DUNHUANG: After traversing Russia’s forests, the Mongolian steppe and the deserts of northern China, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah finally claimed victory in the “big and beautiful” Silk Way Rally yesterday. Unchallenged after the elimination on day two of his main rival — Toyota teammate Yazeed Al-Rajhi of Saudi Arabia — Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel cruised to victory, winning all the stages of a grueling competition.
His first victory in the Silk Way, adds to Al-Attiyah’s three wins in the Dakar rally, including the 2019 edition. China’s Wei Han and Liao Min were second with Frenchmen Jerome Pelichet and Pascal Larroque third. Al-Attiyah, twice second in previous editions of the race, said: “It was important to me because it is a big and beautiful race.” The ninth edition of the rally started from Irkutsk in Russian Siberia on July 6 and ended 10 days, and 5,000 kilometers, later in China’s Gobi desert crossroads of Dunhuang, the Silk Road outpost famous for caves adorned with ancient Buddhist statues and frescoes.
The rally introduced a two-wheel category this year and Britain’s Sam Sunderland, who rides for KMT and won the Dakar in 2017, became the first ever Silk Way motorbike champion. Winner of three stages, he beat Andrew Short of the United States, second and Adrien Van Beveren of France third. For the first time the race crossed the dusty Mongolian steppe. It drew 181 competitors in car, motorbike, and truck categories, the latter won by Russian Anton Shibalov. “It has been an amazing experience, going through so much different scenery, seeing so many different sights,” said Sunderland. “As far as the race was concerned it was a tough one. Especially these last three days in China.” – AFP