Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team
How Qatari driver made history by winning every Silk Way Rally stage.
No one can question Nasser Al-Attiyah’s right to be crowned the 2019 Silk Way Rally champion after winning all nine of the event’s timed stages.
After a remarkable first in rally raid history, we take a look at how the Qatari powered his way to glory at the prestigious event from start to finish.
STAGE 1: IRKUTSK-BAIKALSK
The second pairing off the start ramp, Al-Attiyah, with co-driver Mathieu Baumel beside him, benefitted from a slow puncture to teammate Yazeed Al Rajhi, who had headed off three minutes earlier. That setback allowed Al-Attiyah to blast his way to the top of the timesheets for the first time.
STAGE 2: BAIKALSK-ULAN-UDE
This time it was Al-Attiyah that was beset by a puncture over the first long stage of the event at 409.34 kilometres but a rapid repair saw him back on the course in no time and able to tackle the multiple river crossings better than the rest of the field.
STAGE 3: ULAN-UDE-ULAANBAATAR
Last year’s winner Al Rajhi failed to take the start because of a broken engine, which denied the race leader one of his main rivals. With the pressure seemingly eased, Al-Attiyah set an average speed of 101kph for the entire near-700km stage to pull his advantage out to 20 minutes.
STAGE 4: ULAANBAATAR-ULAANBAATAR
Dry creek beds, low hills and the steep roads of Mongolia greeted competitors for the fourth day of racing, which ended with the Dakar Rally champion sealing a fourth stage win in a row.
STAGE 5: ULAANBAATAR-MANDALGOVI
After five stages and five wins, Baumel revealed the secret to his and Al-Attiyah’s success: “At this point in the race, we aren’t here to take any unnecessary risks. We accelerate only when the terrain really allows it, without taking the slightest risk. Each time it is a discussion between Nasser and myself.”
STAGE 6: MANDALGOVI-DALANZADGAD
For safety reasons – the route was damaged by mining trucks – the 412.06km stage was cut into two parts but, essentially, it couldn’t alter the outcome of the stage winner. But Al-Attiyah almost lost his unblemished record after missing a turn just 3km into the stage. Only a stuck gearbox and puncture to Denis Krotov ensured the 100% stage win record was maintained.
STAGE 7: DALANZADGAD-BAYINBAOLIGE (STAGE NOT TIMED)
A day free of racing, the field meandered its way the 551km from Mongolia into China for the final three stages of racing.
STAGE 8: BAYINBAOLIGE-ALASHAN
Arguably the most challenging obstacle of the Silk Way Rally, the diverse terrain switched from high dunes to dry river beds and from canyons to ravines. Amid all that, the dominant force remained the same although Al-Attiyah insisted he had not set out to achieve a stage clean sweep. He said: “We aren’t especially trying to win every stage but we are driving at our pace.”
STAGE 9: ALASHAN-JIAYUGUAN
The race leader declared himself exhausted after this 501.2km stage, finally feeling the mental and physical tiredness of a notoriously energy-sapping event but again he proved himself to be the stage winner. A visually stunning route, it cut through the fixed dunes of the Gobi Desert along a predominantly fast and beautiful pathway to the stage finish.
STAGE 10: JIAYUGUAN-DUNHUANG-EN
As Al-Attiyah crossed the finish line, he did so with his record unblemished having won each and every competitive stage of the route, a step up from his previous best overall finish of second. But all it did was merely reflect his rally raid dominance in 2019, his seventh straight event victory of a remarkable season.