and let the race go on.”
Cars: Al-Attiyah out in front, Al Rajhi out of the running
And a second one! Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing Overdrive) continue their near faultless performance on this 2019 SILK WAY RALLY 2019. Despite a puncture on the tricky tracks, and numerous river crossings on the way to the Republic of Buryatia, the race favourites continue to sidestep all the problems that have beset their rivals.
Neither of the counter-attacks planned by Yazeed Al Rajhi or Eric Van Loon went… according to plan. The Saudi Arabian was in the lead at kilometre 50, but was struck down by major engine problems at km 106. The Dutchman didn’t fare much better, giving away more than 3 hours after being forced to make repairs to his transmission in the middle of the special. With a lone factory Toyota out in front, the buggies were again let off the leash. Without a puncture almost within sight of the finish line, Jérôme Pélichet and Pascal Larroque (Optimus Raid Lynx) would have almost certainly repeated yesterday’s exploit. In the end it went the way of Chinese drivers Kun Liu (Hanwei Buggy SMG) and Wei Han (Geely Buggy), both of whom get onto today’s podium. The Frenchmen Serradori (Buggy CR6) and Pélichet (Optimus), complete the top 5. Already nearly 14 minutes in the lead overall, Nasser Al-Attiyah can drive into Mongolia in a reasonably relaxed frame of mind, even if the terrain to come should be well suited to the pack of two-wheel drive buggies chasing after them!
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qat/Toyota Gazoo Racing Overdrive) 1st: “Today’s stage was very complicated. A lot of stones and a lot of water. We spent a lot of time in the forest tracks. In spite of a puncture we did a good job. For my part I am satisfied. We are 14 minutes ahead overall and we should be able to control a little the buggies who are coming into terrain more suited to them.”
Trucks: Viazovich two on the trot
So happy was he to be in the lead of the truck class at the wheel of his all new MAZ, that Siarhey Viazovich promised himself he’d do everything he could to hold onto it on today’s 2nd stage. And true to his word the Belarus driver managed to fight off the Kamaz of Shibalov, over the forest tracks leading to Ulan-Ude, to such an extent that this evening in the capital of Buryatia the Blue Armada aren’t happy. He might have managed to win twice on the trot and increase his overall in the process but the giant from Minsk, today beating Karginov (Kamaz) and van den Brink (Renault), runs the risk of being reprimanded by the federation officials. The fight for victory in the heavyweight class is going to be a tough one.
Anton Shibalov (Rus/Kamaz-Master) 4th : “All the stones made this a very difficult special stage to get through. We picked up a puncture and lost time replacing the wheel. In general we drove well, but the puncture disrupted our rhythm. I don’t remember how many times we arrived behind (Siarhay) Viazovich and beeped to pass. Each time he says he didn’t hear the signal. This left us driving in the dust.”
STAT OF THE DAY: 9.298
At the station in Ulan-Ude not everybody is on the Trans-Siberian. In the Republic of Buryatia, the world’s longest railway offers two alternatives. Either you continue the 9,298 kilometre route for the 7 days between Moscow and Vladivostok, or you turn off on the Trans-Mongolian which heads to Pekin via Mongolia and Ulaanbaatar.
Tomorrow: Stage 3 - ULAN-UDE - ULAANBAATAR: "Up and down!” - Distance: 691,35KM - Selective section: 243,00KM
There is some tricky navigation among the hills on the way from Buryatia to Mongolia. Cars go up and down through the hills, following the steps of wild animals. This area has many dangerous ravines but is also rich with absolutely magnificent landscapes! It is a true challenge for navigators: dozens of path crossings and even more parallel tracks. The route then goes upwards – halfway to finish the altitude reaches 1,000 meters. You’ll have foothills, covered with forest, and picturesque rivers after the first 150 kilometers, but one shouldn’t get lost in contemplation – small river beds are able to bring a big danger. The track continues to go higher and offers you a breathtaking view from the altitude of 1,500 meters, a perfect spot for photo and video shooting. The rest of selective section is set on a plateau with many parallel tracks.
Source Silk Way Rally's official press release
Credit DPPI Photo/Eric Vargiolu - DPPI Photo/Frederic Le Floc'h - Photo/Dmitry Galchun