SS5 – ULAANBAATAR - MANDALGOVI
Distance: 364,59KM - Selective section: 337,00KM
ULAANBAATAR - MANDALGOVI - The state of rocks
The fifth stage was set along Mongolia’s signature tracks: hills, steppes, off-road driving and
many parallel paths, which could have misdirected the inattentive ones. There were tourist zones, monuments and stony hollows on the route. Trying to escape from the heat, the track then led the racers into the mountains, where they were required to seek for their speedy path
across plateau at the altitude of 1,600 meters.
Bikes: Sunderland - Marathon Man
You always need a bit of luck on a marathon stage, but there is no denying that Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory) made a lot of his own. Winning the first part of the marathon stage yesterday, the British rider was obliged to open the track today. Not the ideal scenario… If you open the stage and avoid getting overtaken it is considered an exploit. If you open the track and win the stage you earn the respect of all your fellow competitors. If you open and win the second day of a marathon stage you are... the Marathon Man.
Spontaneously at the finish line, Paulo Goncalves declared, "Sam did a great job". As always there were a few mitigating circumstances and in this case the crash of third placed man overall, Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda Team) at around km 120, was almost certainly one of them. Everyone who saw it lost time. Kevin Benavides stopped to see if his teammate was ok and said he was with him for a couple of minutes. Luciano Benavides also stopped. The rules allow them to get their time back, so the special result might yet go in Kevin’s favour. But even if that is the case, the facts remain that: Sunderland is looking good overall, (13:44 ahead of Luciano Benavides and 17:18 in front of Kevin) and that the man who this morning was pressing him hard from third place overall, Joan Barreda, is now out of the game.
Sam Sunderland (GB/Red Bull KTM Factory) 1st “Obviously opening the route is never going to be an easy, normally somebody can see your tracks and catch you up. I tried to keep the rhythm high all day and on the long stages you start to fatigue because at high speeds you have to be so focused. The bike is feeling really good, despite not being serviced overnight. The tyre was a bit slick towards the end, but it is the same for everyone.”
In the quads, the Polish rider Linder finally threw in the towel, after struggling through the last couple of days, leaving just the Polish rider Sonik Rafal (Yamaha Raptor) and the Russian Aleksandr Maksimov (Yamaha Raptor) to fight it out for final honours. Today Sonik was once again first home, to increase his overall to just under 1 hour 48 minutes.
Cars: Al-Attiyah changes tactics
“At this point in the race we aren’t here to take any unnecessary risks…” The words spoken by Mathieu Baumel, co-driver of Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing Overdrive) at the finish line of this 5th stage pretty much sums up how the leaders of the car race are now approaching it. The winners of the last Dakar manage this SILK WAY RALLY, day by day. At the mid-way point their domination is… carefully thought out. “We accelerate only when the terrain really allows it, without taking the slightest risk. Each time it is a discussion between Nasser and myself.” A fifth consecutive victory ahead of the new CR6 SRT buggy of Mathieu Serradori and Fabian Lurquin. The Franco-Belgian pairing managed to drive the stage they’d been hoping for since the start, heading home another Toyota of Dutchman Van Loon, victim of a puncture after having cut a corner too fine. The Russian Krotov (MINI JCW) and the Chinese driver Zhang Ming (Han Wei SMG Buggy) complete the day’s top 5. Overall, behind Al-Attiyah, there’s 5 cars within 15 minutes of each other, fighting out for podium places.
Mathieu Serradori (Buggy CR6 SRT) 2nd: “A great stage for us! It was fast and everything worked out. We overtook a lot of cars and three trucks. Sometimes it was complicated and sometimes it was a little risky. I remember hitting 192 kph overtaking a Kamaz. But Fabian navigated perfectly. We were secretly hoping for a stage win. But anyway, it proves that our decision to use the new buggy was the right one…”
Trucks: Kamaz increases the pressure
After their difficult 4th stage the Kamaz-Master team came back to the start line this morning determined to set the record straight! Led by Andrei Karginov, the ‘blue monsters’ from Nabereinye Tchelny attacked from the start, with the 2018 edition winner beating his teammate Anton Shibalov by more than 4 minutes, and above all taking a large 7 minute chuck out of the leading MAZ of Viazovich.
Over at the Belarusian camp they were licking their wounds. In addition to the 5 minute speeding penalty, Viazovich complained of a broken tyre inflation system, while Vishneuski rolled into the bivouac with a less than brand new looking exhaust system. Vasilevski, for his part, was forced to drive the special with underperforming cabin shock absorbers. Overall, Viazovich sees his previously comfortable lead over Shibalov shink to just over 16 minutes at the SILK WAY RALLY mid-point, with Karginov less than 20 minutes away…
Andrei Karginov (Rus/Kamaz-Master) 1st: “To avoid yesterday’s problems we changed our tyres and put more pressure in them. And it was a strategy that paid off. It helped us a lot to keep a very fast pace, even if that made our trucks less comfortable. Because the tyres are an integral part of the suspension. We will continue to attack. There are four great stages left over which to retake the overall lead…”
STAT OF THE DAY: 70
With no less than 5 stages disputed in the country, Mongolia sees half of the 2019 SILK WAY RALLY’s 10 racing days run on its territory. Translated into distance that’s 2.092 kilometres of stage, of which a substantial 1.458 are special. Or if you prefer, an exceptional 70% raced against the clock. Lots of work for the assistance crews, but a lot of smiles per miles for the competitors.
Tomorrow: Stage 6 - MANDALGOVI - DALANZADGAD: "Follow your direction” - Distance: 411,75KM - Selective section: 408,17KM
This is a section with fast and wide steppe roads. The main task of each competitor is to follow the road book. Constant changes of direction among picturesque nature will never let you get bored, and various waypoints will lead your way to the finish.
Source Silk Way Rally's official press release
Photo Anton Elikov