ALDO Racing duo of Patrick Beaulé (on the left) and David Bensadoun ready to face unknown off-road rally-raid routes at the Silk Way. (Photo-ALDO Racing)
Montreal, Quebec - After a 1,100-kilometre road trip from Finland to Russia, the convoy carrying the European rally-raid machines and support trucks, along with those from the Canadian ALDO Racing Team, finally arrived in Moscow on the evening of July 5. The technical crew of ALDO Racing, who initially drove from Slovakia, will finally meet with the only Canadians entered in the Silk Way Rally: driver David Bensadoun and co-pilot Patrick Beaulé who flew into Moscow from Montreal.
Everything is in the books for the organizers of the transcontinental 10,734 km rally that includes 4,105 km of timed off-road special sectors between Moscow and Beijing. The rally road books, given to every team on the eve of each of the 15 stages which will be held from July 8-24th, are printed and kept under lock and key. To celebrate this historic event, a high profile ceremonial send-off from the Red Square start ramp on July 8 will dispatch the 99 teams on an 850 km liaison to Kazan onto Highway E22/M7. The next day, Canadians Bensadoun and Beaulé will take off in their Toyota Tacoma for the first official 626 km stage, with a timed off-road sector of 135 km that will take them to Ufa. The Silk Way will exit Russia to enter Kazakhstan on July 11 during the Ufa to Kostanay stage. It will be followed by three more in the land of vast plateaus and steep canyons that will take all the competitors to the Almaty bivouac on July 14 where the following day, drivers will rest and mend their pains. While they take a breather, mechanics will be hard at work making majors repair or fixing mechanical issues before Bensadoun and Beaulé head out July 16 for the next nine days of travel to Beijing.
A new challenge for David Bensadoun
Montrealer David Bensadoun is thrilled at the idea of discovering faraway lands. After four Dakar rallies in South America, he was ready, as was his co-pilot Patrick Beaulé, for a change of scenery and new challenges.
"We are going into the unknown and it should be fun! It's a new adventure. I love adventure and I love to be challenged," David Bensadoun said. "The best moments are actually when we face some kind of adversity but then we find a solution and we keep rolling! I love rolling! I'm excited about the route it takes. As someone who grew up during the Cold War, I never thought I'd be able to visit some of these places, let alone RACE across them! Russian steppes, Kazak grasslands, Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia - these are the landscapes that Genghis Khan ruled and now we'll be exploring them as well - Wow."
Discovering unfamiliar vistas is not without risks for the Canadians. Crossing three countries that have only recently discovered motorsports, and having 150 vehicles racing through the countryside, will be a bit out of this world for those watching! It was the audacity of the organizers who decided to go into an unknown transcontinental Euro Asiatic adventure that tipped the scale and made David want to go there.
"The organizers have really impressed us - the logistics of making this race happen are very challenging," continued Bensadoun. "The risk factors will be the sheer distances that will still need to be covered even if there are issues like a broken bridge, a river crossing that's too deep or one single border guard who gets overly bureaucratic! With a rally travelling "point to point" like the Silk Way Rally, for 10,700 km, one small detour or issue the organizers couldn't foresee, could make things very challenging. At last year's Dakar, torrential rains forced the closure of one key river crossing and it took the rally two days to get back on schedule as the teams fought through routes to get back on track."
Crunch time is not the right moment to be seasick for Patrick Beaulé
Working from the passenger seat with his head looking down on his notes during a rally is not a pleasant task for navigator Patrick Beaulé as the ALDO Toyota Tacoma goes over broken roads of gravel and boulders making his head bobble as he shouts directions to driver David Bensadoun. It's even worse when reaching the crest of a sand dune and the truck suddenly accelerates down the hill. Beaulé must read and shout thousands of instructions a day for 14 days. No wonder he has no time for sightseeing. Finding the right road requires a strong dose of concentration, and is no time to be seasick.
"I have to stay focused. The rally navigation system is quite simple: a route book gives a series of indications to follow one after the other, similar to what you get when you print a Google map route, BUT we have no access to Google during the rally," said codriver Patrick Beaulé. "Sometime the sequence of information flows very rapidly, as close as 0.1 km between signs. I must always be ready for the next one, and give David the precise way to go. There is no GPS, no maps, and no road signs on special stages. We just have a compass, an odometer and the route book. That's all!"
Moscow - Beijing
The Silk Way is no ordinary rally-raid because many of the routes taken from Moscow to Beijing will go into uncharted off-road rally territory, from the farthest eastern tip of European Russia, to the Capital City of China. The first challenge to reach Paris from Peking (today Beijing) via Siberia and Moscow was held in 1907. It has since been recreated several times between 1990 and 2013, but never the Silk Way Rally way which will travel 5,700 kilometres through the Xinjiang province in northern China and into Inner Mongolia before reaching its final destination.
The next ALDO press release will be issue July 15 when the rally reaches the halfway point in Almaty, Kazakhstan after six days of competition. David Bensadoun and Patrick Beaulé will share their experience after travelling 4,838 kilometres. But again, the worst is yet to come.
For daily coverage, connect with ALDO Racing on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ALDO-Racing-1420010304880026/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aldoracingdakar or follow the Silk Way Rally live at http://www.silkwayrally.com/
The participation of ALDO Racing in the Silk Way Rally is the result of a partnership with the ALDO Group, E.F. Walters, Stingray, SAJO, Vitesse Transport Corporation, the OEC Group and Fesh-Fesh Investments.