Frenchman limps to Stage 9 finish at Silk Way Rally as Despres claims overall lead.
Sebastien Loeb found the going too tough after Sunday’s Silk Way Rally rest day as he crashed his car into a dried riverbed on Monday to hand Peugeot team-mate Cyril Despres the overall lead.
The Frenchman had built up over an hour lead heading into Stage 9 from Urumqi to Hami, however an early mistake saw him lose several hours to his rivals.
He incurred mechanical damage at the 84km mark, then was forced to stop again with Daniel Elena at 172km and 214km as his overall victory chances leaked away.
The nine-time FIA World Rally champion ended the day’s racing way back from compatriot Despres who covered the timed 421km in four hours 12 minutes 20 seconds.
Despres revealed, “I think my experience racing motorcycles meant that I chose to stay in the dry riverbed, where it was bumpy and you couldn’t go as fast, rather than go out of it onto smoother ground where you could go faster.
“Now we have a small lead but we need to stay concentrated, as once again today we saw that in rally-raid anything can happen.”
Stephane Peterhansel won the day’s stage to improve his overall position to seventh behind leader Despres with two hours 29 minutes 51 seconds separating the two Team Peugeot Total colleagues now.
China’s Han Wei sits in second place overall currently 44 minutes and 12 seconds off Despres with American Bryce Menzies third in his Mini and Baicmotor’s Christian Lavieille fourth.
Peterhansel added, “It is a good day because we won the stage, but for the team it is not really good because Seb destroyed his car.
“At the end it was the first real rally raid stage in the desert completely off the track with a lot of navigation. In the beginning it was nice with big dunes, but it was not easy today.”
Russian Dmitry Sotnikov leads the truck standings moving into Tuesday’s Stage 10 with Kamaz team-mates Anton Shibalov and Airat Mardeev within half an hour of him overall.