With one month to go until the 14th edition of the Silk Way Rally gets underway on 5 July, Asian Motorsport previews this gruelling test of endurance across the harsh environments and spellbinding landscapes of Siberia and Mongolia.

By Thomas Pfister

The Silk Way Rally held its traditional pre-event press conference at the International Multimedia Press Centre of the Rossiya Segodnya Media Group in Moscow. Competitors and organisers shared their expectations of the event and discussed the details of the upcoming route.

The Silk Way Rally began in 2009 and has since become one of the largest and most prestigious sporting events in the world. The event brings together more than a thousand drivers and riders from 50 different countries, creaating a unique platform to promote the development of international relations.

This year’s rally will start in the Siberian city of Tomsk on 5 July, before proceeding along the most exciting routes of Siberia. It will then continue into Mongolia through regions of the Altai Mountains, running from the west into the centre of the country. The Silk Way Rally will end with a ceremonial finish in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar on 15 July.

With an overall distance of 5,256.70 km and a competitive distance of 2,993.24 km, this rally’s stages takes place across various climactic zones, from the Mongol Els to the Gobi Desert. Assistance from mechanics is strictly prohibited, with crews having to maintain and repair their vehicles themselves.

Ahead of the 2024 Silk Way Rally, a Grand Celebration will be held at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex in Moscow to mark the 15th anniversary of the event. Those attending will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the rally’s history, get up close to the teams’ vehicles, and engage with those competing in this year’s edition.

Event organiser Chagin: 2024 Silk Way Rally features “one of the most challenging and interesting routes”

Vladimir Chagin, Head of the International Project Silk Way Rally, spoke to Asian Motorsport and selected media about the 2024 event.

“I’m pleased to present the 14th edition of the rally, which features one of the most challenging and interesting routes in its history,” he said. “The main feature this year is that the crews will have to cross various natural zones from taiga and mountain passes to permafrost areas and hot deserts.

“It is necessary to be prepared not only to distribute forces over the entire distance, but also to be able to quickly adapt to constantly changing conditions and types of surfaces. This year we are honored to be welcomed by Mongolia, the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky and unimaginable beauty, which was so hospitable to the Silk Way Rally in 2019.”

He added, “I would like to express my gratitude to the Mongolian government for their active assistance and I’m pleased that the finish in Ulaanbaatar will add a special flavor to the rally.”

Mongolian Consul Ambassador Unubilget: Hosting 2024 Silk Way Rally “a great privilege for our country”

Delgertsetseg Unubilegt, Consul Ambassador of the Mongolian Embassy in the Russian Federation, emphasised the significance of Mongolia hosting the 2024 Silk Way Rally.

 “We are pleased to emphasize that Mongolia will once again appear on the map of the International Silk Way Rally this year,” he said. “It is a great privilege for our country to be part of an international project of such a high level.

“Throughout its 15-year history, this project has demonstrated respect for the environment, a passion for travel, and a commitment to fostering positive relationships between people. There is no doubt that, just like in the summer of 2019, our fans will give the crews a warm welcome.

“We will introduce the rally competitors and travelers to the extraordinary beauty of our country’s nature and will be happy to celebrate together the Ceremonial Finish in Ulaanbaatar,” he continued.

A truck competing in the Silk Way Rally navigates rough and dusty terrain. Its front two tyres are off the ground as the vehicle leaps into the air.
Credit: Silk Way Rally

The Silk Way Rally’s First Deputy Head, Viktor Sokolov, presented competitors with the 2024 event’s route. Sokolov led the rally’s General Reconnaissance team, which created a Road Book for competing crews to determine the best route during the competition.

“We have carefully prepared Road Books for all stages. And I’m happy to announce that everything is ready to start,” Sokolov said.

“As in previous editions, we are pleased to welcome competitors in all categories, including motorcycles, quads, SSVs, cars, and trucks.

“We also welcome those who are new to competitive events but share a passion for automobiles and motorcycles and are eager to embark on an exciting journey.”

Maz-Sport Auto leader Vyazovich: “We really want to repeat last year”

The rally competitors, including its three reigning winners, also addressed the press conference. One of the speakers was Sergey Vyazovich, the Maz-Sport Auto team leader and driver, who secured the first victory for the Belarusian plant at the 2023 Silk Way Rally.

