The ninth edition of the most important summer raid, the 2019 Silk Way Rally, is about to commence. The action is due to kick off on the 7th of July in Irkutsk, Russia, with the inaugural stage.
The itinerary comprises 2.500 Km timed across ten stages and three different countries: Russia, Mongolia and China. This year there is a record total of 97 entries including bikes and quads which, for the first time, will come head to head with the usual cars and trucks.
The Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi will take the wheel of one of the three Toyota Hilux of team Overdrive to defend his 2018 absolute title. In the truck category, the Kamaz arrive once again as the strongest contenders.
Cars: Toyota, the favourites
The most populous category at the 2019 Silk Way Rally is cars with a total of 54 entries. The team to beat will be the South African Overdrive, which counts amongst its ranks with non-other than Nasser Al-Attiyah, winner of the Dakar Rally 2019 with the Toyota Hilux V8 #201. His teammate and defending champion, the Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi, will be wearing number 201. The South African driver Eric Van Loon completes the five-star team with number 205.
Despite the theoretical superiority of the Japanese cars, there are other strong contenders that could get Toyota in trouble, such as North American Bryce Menzies from the PH-Sport team (#207) and his new Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi. Another tough rival could be the Russian Denis Krotov (#209) onboard his Mini JCW Rally belonging to the MSK Rally Team.
A not so obvious but possibly significant formation on the ground will be the Shanxi Yunxiang Quimosport. We will be watching closely how the team made up of Kin Lou (#211), Yungang Zi (#223) and Banding Miu (#225) and their SMG Buggies perform in the moment of truth.
Also ready to put up a good fight will be Wei Han (#208), Kun Liu (#211) and Ping Sun (#235). As for the Spanish representation at the 2019 Silk Way Rally, Jose Peña Campo and Rafa Tornabell (#219) will be driving a Polaris belonging to the Xtreme Plus team.
Trucks: The stars of the Silk Way Rally
The track category is always the most talked about and praised by fans, if only for the spectacle of their sheer size. Undoubtedly the three 43509s of the Kamaz team are the absolute favourites to take the glory.
Its line-up is also made up of some of the greatest drivers that there are with 2014 Dakar winner Andrey Karginov (#300), Airat Marveed (#302) and Anton Shibalov (#303). In case these soldiers of the Russian army weren’t enough, the team is also bringing in a 4326 driven by Sergey Kupriyanov (#303).
Their main rival will be the Renault CBH 385 of Mammoet Rally Sport. The French pachyderm, driven by Maarten Van Den Brink (#301) has vowed to make it very difficult for the Russians. A new entry this year is the MAZ 6440RR of Siarhei Viazovich (#304). The Iveco entry, for their part, belongs to the private team Boucou Assistance and will be driven by Patrice Garrouste (#317).
Bikes and Quads racing for the first time
The teams at the Bike and Quad categories have recruited some first-rate pilots on this their debut year at the 2019 Silk Way Rally. KTM, for instance, will have Sam Sunderland (#6) on top of their leading bike.
Accompanying the British champion will be Spaniard Laia Sanz (#44) and Luciano Benavides (#77). Their greatest rival will be Honda with Spaniard Joan Barreda (#317), Argentinian Kevin Benavides (#7) and Chilean Nacho Cornejo (#9).
Yamaha has opted for French pilots Adrien Van Maksinov (#10) and Xavier De Soultrait (#16) as well as for the Argentinian Franco Caimi (#13). A single Husqvarna bike will be piloted by North American Andrew Short (#29) and Hero has entered one bike driven by Oriol Mena (#25).
In quads, we will watch Polish drivers Rafal Sönik (#101) and Arkadiusz Lindner (#103) and Russian Aleksandr Maksimov (#102) take the start this year.