With the start of the 2016 Silk Way Rally just ten days away, the teams from more than 30 nations are preparing for the trip to Moscow for official validation at one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues before a send-off in grand style from Red Square. While the Russian entries have a ‘relatively’ short trip to make for the administrative checks and scrutineering at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex on July 7 and 8, competitors from Europe, the Americas and the Middle East will have a longer journey to reach the stadium that hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games.
This caravan will set off from Travemünde in Northern Germany. On July 2, the rally-raid machines and support vehicles will make a two-day ferryboat crossing of the Baltic Sea towards Helsinki, Finland. Two more days on the road and 1,125 kms later they will arrive in Moscow on July 5.
The Chinese teams will convoy at the Khorgos border crossing and voyage through Kazakhstan and Russia in more or less the opposite direction of the Rally itself. Rally-raid elder statesman, Teruhito Sagawara and his fellow participants from the Land of the Rising Sun will enter Russia at Vladivostok and make the more than 6,000km drive to Moscow.
The Final Check
The caravan will join the rest of the participants coming from China in the parking structure of the Luzhniki Stadium, which has been selected to host the final of the 2018 World Cup final. This 76,000 seat pitch on the shores of Moskva River also hosted British powerhouses Manchester United and Chelsea in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, as well as music legends, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson.
Each entrant will have their medical certificates, vehicle registration, driver’s permit and the rest verified. Meanwhile, the vehicles that they will drive, in the shared goal of getting to the podium at the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium in Beijing, will be gone over from top to bottom and front to rear. A long list of technical regulations and safety requirements will be checked before the vehicles are given the green light to participate.
Before the rally-raid begins in earnest, the Russian capital will pull out all the stops with a flag parade of nations, speeches from Silk Way Rally organizers and local dignitaries. Performances from the Alla Dukhova’s ballet, Kazakh band “The GIGITS” and the Chinese “Golden Dragons” acrobatic team will create a party atmosphere. The public will also be able to take photos with and get autographs from rally-raid stars Sébastien Loeb and Stéphane Peterhansel or Airat Mardeev and Edouard Nikolaev, as well as test their skills on a motor racing simulator. The day will crescendo with the introduction of the 2016 teams and the ceremonial drive of the start ramp in front of Lenin’s Tomb and Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
If you happen to be on holiday in Northwest China, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Ürümqi is a must. The sprawling metropolis, of more than 3 million is primarily Han, but there is great ethnic diversity. Situated in the shadow of the Tian Shan it was a key trading hub on the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty and evolved into an important cultural and commercial centre during the rule of the Qing. At 43° 40’52”N 87°19’52”E, Chinese geography experts declared Ürümqi as the ‘Bulls Eye’ of Asia in 1992 and the monument stating such is a tourist attraction. But you won’t need a beach towel or snorkel or flip flops on this vacation. The nearest coastline is 1,600 miles away, which lands Ürümqi in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most remote city from any sea in the world!