When it comes to rally raid, Dakar might be the name that springs to mind. But earlier in July another rally of spectacular proportions got under way. The Silk Way Rally. Named after the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between east and west, this phenomenal event started in Omsk, in Siberian Russia, and ended in the eastern town of Gorno-Altaisk, on the Mongolian border.
Along the way, drivers and riders had to contend with 5,200km of desert, mountain and hazardous terrain, as well as 2,600km of special stages, as they sprinted east on a two-week trek. Mid way through the race, the organisers had to take the unfortunate decision to exclude Mongolia from this year’s race due to a coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Nevertheless, the change in plans didn’t curb the enthusiasm or speed of Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit who, along with his co-driver Alex Winocq, piloted the Motul-backed SRT Team’s Century CR6 buggy.
The duo pulled off an impressive overall win in the T1 category, storming ahead early on and taking spectacular stage wins, though a puncture along the way and trouble getting past the trucks slowed their progress.
Speaking during the rally, Chicherit said: “It’s amazing to come back to racing again, I’ve been waiting for it for four or five years. To be back, especially at the Silk Way, was one of my dreams. It’s a little bit too bad that we can’t go to Mongolia. At least we kept racing, and the organisers managed to add two more stages to the race. For me it was good to get the speed, be back on the course, get the confidence and work again together with Alex. We made two mistakes – quite a lot, I have to say, but it’s good. The landscapes and the people were really amazing. Dakar is the main goal to fight for now.”
If the Century CR6 buggy that Chicherit was driving sounds familiar, that’s because it is: earlier this year, French driver Mathieu Serradori, owner and driver of the Serradori Racing Team, piloted this same car in the Dakar Rally. Now it was on loan to Chicherit, who didn’t fail to show that the Motul 300V-powered buggy still has was it takes to compete at the top.
Serradori is himself a veteran of the Silk Way Rally. During the 2018 event, the Frenchman and former biker said of the challenge: “I was born at the time of the first Dakar rallies. I’ve always been fascinated by the great mythic rallies. After five years racing on the African tracks, it seemed logical to me to discover new horizons. I prefer marathon rallies to the Bajas and I think a buggy like ours has a role to play on the Silk Way Rally.”
Chicherit was born in the French Alps, so is no stranger to extreme environments. Behind the wheel of the Century CR6 buggy, he took full advantage of its power-to-weight ratio and long suspension travel to make short work of the fearsome Altai Mountains.
The Silk Way Rally, which started in 2009, typically welcomes 350 competitors from more than 40 countries over routes that take in Russia’s Altai region and the Gobi Desert. As part of its diversity in motorsport initiative, the organisers of the rally offer free entry to all women and novice teams.