Right now, five MINI ALL4 Racingteams are on the track in the sixth edition of the Silk Way Rally. It’s one of the biggest challenges of the season, taking on two continents, three countries, three time zones, high altitude, varied terrain and 10,735km, with 4,105 of them in special stages.
Experienced drivers and co-drivers include Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA) and co-pilot Timo Gottschalk (GER) plus Harry Hunt (GB) and Andrea Schulz (GER). The pairs are following a former trade route from Russia to China across some of the world’s most spectacular landscape, battling against extreme arduous conditions and an international line-up of competitors.
The experienced MINI ALL4 Racing teams have the advantage of driving behind the wheel of one of the most durable and reliable long-distance vehicles ever produced, taking four consecutive Dakar titles (2012 – 2015) and coming second in this year’s event. This machine has also won four FIA World Cup championship titles, making it a highly respected rally car.
The action began on the podium on 8th July in Moscow’s Red Square, with competition starting on 9th July. The surprisingly soft 2km Prologue saw Vasilyev and Zhiltsov take second place in their MINI ALL4 Racing, with Hunt and Schulz in seventh place and Rakhimbayev and Nikolaev in eighth, with a total of 125 racing cars contesting the event.
Stage 1 from Kazan to Ufa was cancelled as a result of adverse weather conditions, but the race continued the following day with SS3 to Kostanay. Four MINI ALL4 Racing vehicles made it to the top 10, then more recently in SS5, three MINI ALL4 Racing vehicles made it into the top five!
Harry Hunt, who finished 4th in Stage 5 with Schulz, now in 12th place overall, said ‘This was the longest special stage in my career so far. We had to get out of the car for cleaning the windscreen twice as we had run out of our windscreen cleaning fluid. And in addition, we temporarily had to back off as we had problems with our central differential’, but a successful stage nonetheless puts the duo in a great position for the rest of the race.
Difficult navigation, mud holes throughout the stage and a whole host of minor mechanical problems slowed the drivers down, but with a rest day on the horizon in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, teams will be looking forward to much-needed maintenance and recuperation.
After Stage 5, the overall standings see MINI ALL4 Racing teams in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th and 12th positions. The rally race concludes in Beijing, China, on 24th July at the end of Stage 15 – will the MINI ALL4 Racing teams triumph? Follow the rest of the race right here.
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Stage 5 Results:
1st C. Despres (FRA) / Castera (GRA) – Peugeot - 5h 37m 52s
2nd Y- Al-Rajhi (KSA) / T. Gottschalk (GER) - MINI ALL4 Racing – 5h 49m 08s
3rd A. Rakhimbayev (KAZ) / A. Nikolaev (RUS) - MINI ALL4 Racing – 5h 51m 03s
4th H. Hunt (GBR) / A. Schulz (GER) - MINI ALL4 Racing - 5h 51min 23s
5th S. Loeb (FRA) / D. Elena (MCO) – Peugeot – 5h 53m 22s
6th V. Vasilyev (RUS) / K. Zhiltsov (RUS) - MINI ALL4 Racing – 5h 54m 26s
13th B. Issabayev (KAZ) / V. Demyanenko - MINI ALL4 Racing – 6h 15min 49s
Overall standings after Stage 5:
1st C. Despres (FRA) / Castera (GRA) – Peugeot - 9h 47m 05s
2nd S. Loeb (FRA) / D. Elena (MCO) – Peugeot – 10h 01m 27s
3rd Y- Al-Rajhi (KSA) / T. Gottschalk (GER) - MINI ALL4 Racing – 10h 01m 43s
4th V. Vasilyev (RUS) / K. Zhiltsov (RUS) - MINI ALL4 Racing – 10h 02m 21s
5th A. Rakhimbayev (KAZ) / A. Nikolaev (RUS) - MINI ALL4 Racing – 10h 03m 09s
10th B. Issabayev (KAZ) / V. Demyanenko - MINI ALL4 Racing – 10h 38min 45s
12th H. Hunt (GBR) / A. Schulz (GER) - MINI ALL4 Racing - 10h 46m 05s