Johannesburg - Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa has withdrawn from the 2017 Silk Way Rally, a two-week, 10 000km rally raid from Moscow to Beijing, due to start on 7 July in the Russian capital.
The team had submitted entries for both former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and SA cross-country champion Leeroy Poulter, but the decision to pull out was taken when rule changes, in line with the new rules for the 2018 Dakar Rally, weren’t implemented in time for the 2017 Silk Way.
That’s because the Silk Way Rally, second only to the iconic Dakar as one of the toughest tests of cross-country vehicles on the calendar, has for a number of years served as a proving ground for Dakar contenders. If your rally raid car survives the Silk Way, that’s a good basis for Buenos Aires - and whatever goes wrong between Moscow and Beijing will have to be sorted for South America.
But the technical regulations for this year’s Silk Way haven’t been updated to correspond with those already in place for the 2018 Dakar Rally - which means keeping your 2017 Dakar Rally car going for another six months in order to run it in the Silk Way, rather than entering your 2018 Dakar contender as part of its development program.
Either you have run two generations of cross-country racers side by side, or you lose out on half a year’s worth of development and testing.
"We we value the Silk Way Rally as one of the toughest events on the international cross-country racing calendar," said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team principal Glyn Hall. "But for this year, competing there no longer makes sense.
"We won't rule out entering the Silk Way Rally in future but right now, we need to focus to developing our 2018 car."
Sadly, there’s a knock-on effect as well. Gazoo shares infrastructure with Belgian outfit Overdrive Racing on international events, so Overdrive has also had to withdraw its entry for Nasser Al Attiyah from the 2017 Silk Way Rally, because Hall and his team won’t be there as back-up.