Mother-Daughter Duo Races Towards Perseverance in Taklimakan Rally

 May 29, 2024
Sun Xiangyan and her daughter Ma Xin compete during the Taklimakan Rally in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 22, 2024. [Xinhua/Chen Shuo]


A distinctive figure in China's racing scene, Sun Xiangyan's fourth Taklimakan Rally is quite different from the previous ones - the navigator is her daughter, Ma Xin.

URUMQI, May 28 (Xinhua) — Veteran racer Sun Xiangyan is no stranger to China's most famous cross-country rally, the Taklimakan Rally. However, this year's race brings a new level of excitement and anxiety as her navigator is none other than her daughter, Ma Xin.

"My feelings are completely different. My previous co-drivers were all very experienced, but my daughter is totally a rookie," said Sun, now in her fourth Taklimakan Rally journey.

Sun has long been a distinctive figure in China's racing scene. Known for her resilience and technical prowess, she has consistently competed alongside male drivers in grueling rallies. Earlier this year, she became the first Chinese woman to finish the Dakar Rally.

In previous races, Sun often brought her younger daughter Ma to watch. Unlike her quiet twin sister, Ma was lively and energetic from a young age. Every time Sun lifted a trophy, Ma's eyes sparkled with admiration.

Ma Xin, Ma Baoqiang and Sun Xiangyan (L to R) pose for a family photo in the Luopu Camp, May 27, 2024. [Xinhua/Chen Shuo]


"When I won the championship, she seemed even happier than I was," Sun said. Seeing her daughter's budding passion for racing, Sun decided to let her give it a try.

In April, just a month before the Taklimakan Rally, the 19-year-old obtained her racing license. The mother-daughter duo decided to team up, making them the only such pair in this year's race.

Racing through the Taklimakan Desert, known as the "Sea of Death," is no small feat. The harsh environment, complex long-distance stages, and high pressure challenge even the most seasoned drivers, let alone a novice like Ma. Navigating through road books, monitoring the rally computer, and coordinating with the GPS system, she struggled in the bouncing, high-speed car.

"Before coming here, I thought it was just about driving in the desert, like what you see in movies. I had no idea it would be this hard," she said.

Sun Xiangyan (front) and Ma Xin get ready for the race. [Xinhua/Chen Shuo]


During the second special stage, the desert's extreme heat caused Ma to suffer from heatstroke. The fine, powdery sand stung her eyes, and with her helmet on and hands occupied with the navigation book, she couldn't rub her eyes. Facing such adversity for the first time, she couldn't hold back her tears.

Sun had to slow down and constantly encourage her daughter to persevere. By the time they reached the finish line, Ma was exhausted but managed to hand in their time card.

"Seeing her discomfort was hard for me," Sun said. "But there was nothing we could do but push through."

As Ma gradually adapted to the rally's pace, she showed potential, helping Sun break into the top 35 in a single stage. Sun was very pleased with her daughter's performance.

"She has far exceeded my expectations. She's quite talented and persistent. Of course, she missed some details during stages, but that was expected," Sun said.

Ma Xin gives instructions to visiting students in the camp, May 27, 2024. [Xinhua/Chen Shuo]


Looking ahead, they share an open-minded attitude. Sun believes that becoming an excellent navigator requires immense effort - learning mechanical principles, car repair, and improving both physical and mental stamina. Her daughter has a long journey ahead.

"She has made some progress, but I want to give her a few years to grow," Sun said.

This unique experience of racing alongside her mother has taught her daughter just of age the value of perseverance. Ma now better understands the hard work behind her mother's accolades.

"I will work hard to see if I have a talent for racing," Ma said. "If I can, I will continue with this determination."


(Source: Xinhua)  


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