Welcome to our resume of the Silk Way rally, on July 7, 2017 the seventh Silk Way Rally set off from Red Square in Moscow heading east. The competition will take place in three countries – Russia, Kazakhstan and China linking the three capitals of Moscow, Astana and Beijing. Crews have to cover a distance of 10,000km over two weeks, and almost half will be on special stages.
After a few small races in Europe, Bryce Menzies along with Mini is finally taking a real challenge entering the rally, so far he’s meeting the expectations holding in the Top 5 just behing the Dream Team of Peugeot but let’s go and see what happened Stage by Stage so far…
Moscow – Tcheboksary
Sébastien Loeb (Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104) in the cars and the Czech driver Martin Kolomy (Tatra n°311), in the trucks, are the first winners of the 2017 Silk Way Rally 2017, at the end of the opening stage between Moscow and Tcheboksary, situated on the banks of the River Volga. Top three for Peugeot and top two for Tatra.
Loeb sets the pace
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104) made their intentions clear on the first 61 kilometre special. Over a slippery, WRC type piste, the nine times World Rally World Champion took nearly half a second a kilometre off his team mate Stéphane Peterhansel, second at 29 seconds. Opening the track today, Cyril Despres made sure the Peugeots got the first three places, finishing just over 2 minutes behind Loeb. Credited with exactly the same time, 03:38 behind the day’s winner, the John Cooper Works Minis of the Saudian Yazeed Al Rajji and the American Byrce Menzies took fourth and fifth places respectively.
Sébastien Loeb (Fra/Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104): “Given the lack of grip we drove pretty defensively today. We had one or two ‘straight-ons’. It was particularly narrow and slippery on wet grass with a car that weighs nearly two tonnes. We nearly didn’t cut any corners, taking as few risks as possible. There was no strategy today as opening the piste tomorrow will certainly not be an advantage…”
Stéphane Peterhansel (Fra/Peugeot 3008DKR n° 106): “The hardest thing today was waking up at 2 in the morning, as yesterday evening, to be sure to fall asleep, I took a sleeping pill… Today we had a lot of lose and not much gain on this special. The ideal starting position tomorrow would be 4th or 5th…”
Cyril Despres (Fra/Peugeot 3008DKR n°100): “When you open the piste on this type of going, similar to what you might find in France, you know that you are going to lose time. We spent the special splashing through puddles and sliding around all over the place. Fortunately our starting position tomorrow should be better, but honestly at this stage of the race it isn’t that important.”
Yazeed AL Rajhi (Sau/Mini John Cooper Works n°101): “We had a few big slides today. It was the first time I have driven with Tom (Colsoul) and so we had to get used to each other. His English accent is more French than Timo’s (Gottschalk). We weren’t expecting to lose 3 minutes 30 to Peugeot over just 60 kilometres. It is a lot, but tyre width played a part in the grip and tomorrow we will start in a better position.”
Bryce Menzies (USA/Mini John Cooper Works n°105): “It was really slippery and we ran very wide (smiles). I have to get used to driving in conditions I don’t know. I think I will be able to pick up the pace on the faster tracks in Kazakhstan.”
Tcheboksary – Ufa
Stéphane Peterhansel (Peugeot 3008DKR n°106) and Martin van den Brink (Renault Sherpa n°301) win in the car and truck categories. In the process the Frenchman and the Dutchman both take the overall lead in their respective categories.
‘Peter’ takes the top spot
Second away at the start of the 2nd 157 kilometre long special, Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (Peugeot 3008DKR n°106) took advantage of team mates Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena’s (Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°102) hard work opening the piste to win their first stage victory and at the same time take the overall lead in the car class.
In extremely slippery conditions, following heavy rainfall in the Bachkirie region, the big challenge was simply to stay on the track. A task the Peugeot threesome pulled off to perfection, once again taking the first three places, with Despres (Peugeot 3008DKR n°100) second at 1:47, just one second ahead of Loeb across the line. A special result that means that Peugeot continue to monopolise the first three places overall, with Peterhansel (1st) and Despres (3rd) separated by just 3m32s.
The American Bryce Menzies (Mini John Cooper Works n°105) and the Chinese driver Han Wei (Geeley SMG Buggy n°107) complete the top 5, both on the stage and overall.
Not such a good day however for the Saudian Yazeed Al Rajhi (Mini John Cooper Works n°101), who went off the track 34 km from the finish line, giving away at least 2 hours in the process.
Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR n°106): “We are driving idiots – much too fast for this type of terrain. We go hard when it is so easy to make a mistake. We have tyres that work better than the old generation rubber the 4x4s are using. It was like Holiday on Ice. We’re just happy to get to the end. We won the stage but that doesn’t change anything. You have to get through each obstacle… Tomorrow will be our turn to open…””
Cyril Despres (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR n°100): “A complicated day – I’m not used to these kind of conditions. Our car is built for the sand and the desert so it is not easy to drive it in the mud with so much water in the ruts. Still, in the end no big problems and no big gaps between myself and my team mates so everything’s OK.”
