Aksu, (Xinjiang/China). May, 20
Aksu - Aksu : 92.44km
Liaison : 26.55km
SS : 23.96km
Liaison : 41.93km
After 3 days’ administrative and technical scrutinizing, followed by the the racing car parade this morning in the city center of Aksu, the grand opening ceremony of 2023 Taklimakan Rally officially kicked off today.
3 years after the last edition in 2019, 134 truck, auto and moto with 231 competitors from China and abroad gathers together in the podium to welcome this great rally event. The super special stage took place right after the opeing ceremony.
The SSS has only 23km timed section, with most of the road surface being relatively flat Gobi landform and ends after the final part of the riverbed section. The SSS allows the competitors to warm up and better prepare for the coming special stages. However, as the pole position will decide the starting order for the SS1, the teams aspiring to win the podium regard it as an important reference for their tactical choice. 
In the auto category, Team Shanxi Yunxiang takes the overall control of this stage with Zhang Guoyu and Zi Yungang finished the first and the second with BAIC racing cars. Han Wei is listed No. 3 with only 1’30” difference. This stage did not draw strong gaps among the potential pilots. The real test awaits them tomorrow.
As to the moto category, the local driver Yakepu lived up to the expectations of his followers and takes the 1st  place by leading 2’29”. The 2 pilots representing Chinese brand KOVE are listed in the 2nd and 3rd place. French pilots NEELS Theric in KOVE and Australian Micheal Burgess received respectively 10’ and 15’ penalty and thus listed in the 4th and 5th place.
Tomorrow the competitors will face the first real challenge which passes through the Wenju-Grand Canyon of Aksu. The 205 km special stages covers the gravel track in the canyon and the high speed Gobi road section. Although it is not highly ranked in the difficulty as well as the intensity, part of the stage is narrow and with elevation loss, which requires extra concentration from the racing teams.
Provisional Classification Auto SSS / Overall Classification
1. Zhang Guoyu (CHN) / Oriol Mena Valdearcos (ESP), BAIC, 1526
2. Zi Yunliang (CHN) / Sha He (CHN), BAIC, +1’07”
3. Han Wei (CHN) / Ma Li (CHN), SMG, +1’30”
4. Wang Qiang (CHN) / Ma Miao (CHN), BAIC. +2’07”
5. Zhang Huijun (CHN) / Peng Yibo (CHN), CR6, +2’14”
Provisional Classification Auto SSS / Overall Classification
1. Yakepu (CHN), KTM, 2139
2. Su Nier (CHN), KOVE, +2’29”
3. Fang Mingji (CHN), KOVE, +4’14”
4. NEELS Theric (FRA), KOVE, +5’31”
5. Micheal Burgess (AUS), KTM, +5’35”



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