Arriving in triumph and bright sunshine at the ancient capital of the Middle Empire, at the end of over 700 kilometres of liaison, the competitors on the 2017 Silk Way Rally were all smiles. Cancelled following heavy overnight rain in the Zhongwei region, the last 100,67 km special was transformed into a lap of honour for the competitors and their assistance, coming to the end of 15 days and nearly 10 000 km of racing that was varied and demanding for both man and machine.
Pulling into the parc fermé, that marks the end of this 2017 edition, at Xi’an’s exhibition centre, Dmitry Sotnikov, accompanied by his Kamaz Ruslan team co-drivers Akhmadeev and Ilnur Mustafin (Kamaz-Master n°303) takes a second victory in the truck class (after their first in 2013), at the end of a fierce battle with their Kamaz teammates. Sotnikov clinched the Silk Way Rally title with an overall time of 14:18:27. Meanwhile, Team PETRONAS finished eighth and 10th respectively in the overall standings, Dutchman Ton Van Genugten coming in ahead of teammate De Rooy.
With the best teams at the start, the 2017 Silk Way Rally promised a fierce fight between the four Team Kamaz-Master trucks and their principle rivals from Team PETRONAS Gerard De Rooy IVECO, Mammoet Riwald, MAZ and Tatra. Once again the experience and teamwork of the men from Tatarstan proved decisive at the end of the 10 000 km leading to Xi’an. Patient in Russia and Kazakhstan, the blue armada held back until crossing the border into China.
The only one able to carry on the fight was the Czech Martin Kolomy (Tatra Phoenix n°311) who finally let go in the Gobi Desert. And it was there, in the heart of the cathedral dunes, that Sotnikov, Shibalov and Mardeev let rip to share the spoils. Keeping a cool head all the way to the finish in his 100 percent new Kamaz, equipped with a ‘small’ 13.5 litre Cummins engine, Dmitry Sotnikov fought off the attacks of the young and talented Anton Shibalov to take a second Silk Way win.
“I can’t remember such a tough race,” commented Sotnikov, “We had to fight for each second and every day the battle became more intense. I am happy that Anton Shibalov kept up the pressure because it really bought out the best in us. Unfortunately there can only be one winner. Anton could very well have won the race, as the gap between us was tiny and shows the degree of competition at this level of racing.”