It was business as usual for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Nasser Al Attiyah (Qatar) and navigator Mathieu Baumel (France), when the pair won Stage 8 of the 2019 Silk Way Rally in fine style, giving them a clean sweep of stage wins to date. Their latest win comes after a transit day, which made up Stage 7 of the event, and moved the rally from Mongolia into China.

Stage 8, however, was one with a bit of bite: 785.1 km in distance, with a timed section of 326.6 km, over dunes, sand, stones and gravel. And to make matters even more challenging, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux was the first car into the stage.

In the end, Al Attiyah/Baumel brought their South African-built Toyota Hilux home safely in a time of 4hrs 21min 26sec, which places them 4min 35sec ahead of Dutch driver Erik van Loon, in an almost identical Toyota Hilux on the stage. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, he lost a mass of time on Stage 2 of the event, and remains out of contention despite posting exceptional stage times over the stages that followed his disastrous day in Russia.

Third place on Stage 8 went to Frenchman Matheiu Serradori, driving the South African-built Century CR6. China’s Kun Liu, in a Hanwei SMG Buggy, finished in fourth place on Stage 8, and remains in second place in the overall standings.

The ninth and penultimate stage of the 2019 Silk Way Rally follows on Monday, 15 July. The stage comprises a timed section of 290 km, together with liaisons of 211 km. This will be followed by Stage 10, which will bring the rally to the Chinese city of Dunhuang for the finish – completing a mammoth event of 5,000 km, which spanned three countries. The Silk Way Rally is widely considered to be the second-toughest cross-country racing event in the world, after the Dakar Rally.