Sébastien Loeb (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR n°104): “For the water crossings we just put our foot down and keep our fingers crossed… We are really driving defensively, even if the pace is quite fast. We lost a little time on our team mates, especially in the really slippery parts or the narrow bits. But we know that it isn’t here that the race will be decided. Though it wasn’t a day to make a mistake…”
Byrce Menzies (USA/Mini John Cooper Works Rally n°105): “The stage was very difficult today, probably the hardest I’ve ever done. It was raining, the car was sliding everywhere and we hit a ditch pretty good. After that played it safe to get to the finish line. We past Yazeed Al Rajhi at about 50 kms then I think after that he slid into a ditch and got stuck for a couple of hours. If we’d been behind him we could have pulled him out…”
Ufa – Kostanay
While Sébastien Loeb (Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104) takes control of the car category at the end of the 3rd stage, in the trucks the Belorussian Siarhei Viazovich won his first special stage in rally-raid aboard his factory MAZ.
Loeb goes into attack mode!
Opening the piste for his team mates yesterday, Sébastien Loeb (Peugeot 3008DKR n°104) attacked from beginning to end on this third, 324 kilometre long special. Early in the day the terrain was once again treacherous, with numerous water crossings, but the conditions didn’t appear to slow down the nine times World Rally Champion, who charged after his team mates, before overtaking them mid-way through the special. Second today, Peterhansel (Peugeot 3008DKR 106) ended up giving away 4m34s to Loeb and is this evening 3m15s behind overall. The big surprise of the day came from the Chinese driver Zhou Yong (Toyota Hilux Overdrive n°116), who started way back in 39th place this morning, but worked his way through the field to finish in an almost incredible 3rd place, knocking Cyril Despres (Peugeot 3008DKR n°100) off the day’s podium in the process. Stuck for nearly 8 minutes, the Frenchman lost almost 15 minutes to the leader in total but nevertheless preserves his third place overall, comfortably ahead of Menzies, with the American’s team mate Al Rajhi (Mini John Cooper Works n°101), who started 11th this morning, completing the top 5.
Sébastien Loeb (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104): “The special was drier today so I decided to attack right from the start. The navigation wasn’t easy and Daniel did an excellent job. It was the kind WRC special that suits me down to the ground. I was able to catch my team mates which meant that we opened the piste over the second half. In spite of that we managed to keep our pace. We hope to be able to do the same tomorrow. But it will be a long special.”
Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR n°106): “Really nice special on grass tracks and through the forest. We opened for the first half. Then Sébastien passed us. ‘Paulo’ (Cottret) did a good job up until when Daniel (Elena) took over. When Loeb passed it woke us up. It is never easy to open the piste. You always lose a little time. I was able to follow the pace. We did several kilometres in the high grass. There it was easier to drive behind… Seb is no doubt a little faster than me and in certain circumstances his car also (smiles).”
Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU/Mini John Cooper Works n°101): After 25 kms we got stuck behind a Kamaz. After that we got lost three times. But apart from that it went better today. It isn’t easy to drive when you no longer have a chance of featuring in the results, but we are here to gain experience. My objective now is to try and forget about those two hours of penalties and get to China to get experience in the dunes.
Bryce Menzies (USA/Mini John Cooper Works n°105): “We punctured the rear right tyre on a rock. At the end we were overtaken by a competitor that lost us a bit of time. Finally it was a hard special but we came out of it ok. Navigation played a big part today with a lot of difficult to see tracks.”
Kostanay – Astana
Sébastien Loeb (Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104) in the cars and Martin Kolomy (Tatra Phoenix n°311) in the trucks dominated this 4th stage of the 2017 Silk Way Rally between Kostanay and Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The rally’s longest day (908 km) saw a number of upsets out on the piste, including Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret running out of road and in the process losing all chance of final victory for the second time in a row…
Peter slips off, Loeb pulls away…
Particularly superstitious, Stéphane Peterhansel must be starting to think that Kazakhstan is his ‘unlucky’ country. One year to the day after his 2016 edition crash, the Peugeot driver once again rolled his car, just 43 kms into the first special, as he was chasing after piste opener and team mate Sébastien Loeb, aboard his 3008DKR Maxi. Fortunately neither Peterhansel nor his co-driver were hurt in the accident but they were unable to restart without the intervention of their assistance truck, an operation that cost them more than 2h30 overall.
A ranking that Loeb, once again untouchable today, now completely dominates, leading the second placed car of Cyril Despres by 1h07m55s. A gap in part explained by the third member of the Peugeot Sport team once again slipping off the track and finishing the special over 50 minutes down.
