Courtesy of KTM Racing
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland has won stage five of the 2019 Silk Way Rally. Teammate Luciano Benavides claimed sixth on the stage with KTM Factory Racing rider Laia Sanz in eighth, just seconds down on Benavides.
Stage five marked the second half of the Silk Way Rally’s marathon stage. Following Wednesday’s long 470-kilometre timed special, bikes were left in parc fermé overnight where the only maintenance allowed had to be carried out by the riders themselves. With today’s stage clocking a total of 364.59 kilometres including a 337-kilometre timed special through the plains of Mongolia, bike and tyre preservation throughout the two days of riding proved key to a top result.
With a win on the first half of the marathon stage, the task of opening day five was given to Sam Sunderland. The British rider, using all of his experience, skill and speed maintained a strong but safe pace over the course of the two days. Despite leading the riders out into the fast tracks and mountain passes, Sam navigated the route perfectly, arriving at the finish after leading the entire stage. Today’s win increases Sunderland’s margin at the top of the provisional overall standings to over 13 minutes.
Sam Sunderland:“Stage five was a another really fast stage, so I’m happy to complete it safely. Opening the route is always a big challenge, but here there are a lot of animals by the side of the track and you are always second-guessing what they are going to do. Luckily, I didn’t have any scary moments, so I was happy about that. I just tried to keep consistent throughout the stage and keep pushing. I’m really happy because I ended up winning the stage and it’s the first time I have won a stage while opening. The bike has been great on the second half of the marathon stage with no service, and the Michelin tyres have held up really well after two long days of riding. Things are going well, so I’ll continue to take each day as it comes.”
Second-fastest on the first half of the marathon stage, Luciano Benavides set out this morning with the goal of chasing down teammate Sunderland. Unfortunately, a couple of small errors ended up costing the young Argentinian some time and so in order to preserve himself and his KTM 450 RALLY, Luciano opted to stick to a solid pace and make it safely to the finish. With sixth place on the day’s stage, Benavides remains second overall, close to four minutes ahead of his brother Kevin in third.
Luciano Benavides:“Today was really tough for me. It was a really fast piste and very stony in places. I started really good and my rhythm was ok but today I was a little bit tired and lost focus in a couple of places, which ended up costing me some time. The marathon stage went well overall – I didn’t crash and the bike is ok and everything feels good in myself and on the bike. I’m really happy to finish these long stages and looking forward now to the next few days.”
Putting in her best performance of the rally so far, Laia Sanz excelled on the fast, flowing stage five to post the eighth-fastest time, just less than nine minutes down on teammate Sunderland and only 21 seconds behind Benavides. The result elevates Laia two places to ninth overall in the provisional standings.
Laia Sanz:“I’m really happy today – it was another really fast stage but I felt confident on the bike and was able to keep to a good pace. The bike has been perfect with no problems over the whole marathon stage. I’m really looking forward to the coming stages now and hope I can keep posting some strong results.”
Now entering the second half of the event, stage six will cover a total of 411.75 kilometres of which 408.17 kilometres are timed special. The route leads competitors away from Mandalgovi to Dalanzadgad, which lies at an altitude of 1,470 metres.
Provisional Results Stage Five – 2019 Silk Way Rally
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:05:31
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:07:04 +1:33
3. Paulo Goncalves (PRT), Hero, 3:08:18 +2:47
4. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Yamaha, 3:12:30 +6:59
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:13:08 +7:37
6. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:14:04 +8:33
8. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 3:14:25 +8:54
Provisional Standings (after Stage Five) – 2019 Silk Way Rally
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 12:44:26
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 12:58:10 +13:44
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 13:01:44 +17:18
4. Paulo Goncalves (PRT), Hero, 13:05:36 +21:10
5. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 13:10:28 +26:02
9. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 13:39:34 +55:08