This Silk Way's far from smooth

Every year, competitors race across the forests and grasslands of Russia, the dusty steppe of Kazakhstan, and the deserts of northern China, through what drivers call the "dunes of no return".

Longer than the famous Dakar rally, the Silk Way rally, which this year runs from July 9 to 24, from Moscow to Beijing, is undoubtedly a challenge to finish.

Yesterday, during the 12th special stage of the rally, Mini team driver Yazeed Mohamed al-Rahji and co-pilot Timo Gottchalk were trailing teammates Vladimir Vasilyev and his co-pilot Konstantin Zhiltsov in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia.

This year, 130 competitors are racing over 10,734 kilometres crossing three countries and two continents from Moscow to Beijing.

The rally tests physical stamina and logistics planning just as much as driving skill.

This year's Silk Way rally is also a geopolitical achievement, strengthening Russia's political and economic relations with its eastern neighbour.

The race is co-sponsored by the Russian state gas giant Gazprom and Chinese state car manufacturer BAIC.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2016, with the headline 'This Silk Way's far from smooth'. Print Edition | Subscribe