“The route is really impressive and challenging. Last year proved to be a very successful period for our team, and the victory at the Silk Way Rally carries certain obligations to our fans,” he said. “Our rivals really want to take revenge on last year, and we really want to repeat last year.

“At the Silk Way Rally, we will be in the best possible physical and mental condition and with the most serious attitude. Our status as winners should not affect our psychological approach. Our objective is to win every rally, and this one will be no exception.

 “The route description is very interesting. It will be one of the most interesting events in the history of the Silk Way Rally. The Organizers included rocky sections, dunes, and a marathon stage towards the end of the rally — it will be a big challenge,” he conclluded.

2019 Silk Way Rally winner Anton Shibalov, who drives for KAMAZ-Master Team, shared his thoughts. “I think the results will change every day from the very beginning of the rally, and it will be interesting to follow — everything will develop unpredictably.”

A motorcycle rider competing in the Silk Way Rally leaves a trail of white smoke behind them as they power on through farmland. In the background, a green forested hill is visible.

Credit: Silk Way Rally

2023 Silk Way Rally overall winner Rudskoy: “It’s a constant act between pressure and finding the right balance”

Andrey Rudskoy, the reigning overall winner of the Silk Way Rally, also agreed that the event would be unpredictable.

“Looking at the route, having some experience of racing in the sand, in Mongolia and the Gobi, I think it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to be first every day. The sand dunes in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Mauritania are very treacherous, and they put a lot of pressure on the tires and the driver,” he said.

“It’s a constant balancing act between pressure and finding the right balance, which sometimes doesn’t exist at all. High pressure means puncture, [a] low one means getting stuck in the dune. In this sense, the route is chosen as interesting as possible.

“Nobody will be able to drive through it without puncturing a tire or getting stuck. And the marathon stage at the end is a masterpiece,” Rudskoy added.

Two-time race winner Shcheglov: “Intellectual challenge” means drivers must “think about the strategy”

Ilya Shcheglov won two races in the 2023 Silk Way Rally event — the first ever Silk Way Snow Journey snowmobile rally-raid and the summer marathon rally.

“Last season was my best yet. I got into rally-raids by chance, and starting the Silk Way Rally was quite an adventure,” he said. “I understood everything from my own experience.

“I fell into a hole and understood how it was indicated in the Road Book, I fell into a ditch and remembered its symbol. Everything went well, and I really enjoyed this discipline. Here, in addition to the physical and technical preparation, there’s also an intellectual challenge. You need to think about the strategy for the day, for the rally,” Shcheglov added.

A truck driver competing in the Silk Way Rally navigates through a dusty and muddy corner, kicking up plumes of brown dust and dirt behind them.
Credit: Silk Way Rally

24 Hours of Le Mans star Rusinov on the importance of technical knowledge and reliability monitoring

Roman Rusinov, a famous endurance racing driver and star of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, emphasized the importance of preparing the vehicle for such a challenge and explained how the team monitors the SSV condition during the rally.

“From a technical point of view, we are ready. We probably know G-Drive fuel better than anyone else — our team has won many awards with it. To some extent, we also participate in the improvement of this fuel, test it, and are in close contact with the manufacturer, giving him feedback,” Rusinov said.

“Plus, it helps a lot that the G-Energy mobile laboratory goes to the rally. Thanks to them, we can determine without disassembling the engine from a sample of engine oil whether everything is in order with the vehicle, how protected it is, and even predict where a possible breakdown may occur. It makes the mechanics’ job a lot easier.”

Serbian Grand Tour competitor Bijelic: “I’m really impressed with the 2024 route”

Serbian driver Dusko Bijelic competes in the amateur-focused Grand Tour, which helps those new to rally raids to gain experience in the spoprt.

“I’m really impressed with the 2024 route. It’s a real privilege for me to be able to compete in this rally for the third time,” he said.

“Any competition makes you want to win, and I’m no exception. Last year we saw many amazing and beautiful places in Russia at the Silk Way Rally.

“I really appreciate the Organizers of this rally, which is held annually at the highest level. I hope we’ll all have good luck this year too,” he said.

Header photo credit: Silk Way Rally

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