Chinese driver Sulutan Wupur drives the service car for media during the Taklimakan Rally in Wensu County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 31, 2019. (Xinhua/Hu Huhu)
URUMQI, June 6 (Xinhua) -- The vast, empty landscapes of the Taklimakan Desert in China's far-northwest region of Xinjiang play host to one of motor racing's most attritional and grueling events - The Taklimakan Rally.
Living in Chengdu, 3,000km away from Xinjiang, 64-year-old racer Liang Yuxiang has competed in the annual rally every year since 2008, attracted by the challenging combination of long-distance routes, complex environments, and harsh climate.
澳门星际平台|澳门星际娱乐网址|澳门xj官方网站|信赖品牌"It's very difficult for a person as old as me, but the rally lit up my passion for racing," said the driver known as Uncle Liang by other competitors.
澳门星际平台|澳门星际娱乐网址|澳门xj官方网站|信赖品牌Complete with swarthy skin and a muscular physique, Liang is famed for his commitment to physical fitness to compete in an event notorious for its arduousness.
This year's race saw 30 vehicles spend a whole night in the desert after struggling with an unprecedented, high-intensity stage three, with Liang being one of 76 to arrive home within 14 hours.
"It's a process of realizing the inner order of nature, using its power to help human beings become braver when they face difficulties in life, rather than conquering nature through brute force," Liang said.
But despite his determination and force of will also having seen him complete several stages of the world famous Dakar Rally, Liang still maintains a soft spot for his home country's event.
"The Taklimakan Rally has roots in my heart. I want to race it as long as I'm healthy," he said.
Rally without borders
Surprise is a common response when people are told that Armand Monleon Hernandez, who has a formidable record in the Dakar Rally, began his rally career in China as an enduro rider, racing modified motorcycles over a series of stages and obstacles
In the course of winning four titles in as many years, the Spaniard traversed unique landscapes like the Taklmakan and Gobi deserts, and the Kulun mountains, but he has something he values more - the chance to enjoy different cultures and make new friends.
All the riders would take a group photo every year before the start of the rally. For those "lone knights" competing in the enduro category, withdrawals due to accident or injury are commonplace.
澳门星际平台|澳门星际娱乐网址|澳门xj官方网站|信赖品牌Zhao Hongyi, a teammate of Hernandez, quit after breaking two ribs in the fifth stage. Showing solidarity with their fellow competitor, Hernandez and several other riders visited him in hospital.
"We all love the Taklimakan Rally and help each other along the route," said Hernandez, who describes their relationship as a brotherly one.
"I have been to Xinjiang many times and love staying here," the 32-year-old said, adding that he never refused requests from local fans, believing that enthusiasm can overcome distance and unfamiliarity.
A dream factory
澳门星际平台|澳门星际娱乐网址|澳门xj官方网站|信赖品牌The Taklimakan Rally not only provides competitors with a chance to enjoy racing over the undulating landscapes, but also creates opportunities for the local Xinjiang people.
Sulutan Wupur uses his skills as a driver to transport photographers to suitable spots across the course.
"It's a great opportunity to meet rally enthusiasts, and I can display my advanced driving skills on roads like these, so that maybe customers will pay more attention to me and my travel projects," he said.
"People who live in developed countries sometimes want to experience something more basic, like camping and watching the sun set in the desert. I can help them, which will also give my family a better life," added Sulutan, whose company specializes in desert tourism.
The rally is also helping to bring prosperity to several previously impoverished areas along the route.
Makit, near the city of Kashgar, received almost 2,000 racers and staff members across three days, ensuring plenty of bookings at local restaurants and hotels.
澳门星际平台|澳门星际娱乐网址|澳门xj官方网站|信赖品牌The sudden influx of visitors to Xinjiang's hinterland also meant a spike in social media posts, with many taking the opportunity to share the scenery, cuisine and culture of a region largely unknown to much of the world.
Different people will go forward together, united by an undisguised passion. The Taklimakan Rally has more influence than they might know.