The big beasts of the rally-raid world were cheered on by motorsport fans at the Caspian Sea city of Astrakhan as they launched their quest to win the 2018 Silk Way Rally in Russia. Here is all you need to know:
– The 2018 edition of the rally-raid race runs from July 20-27 with the 2,500km course exclusively in Russia laid out from the Caspian Sea to Moscow’s Red Square.
– Seven timed stages face the car, buggy and truck competitors as they will have to cross the Takyr and Kalmykia deserts with precise driving crucial.
– Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah is confident he can win in his Toyota Hilux alongside French co-driver Mathieu Baumel after success at the Baja Russia Northern Forest race.
– The two-time Dakar Rally champion, 47, revealed: “Earlier this year I was racing in Russia and it was great experience. I’m really pleased to have the chance to do it again.”
– Yazeed Al-Rajhi of Saudi Arabia and Spain’s Nani Roma both have the potential to push him for the win while Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev can rely on huge home support.
– Team Kamaz Master trucks have won six of the previous seven editions of this race with Dmitry Sotnikov the reigning champion, while former winners Eduard Nikolaev and Ayrat Mardeev will also both be looking to impress outside of their Dakar Rally dominance.
– Nikolaev added: “The routes in southern Russia will throw up a lot of unpredictability. The dunes in the Astrakhan region are extremely difficult to read. This is going to make things uncomfortable for even the most experienced of drivers. The pressure will be on from the start and we must remain psychologically tough.”