Silk Way Rally: from Moscow to Xi'An

Rally raid teams will tackle 10,000kms through Russia, Kazakhstan and China

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Silk Way Rally: from Moscow to Xi'An

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Throughout history, the Silk Road has played a key role in bringing Europe and Asia together.

These days, the Silk Way lends its name to one of the most demanding races in the rally raid calendar, one that has been growing from year to year.

The seventh edition of the Silk Way Rally will cross Russia, Kazakhstan and China and promises to offer its fans some unforgettable moments this summer.

Before the big names in motorsport tackle the desert, there is a world of background work that started a long time ago.

Silk Way Sports advisor Luc Alphand told Euronews: “In rally raid, preparation plays a key role, there is a lot of work behind the scenes.

“We begin by tracing the stages, so we start with some cartography work. We have to avoid national parks, archeological sites, military zones, etc.

“Then, once we know where we want to go and how the stage will develop, we come on-site to check the details and take all the notes for the road book.

“That’s all the pilot and co-pilot will have in terms of navigation, so it’s the road book that tells them to go north or south, where to turn, climb or descend.

“It also warns them of the danger points.”

Danger is never far away in a race of this magnitude and there are plenty of ravines or rocks that seem to come out of nowhere.

That’s the price to pay for competing off-road, and driving at full speed is no guarantee of success.

More important is the capacity of endurance and adaptation to the different types of surface that present themselves along the way.

Alphand added: “The Silk Way is a true rally raid in the sense that it respects the roots of the discipline.

“It represents a real journey, this year from Moscow to Xi’An, so around 10,000 kms.

“That’s a great adventure for the pilot and co-pilot. Then it promotes endurance, the stages are long and there is a big diversity of terrains, which is fantastic.

“We have the big deserts, dunes, the big plains of Kazakhstan, some mountains. There will be kilometers, there will be adventure, there will be sweat, there will be fear… all the ingredients that will make a team able to finish say at the end, ‘Wow, we’ve done it!’”

The winner will be the driver that will be able to best manage fast driving, good navigation and fatigue-management.

It’s here that the assistance crew will play a key role. In order to let the drivers get a good night’s sleep, the rest of the team takes care of the invisible work well into the late hours.

Last year, Cyril Despres was crowned champion at the arrival in Beijing, this year, Luc Alphand places his bet on another winner.

He said: “This year the Peugeot team is the clear favourite, they work hard and they have a really competitive car.

“They have a fantastic team, last year they came with (Stéphane) Peterhansel, Cyril Despres and Sebastien Loeb, and everybody kept saying that Loeb wasn’t ready.

“Well now he is. Last year he made some navigation errors that cost him the victory, maybe this year he will be celebrating his first big win.”

The stars of rally raid will be tackling the Silk Way Rally July 7 to 22.