Aussie Sanders relishing challenge of gruelling Silk Way Rally

Daniel Sanders

Australia’s rising star of offroad motorcycling, Daniel Sanders, is relishing the challenge of tackling the gruelling Silk Way Rally.

The Russian/Mongolian event will be just the 26-year-old’s fourth rally and, at 10 stages with no rest day, is the longest on the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship calendar.

Sanders moved from KTM to the factory team of sister marque GasGas after fourth in his Dakar Rally debut in January.

He matched that result in Round 1 of the world championship, Rally Kazakhstan, last month and moves on to Russia with confidence.

“I’m really looking forward to the Silk Way Rally, it’s definitely looking like it’s going to be hard, both physically and mentally,” said Sanders.

“I’ve been getting in the miles since Kazakhstan, so I’m really happy with how the bike feels and I think we’re in a good place with the settings heading into this second round of the championship.

“Looking at the terrain, it really does look like a real mixture, and the stages are long – even when the specials aren’t too bad, there is often some lengthy liaisons to cover, and that can really prove tiring.

“My strength is definitely racing in sand, so I hope we see plenty of that when we hit Mongolia.

“Up to then, my plan is to get through the first week safely and then push on towards the end.

“With the added points awarded at this race, it’s important to get a good safe finish, so that’s my number one goal.”

GasGas Factory Racing team manager Jordi Viladoms added, “Daniel did a great job in Kazakhstan, he started off the pace a little during the first few stages, but really came on strong towards the end.

“Obviously, it will be his first time at Silk Way, so we’ll try to give him the best advice we can for this type of race.

“Mongolia has delivered some very fast stages with a lot of navigation in the past, so this will be a further test for Daniel, but I believe with his increasing speed and navigational skills, he should have a good chance to put in another strong result.”

At Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, just Matthias Walkner will saddle up for Silk Way after Sam Sunderland fractured his hip in a final-stage crash in Kazakhstan.

Toby Price and latest recruit Kevin Benavides are also sidelined as they recover from injury, although the former did ride for the first time since Dakar in the week leading into his victorious drive in the Tatts Finke Desert Race earlier this month.

This year’s Silk Way Rally is the 11th in the event’s history, although just the second for motorcycles.

The route spans 5442km, of which 3418km is timed special, with the points allocation increased by 50 percent owing to the rally’s marathon status.

The start ceremony takes place in Omsk, Russia on July 1 (local time), before the field sets off from there on the following day.

Yamaha’s Ross Branch leads the FIM world championship with 25 points to his name, five up on Kazakhstan runner-up Walkner.

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