There was a clear winner on Stage 4 of the 2017 Silk Way Rally as Sébastien Loeb took charge of the day’s racing from start to finish. The Frenchman with nine World Rally Championship titles arrived in Kazakhstan’s capital city with a lead of over an hour from his closest competitor thanks to a superb display of driving.
Despite being charged with opening the road there was never any sign that Loeb and his Monegasque co-driver Daniel Elena were exercising caution. The pair pushed their Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi to the limit with pace and precision over the day’s two timed sections of 214km and 159km.
The fact you can count Loeb and Elena’s entries into two-week rally-raids on one hand makes today’s performance truly astounding. However, with 10 long stages still to play out nobody was getting ahead of themselves back at the bivouac in Astana.
“We’ll see what advantage we can take from today’s result but that will only start to show when we get back to racing tomorrow.” – Sébastien Loeb
Underlining the quality of Loeb’s performance was the contrasting fortunes that hit his Peugeot team-mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres. Peterhansel’s hopes of winning this year’s race appear over after he rolled his car on Stage 4. The 13-time Dakar winner and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret were eventually able to drive on, coming home to the bivouac 3h04m20s behind Loeb.
Despres’ hopes of another Silk Way title were also damaged on today’s route from Kostanay to Astana. Despres and co-driver David Castera got stuck 166km into the first half of the timed special stage and lost valuable time before they were pulled back onto the track by Dmitry Sotnikov’s Kamaz truck.
It was only Loeb’s car that got through the stage unscathed as the Mini of Bryce Menzies and co-driver Pete Mortensen also ran into difficulty. These rally-raid rookies have come to the Silk Way to find out what it takes to compete at a two-week rally-raid and today’s stage was an eye opening experience.
“We came into a 90 degree left turn and I hit the brakes probably way out and the car just started sliding. We ended up sliding into a ravine.” – Bryce Menzies
At the midpoint of the Silk Way’s first week things have begun to stabilise for Team Kamaz Master with all four of their crews finishing inside the Top 7 on Stage 4. This result has propelled the four Kamaz drivers into the Top 10 overall with Anton Shibalov, Ayrat Mardeev and Sotnikov all within 22m12s of truck race leader Martin Kolomy.
“The most important thing for us to do is to stay alert. We simply must not make any mistakes.” – Ayrat Mardeev
With dramatic swings of momentum at the pinnacle of both the car and truck races over the first quarter of the Silk Way it’s clear we should expect the unexpected. Tomorrow brings with it 484km of timed racing on the route to Semey with plenty of scope for things to turn on their head once again.
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Car Race General Classification after Stage 4 (Provisional)
1. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) Peugeot 8h56m10
Truck Race General Classification after Stage 4 (Provisional)
1. Martin Kolomy (CZE) Tatra 10h30m57s