Sunday, June 23, 2024

Taklimakan Rally returns after 3-year hiatus

The Taklimakan Rally, China’s premier rally raid, ran from 20 May through 1 June in its first edition since 2019 after three years off due to COVID-19.

Zi Yungliang won in the cars with a total time of 34:16:09, 5:30 ahead of the World Rally-Raid Championship duo of Zhang Guoyu and Oriol Mena. Zhang’s BAIC ORV ally Liu Yangui joined him on the podium, though nearly fifty-four minutes back. Zi was also a BAIC driver at the Dakar Rally in January, but ran Taklimakan as a privateer in his own T1.2 car rather than the BAIC BJ40 of the the others.

The venerable Toyota Hilux placed fourth with Xu Dali as driver. Sun Ping piloted the Hilux’s W2RC rival vehicle Prodrive Hunter, but did not finish.

Unlike the Chinese-dominated cars, the bikes featured plenty of variety as South Africa’s Bradley Cox won the overall ahead of his Lithuanian team-mate Arūnas Gelažninkas with a time of 24:28:05. Cox, another W2RC face, was making his début in China with Red Camel Racing.

“I had lots of fun in this rally, the people are nice, our team is great,” said Cox. “This is my first trip to China. I hope to continue the luck and be the champion during my next trip to China. As to the rally, my favourite part is for sure the dunes, the view of snow mountain is also amazing. I would definitely stop and take a photo if it was not in the game.”

Kove Moto, also a W2RC outfit, fielded six bikes in their home rally. Besides their Dakar Rally trio of Sunier, Deng Liansong, and Fang Minji, factory rider Neels Theric took part and overcame an early predicament in which he got lost in the Prologue to finish fourth overall with team. Shu Haoyu placed a spot behind Theric in fifth. Team director Zhang Xue, although mainly a motocross rider, also took part and crashed after being hit by hail in Stage #2.

The bike field featured three female riders with Li Yifei, Wang Shanshan, and Zhong Shengzhen all racing the rally for the first time. Li, a backpacker and IT manager by trade, crashed in the second stage and got lost two days later, but managed to reach the finish and was recognised as the best female competitor. Wang was originally supposed to compete on a Royal Alloy 300 scooter, but switched to a Honda bike as the scooter failed pre-race inspection. Zhong, a fashion model and extreme sports enthusiast, was thirty-first. An all-female duo raced in cars as Xu Yang and Zou Guifen placed forty-fifth overall.

76 of 97 cars and 31 of 37 bikes reached the finish.

Class winners

Class Overall Finish Number Competitor Team Vehicle Total Time
T1+ 2 104 Zhang Guoyu BAIC ORV BAIC BJ40 34:21:39
T1.1 3 102 Liu Yangui BAIC ORV BAIC BJ40 35:10:07
T1.2 1 101 Zi Yungliang Yungliang Racing Yungliang Racing 34:16:09
T1.3 33 151 Wang Xiaofeng Xiangshawan Desert Off-Road Team Audi RS4 70:07:42
T2.1 49 258 Tao Pengfei Chery Racing Team Chery TIggo 125:46:28
T2.2 47 261 Zhang Lijing SAIC Maxus Racing Team SAIC Maxus T90 116:10:55
T3 12 305 Li Yu Leopard Club Sports Team Can-Am Maverick X3 40:20:38
T4 53 317 Li Zhi Xixia Club Team Can-Am Maverick X3 138:48:30
T5 73 501 Zi Rong Shaanxi Yunliang Club Yunliang Cloud 227:04:15
Moto 1 37 Bradley Cox Red Camel Racing Team KTM 450 Rally 23:50:06
ATV 25 61 Tong Lei Beijing Zhongtian RV Team Bombardier ATV 87:09:48