Several drivers, including Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, have pulled out from the Silk Way Rally amid an organizer statement on Saturday that said the event was not able to cross the Russian border into Mongolia for COVID-19 safety reasons.
The Silk Way, round three of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, began on Friday (July 2) and will conclude next Sunday (July 11).
It was meant to travel through Russian and into the neighboring Mongolia, but a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases – plus concerns over the bubonic plague – in the country have prompted a swift rethink.
The event will therefore remain in Russia and all bivouacs and infrastructure, prepared for the Mongolian stages, will be provided to state and local authorities to set anti-COVID-19 stations in order to help the locals to fight the pandemic.
Mongolia will also receive humanitarian supplies, delivered on behalf of the Silk Way Rally directorate.
However, the condensed and shortened route doesn’t appeal to all competitors and Overdrive Racing, South Racing and Xtreme+ have all subsequently withdrawn their entries.
The main reason for this centers on the event’s shortened mileage that wouldn’t enable drivers to score full championship points.
Overdrive team principal Jean-Marc Fortin explained: “It is disappointing that teams and drivers come here at a considerable financial cost to experience an event just in Russia and not in Mongolia, where we knew the stages were going to be beautiful.
“We were obliged to stay in Russia but we would not be able to reach the necessary stage distance to make the event eligible for points for the championship. It meant that the maximum points that could be reached would be 25% for a victory. This is ridiculous. It would have meant eight points if Yazeed had won.
“We had this issue in Portalegre last year with Bernhard Ten Brinke, because of the very bad weather,” Fortin added. “But this is something different.
“We can’t accept making a lot of financial effort, man-hours and the moving of a lot of equipment to the middle of Russia to be put in this situation.
“The FIA and event organizers are not suffering so much from this situation. It is the competitors and the teams. It is us that make the show and we should not be placed in this position.
“We also need to know how organizers are going to react to refund entry fees and some costs to the teams.”
Vladimir Vasilyev currently leads the rally ahead of Guerlain Chicherit. Al-Rajhi was placed third before pulling out.