Another front runner to run out of road was the American Bryce Menzies (Mini John Cooper Works n°105) who had to be pulled out by a friendly Kamaz before finishing more than 41 minutes behind the 9 times King of WRC.
Even without major incident, second placed man over the two specials, Yazeed Al Rajhi (Mini John Cooper Works n°101) gave away more than 20 minutes to the leader, while the front runners’ various problems allowed Frenchmen Eugenio Amos (Buggy 2 Wheels Drive n°115) to complete the day’s podium. Fourth on the special, Christian Laveille (Baicmotor n°108), is now third overall, 1h12m35s behind the leader.
Sébastien Loeb (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104):
“We started this morning with the intention of driving at a good pace and as the stage went by I didn’t see anybody coming. When we got to the assistance point before the second special I was told what had happened to Stephane and Cyril. I didn’t back off on the second half and Daniel did a great job navigating. As far as the rest of the race is concerned we will try and stay concentrated as the rally is long and we also can have problems and loose time…”
Bruno Famin (FRA/Directeur de Peugeot Sport):
“Tonight was supposed to be the shortest service of the rally because the assistance trucks were scheduled to leave around midnight. Now it is going to be difficult to stick to that plan. Strategically we started the race with 3 cars all which could become rapid assistance vehicles for their team mates. Nothing has really changed at the moment, even if their rankings this evening will modify their different approaches.”
Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU/Mini John Cooper Works n°101):
“Today everything went OK, car OK, co-driver OK – just one puncture. We drove safe and steady and didn’t attack too much because where there is mud it is really slippery.”
Eugenio Amos (Ita/Buggy 2 Wheels Drive n°115):
“In the first part of the special I saw that we were passing a few cars in the slippery bits. I therefore decided to attack a bit harder in the second bit and then we started to overtake even more people. I really didn’t know I could go so fast with this car. It is the first time I’ve ever past a truck. Normally they pass me!”
Bryce Menzies (USA/Mini John Cooper Works n°105):
“Everything was going well. We passed 7 cars and then I was braking into a 90 degree left. I went off into the wet grass before falling into a hole. We had to wait nearly 20 minutes before a Kamaz truck stopped to pull us out. After that I drove a bit more carefully to get safely to the finish.”
Astana – Semey
Cyril Despres (Peugeot 3008DKR n°100) took his first stage victory of this 2017 edition of the Silk Way Rally, while in the truck category the Kamaz decided to get on the gas – resulting in a stage win for Dmitry Sotnikov (Kamaz-Master n°303), ahead of his team mates Shibalov and Nikolaev. Cars and trucks combined this 5th stage to Semey, to the far east of Kazakhstan, saw the Blue Armada put three of their trucks in the top 5…
Loeb plays it safe, more problems for ‘Peter’
Starting in 18th place this morning, Cyril Despres and David Castera (Peugeot DKR3008 n°100) knew they were taking a big risk in deciding not to play one of their three jokers that would have allowed them to start in a more favourable position. Principally the risk of spending long minutes stuck behind slower competitors. A risk that, in the end, paid off handsomely, with the title holders taking their first stage on this 2017 edition and in the process backing up Loeb’s overall lead for Team Peugeot. Second on the day’s special, the Chinese driver Yangui Liu, gives the Chinese manufacturer Baïcmotor their best result on the Silk Way rally. Bryce Menzies (Mini John Cooper Works n°105) finishes third ahead of Lu Binglong (Baïcmotor n°130) who was 17 minutes down on Despres. Once again starting first, Sébastien Loeb (Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi n°104), finished fifth at 17m40s, a time explained both by the difficulty in opening the piste in the high grass and the desire to manage his substantial lead over Despres (2nd at 50m16s). Menzies got back onto the overall podium at the expense of Frenchman Lavieille. Starting 11th this morning, after a long night for his mechanics repairing his car, Peterhansel once again ran into problems. Forced to stop around CP3 (km 385) he lost another 50 minutes overall…
Cyril Despres (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR n°100) : “Today was the first day since the start of the rally where we haven’t had a problem. It is good to leave the rain and the mud behind us. Today it wasn’t easy to find the way but David did an excellent job. After two days without much luck I got my fight back. Because over several hundred corners you have to be really unlucky to go off where there was water…”
Tom Colsoul (BEL/Copilote Mini John Cooper Works n°101) : “Today we drove a great special. The problem was that we were second on the road and had to drive slowly in the high grass. It was as if we cut the lawn for those following behind us…”
Sébastien Loeb (FRA/Peugeot 3008DKR maxi n°104) : “A tricky day as it was impossible to drive fast when the track disappeared into the grass. We opened the door to look out where we needed to go. I’m a racer and I promise you that I don’t like to spend my day trying to work out where to go… and to prepare the track for those who started behind us. We can’t be too bad at it though as nobody managed to catch us.”
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